Isis (ship)

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General characteristics
TypeAlexandrian grain ship[2]
Tonnagec.1,200 t (1,181 long tons)[1]
Length180 ft (55 m)
Beamc.45 ft (14 m)
Depth of hold44 ft (13 m)

The Roman ship Isis was a very large ship that operated on the Mediterranean during the Roman Empire around 150 AD, carrying grain from Egypt to Italy. The Isis was apparently 55 meters (180 feet) long and had a beam of 13.7 meters (45 feet). Its cargo hold was 13.4 meters (44 feet) deep.[3] It has a carrying capacity of 1200 short tons or 1,071 long tonnes.

In his book Πλοἶον ἢ Εὐχαί ("The Ship, or The Wishes") the sophist Lucian described the Isis when he saw it in Athens' seaport Piraeus:

I say, though, what a size that ship was! 180 feet long, the man said, and something over a quarter of that in width; and from deck to keel, the maximum depth, through the hold, 44 feet. And then the height of the mast, with its huge yard; and what a forestay it takes to hold it! And the lofty stern with its gradual curve, and its gilded beak, balanced at the other end by the long rising sweep of the prow, and the figures of her name-goddess, Isis, on either side. As to the other ornamental details, the paintings and the scarlet topsail, I was more struck by the anchors, and the capstans and windlasses, and the stern cabins. The crew was like a small army. And they were saying she carried as much corn as would feed every soul in Attica for a year. And all depends for its safety on one little old atomy of a man, who controls that great rudder with a mere broomstick of a tiller![4]

The wreck of the Isis was discovered by Robert Ballard in 1989 off the coast of Sicily. [5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Boetto, Giulia (1999). "Merchant vessels and maritime commerce in Roman times". Archived from the original on August 6, 2007. Retrieved 23 September 2012.
  2. ^ "Alexandrian ships". 2012. Retrieved 23 September 2012.
  3. ^ Lucas, Alan (October 2006). "The World s Largest Ship And a tale of two ports". AFLOAT Magazine. Archived from the original on June 9, 2007. Retrieved 23 September 2012.
  4. ^ "Works of Lucian, Vol. IV: The Ship: Or, The Wishes". 2006. Retrieved 23 September 2012.
  5. ^ Thomson de Grummond, Nancy (2015). Encyclopedia of the History of Classical Archaeology. Routledge. ISBN 978-1134268610.