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William Falconer's Dictionary of the MarineReference Works
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EASE the ship!
To EASE off, or EASE away
To EDGE away
ELBOW in the hawse
EMBAYED, from bay



EXERCISE to EYES of a ship


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ENGAGEMENT, in a naval sense, implies a particular or general battle at sea; or an action of hostility between single ships, or detachments, or squadrons of ships of war.

In order to have a clearer idea of this article, it will, therefore, be necessary that the reader who is little acquainted with the subject, should previously refer to the explanation of those terms, as also to the articles CANNON, DIVISION, EXERCISE, FLEET, and LINE of BATTLE.

The sea-fights of the ancients were usually carried on in two different manners. Advanced by the force of their oars, the gallies ran violently aboard of each other, and by the mutual encounter of their beaks and prows, and sometimes of their sterns, endeavoured to dash in pieces, or sink their enemies.

The prow, for this purpose, was commonly armed with a brazen point or trident, nearly as low as the surface of the sea, in order to pierce the enemy's ships under the water. Some of the gallies were furnished with large turrets, and other accessions of building, either for attack or defence. The soldiers also annoyed their enemies with darts and slings, and, on their nearer approach, with swords and javelins; and, in order that their missive weapons might be directed with greater force and certainty, the ships were equipped with several platforms, or elevations above the level of the deck. The sides of the ship were fortified with a thick fence of hides, which served to repel the darts of their adversaries, and to cover their own foldiers, who thereby annoyed the enemy with greater fecurity.

As the invention of gun-powder has rendered useless many of the machines employed in the naval wars of the ancients, the great distance of time has also consigned many of them to oblivion: some few are, nevertheless, recorded in ancient authors, of which we shall endeavour to present a short description. And first,

The Δελφιν was a large and massy piece of lead, or iron, cast in the form of a dolphin. This machine being suspended by blocks at their mast heads or yard-arms, ready for a proper occasion, was let down violently from thence into the adverse ships, and either penetrated through their bottom, and opened a passage for the entering waters, or by its weight immediately sunk the vessel.

The δσηπαναν was an engine of iron crooked like a sickle, and fixed on the top of a long pole. It was employed to cut asunder the slings of the sail-yards, and, thereby letting the sails fall down, to disable the vessel from escaping, and incommode her greatly during the action. Similar to this was another instrument, armed at the head with a broad two-edged blade of iron, wherewith they usually cut away the ropes that fastened the rudder to the vessel Lucan.

Δοσαια ναυμαχα a sort of spears or maces of an extraordinary length, sometimes exceeding twenty cubits, as appears by the fifteenth Iliad of Homer by whom they are also called μαχσα.

A ponderous mace, with studs of iron crown'd

Full twenty cubits long he swings around.


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© Derived from Thomas Cadell's new corrected edition, London: 1780, page 105, 2004
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