A Guide To The Dromon – The Byzantine Warship

Key Point: A dromon is a type of medieval Byzantine warship, known for its distinctive design and use in naval warfare during the Byzantine Empire.

In this article, we will be taking a look at the dromon. The warship was used by the Byzantine Empire for centuries. We will examine, why they used it, why it was effective, and how it was used in battle. So, as always before jumping into detail regarding the dromon, let’s first examine what the dromon actually is.

So, what is the dromon?

The dromon was a warship used in the Byzantine navy from the 6th to the 12th century. It was characterized by its speed and agility and was primarily used for ramming and boarding enemy vessels.

Now, let’s check out the origins of the dromon.

The Origin Of The Dromon

Dromon warship

The term dromon comes from the Greek word “dromos” which means to race. Which highlights a key feature of the dromon, its speed.

The dromon is believed to have been developed based on the design of earlier warships such as the Liburnian or Trireme. Its development was the result of the growing threat faced by the Byzantines in the Black Sea from the Avars and Slavs.

According to the book (Byzantine Warships vs Arab Warships), the first mention of the dromond can tentatively be attributed to the Greek historian Eunapius of Sardis who “described the employment of 30-oared warships known as dromades, built in the form of liburnae“.

Famous Battles Where The Dromon Took Part

Now, there were a couple of naval engagements where the dromon took part. A couple of them are:

  • Battle of Masts in 655
  • Battle of the Golden Horn 1204

Now, that’s the history and origin part. Now let’s examine the dimensions of the average dromon.

The Dimension Of An Average Dromon

The average dromon was 28m long. And it had 50 oars on each side divided into 2 levels, 100 in total. It was a small and fast ship. The earlier version had one mast but the later versions had 2 masts and 2 platforms.

How It Was Used In Battles?

The warship was used in 3 ways. To ram and board the opposing ship. This is where they rammed an opposing ship with the intent of making a huge hole. It’s an old tactic used all the way back in the Punic wars, and the Grecco. Persian wars but the tactic stuck around. Alongside that, they were also used to fire at it from afar with archers and artillery weapons such as catapults or ballistae.

And one other, rather interesting tactic was to use greek fire. This is where they used pumps to spray a flammable liquid at an enemy ship. You can see more about this unusual tactic here.

So, let’s take a look at why the dromon stopped being used anymore.

Why It Fell Out Of Use?

The reason why the Dromon stopped being used can be attributed to a couple of factors.

Mainly the declining power of the Byzantine Empire. This means that as the empire lost ground to its Balkan and Muslim neighbors, it also lost tax revenue, hindering its ability to maintain a powerful navy.

So, the number of dromons continuously dropped over the years until finally the Ottomans took over Constantinople and destroyed the remaining Dromons left.

So now, to wrap things up, lets examine how dromons have appeared in modern media like video games.

Dromons In Modern Media

In modern video games, the depiction of the dromon warship has captivated the interest of players and developers alike. Here are a few notable examples where dromons have made appearances:

  1. “Total War: Attila”: This strategy game set during the late Roman Empire era features dromons as part of the Byzantine naval forces. Players can command and control these powerful warships, engaging in naval battles across the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.
  2. “Assassin’s Creed: Revelations”: As part of the popular Assassin’s Creed series, this game takes players to the vibrant world of the Byzantine Empire. Dromons can be seen patrolling the waters of Constantinople, adding an immersive touch to the historical setting.
  3. “Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition”: This real-time strategy game includes the Byzantines as one of the playable civilizations. Players can construct and utilize dromons to assert naval dominance and engage in epic naval warfare.
  4. “Crusader Kings III”: This grand strategy game, set during the Middle Ages, includes the Byzantine Empire as a playable faction. Dromons are featured as part of the Byzantine naval arsenal, allowing players to utilize them in conflicts and protect their coastal territories.

It’s important to note that while dromons are present in these games, their specific roles, capabilities, and appearances may vary based on each game’s interpretation and mechanics.

So, while it is an effective way to maintain the legacy of the Dromon warship in the modern media, the games themselves don’t always accurately represent the historical capabilities of the warship.

Before we wrap things up, let’s examine a few common questions people ask when researching the Byzantine Dromon warship.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are a few commonly asked questions answered in a rapid-style format.

Q: How Fast Is A Dromon Ship?

A: Dromons could reach impressive speeds, often exceeding 10 knots, which is approximately 11.5 miles per hour.

Q: What Happened To The Byzantine Navy?

A: A significant event that greatly impacted the Byzantine navy was the Fourth Crusade in 1204. During this time, Constantinople was captured by Crusaders, resulting in the fragmentation of the Byzantine Empire and a substantial weakening of its naval power.

Another pivotal moment was the Fall of Constantinople in 1453 to the Ottoman Empire. The loss of the Byzantine capital meant the end of the Byzantine Empire and, subsequently, its navy.

Q: Did The Byzantine Empire Have Boats?

A: Absolutely! The Byzantine Empire had a diverse array of boats and ships that played crucial roles in their naval and trade activities. The Byzantines utilized various vessels, ranging from small boats and fishing vessels to larger warships like the aforementioned dromons. These ships were essential for maritime defense, transportation, trade, and communication throughout the Byzantine territories and beyond.

In Conclusion

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. I hope you learned a thing or two.

And, if you wish you can continue reading about naval weapons by taking a look at my article on boarding pikes, right here.

Take care!

Sources: Byzantine vs Arab Warships by Angus Konstam