The oldest ships in ShipIndex

I’ve been to several conferences in the past few weeks. One question that I’m often asked, and one that I imagine people looking at the site are asking, is, “how far back do the ships in the collection go?” The short answer is that the range of vessels currently being added to the database is “any named vessel in a resource in English.” So, an English-language book or website that focuses on German, Italian, Chinese, or Norwegian vessels is definitely of interest, and would be added.

While in Salt Lake City for the National Genealogical Society conference, I was working on one ten-year portion of the index to Mariner’s Mirror, and it included a reference to the wreck of a named Roman ship from the 3rd century BC.

The other night, I was out having a beer with a neighbor, and we were talking about the range of content in I told him that I had recently found a book on the Athenian navy, which I intend to add, and that I was a bit surprised that vessels had names, even back then. Since he’s a Classics professor and expert in ancient Greek and Roman history, he immediately replied, “Oh, yeah – there are many named vessels from that time. One example is the Salaminia, which was the sacred ship of Athens, and no business could be done when it was away from Athens. Socrates was sentenced to death while the Salaminia was out of the port, so his jailers were forced to wait until the Salaminia returned before they could carry out his death sentence.”

Much more information followed, including other references to actions by or related to the Salaminia, from the 5th century BC. That was very interesting to hear, and I’ll soon add the resource on the Athenian navy. I think from now on I’ll see if I can find anything older than the Salaminia. It does give a specific guideline as to how far back content in goes, though – pretty far back.

Do you know of earlier named ships? Are they in the database? Let me know, and we can check.

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