Historical setting: A dark age along the Channel off Gaul
Seated as I am, the last rower of this facing, my forward view is of the shoulders of thirty-one other men all moving evenly in the dance tempo of the row. Each man has his shield facing the sea above his oarlock, and on the interior hook above his place dangles his full gear. Those that have the conscription raw fiber tunic like mine also seem to have the leather garb or gambeson, to wear under armor. Some of the men have actual pieces of armor hanging aside on the personal hook. A few have shirts of mail, which are very expensive as they are finely hammered chains linked together as fabric. Nearly every hook also has the helmet and the scarlet cloak of the Imperial army. I have nothing for a fight, or even the march and I probably won’t be purchasing armor with sword and shield, so my hook simply keeps my plain, rough-spun hemp tunic aloft, above the ever-damp hull.
We are a somewhat smaller galley than the large warships of old, with only our sixteen oarsmen on a side and only one level of rowers.
The smaller make-due ports along the western coast of Gaul are spaced apart by a normal days’ row and are fit out with a sleeping floor or possibly an actual barracks. [footnote]
These are not the times of epic sea battles where thousands drown as heroes into the Great Sea between Rome and Greece. Here, in these colder waters a little ship on patrol easily out-sizes and out-mans the pirate ships, usually made over from captured merchant vessels. And on this run we do make port at Aletum. This is near the island that seems set in the channel just for the haunts of pirates like an old dead tree stands above the forest, simply to be a snag for the vultures and other raptors to peruse their prey.
Preparing to go ashore here requires the silent intensity of donning armor. We slide the dromon between the pilings leftover from an ancient slip torn from the shore by storms long ago. The officer assigns two of us to the night watch duty while the others will be sleeping in the shelter.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_navy — retrieved 12-21-19