On the boats of the Suiones Cover Image
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O łodziach u Swionów
On the boats of the Suiones

Author(s): Bartosz Kontny
Subject(s): Archaeology
Published by: Wydawnictwa Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego
Keywords: Jerzy Kolendo; archaeology; Poland; Europe; University of Warsaw; Polish Academy of Sciences
Summary/Abstract: The paper recalls the information provided by Tacitus concerning the boats of the Suiones (Germania 44), situatedsomewhere in Scandinavia. The Roman historian claimed that the power of the Suiones was founded ontheir men, weapons and also a fl eet. The boats were characterized by the same shape of their two ends, i.e. thestern and the stem were symmetrical; vessels were sailless and paddles, fastened to the sides, were used insteadof oars. The author sheds light on this mention, presenting the current state of knowledge with reference to boatbuildingin the Baltic Sea region. He excludes the possibility that we are dealing with logboats and suggests theyare more likely to be double-ended clinker built boats, i.e. ones characterized by the overlapping of the edges oftwo adjacent strakes, although it is hard to say whether their planks were sewn together or fi xed with iron rivets.Taking into account the chronology of the data mentioned by Tacitus, i.e. 1st century AD, the former seemsslightly more plausible. Probably, they possessed no horns as spectacular technical elements, as being very strangefrom the Roman perspective, they would have been noticed by Tacitus’ informant. The crew paddled probablyin the sitting position, as in the case of the boat from Hjortspring. In conclusion, the author suggests that despitebeing seaworthy, such boats were not meant to carry heavy burdens, i.e. they were defi nitely not trading vesselsbut transport boats, just like the Nydam A, B and C boats from the 3rd and 4th centuries. Nevertheless, largeamounts of Roman goods were brought into the Baltic Sea, including mass orders (swords) and fragile glass vessels.Therefore, it seems possible that Roman vessels entered the region not only in 5 AD (Augustus’ fl eet appearedhere on a spying mission – see: Augustus, Res Gestae Divi Augusti 26, 4; Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia II, 167;Strabo VII, 2, 1) but also later, to be precise, in the 3rd century, so maybe one day a Roman merchant ship willbe found in the depths of the sea.

  • Page Range: 168-185
  • Page Count: 17
  • Publication Year: 2019
  • Language: English, Polish, German