There was a huge toy store on Marion Street in Oak Park, and one December my parents bought a very special toy. It was a Roman vessel, a monoreme, a one masted oar driven vessel. The photo on the left is an exact replica except my ship was far more realistic, for the wood was white and the railings brown. The oars moved back and forth like there were miniature galley slaves deep in the hull. The ship moved along the ground with every sweep of the oars.
This is a monoreme. One of the best descriptions of this type of ship I saw on the Fine Scale Modeler Website.
It is called a monoreme. It was a small warship that had only one bank of oars. The ship that was in the famous scenes in the movie Ben Hur was a Trireme. It had three sets of oars. That is why there were three men to a bench. The monoreme which had one man to a bench would be equivalent to a frigate or destroyer whereas the trireme would be the Roman equivalent to a battleship. The castle was actually built of stone and was where the archers would have fired from in close combat after the ship had rammed its opponent with the bow ram. Naval battle back then was like siege warfare at sea. They came alongside and fought like two mobile fortresses. The tactic of simply staying at a distance and sinking your enemy with cannon fire (or catapults as the Roman biremes and triremes were equipped with) did not appear until Elizabethan England. The mighty Spanish Armada then still used the siege warfare doctrine which was completely ineffective unless you grapple with your enemy. The British stayed away from the bigger Spanish Galleons and sank them with long range cannon fire. From then, Britannia ruled the waves.
Getting back to Rome, the monoremes were used for shore patrols and escort duties protecting the Roman merchant ships from pirates and the like. They were built for speed and agility rather than brute force and they were not equipped for long voyages like the “Scourge of Poseidon” as the Romans called their main fleet.
The toy had soldiers to place on the deck, and a ballista (powered by rubber bands) that shot small boulders. Some kids got dump trucks for Christmas, some got dolls, I got a Roman Galley. My brother and I still have running arguments on who it really belonged to.
At that time my house had blue carpeting. To a kid it was like a vast ocean spreading throughout the house. Near the front door the stairs came down from the second floor. The stairs were carpeted as well, and it gave the illusion of a vast cascading water fall coming down to my own personal, enclosed, front room sea. So you can imagine how my imagination was fired up. My brother and I attacked islands, raided pirates, and destroyed sea-locked castles made from wooden blocks. Two lounge chairs in the living room were the Pillars of Hercules.
It was a great toy.
Somehow it got lost. I thought I still had it many years back, but a memory of it sitting out by the garbage cans still haunt me once in a while. Every few years Dad cleaned out the attic.
One day I actually saw it up on ebay. Was it the same ship? Could it be? It was the same color, and certainly in better condition, but there would be no way to tell. I even bid on it until the price skyrocketed to $200.00.
Now, that I’m older, my tastes have becoming more sophisticated. The picture to the left is something that has tempted me of late. Look at the lines on this baby. The color. The realism is breathtaking.
I wonder how this one would fare on that ocean carpet years ago. I wonder how it would fare on a wine blue sea, attacking sea-locked castles.
I just wish the oars worked. Well, nothing could beat out REMCO when it came to stuff like that.