The Gun and Corsia of Early Modern Mediterranean Galleys: Design Issues and Rationales
An early modern Mediterranean galley carried its main piece of artillery on a wheelless mount inside the raised centreline gangway (the corsia). The gun mount stood on two well-lubricated rails that sloped downwards from fore to aft. In its firing position, the gun was in the bows and when fired recoil propelled it all the way to the mainmast, where it collided with a stout buffer placed there to prevent damage to the mast. After reloading the gun in that position, the crew hauled it back to the bows. Several tons of bronze and wood travelled more than 10 metres back and forth with every shot. Yet instead of breeching ropes to restrain the motion, galleys had lubricated and tilted rails that expedited it. A functional examination of the fire–load–fire cycle and a technical analysis of the recoil mechanism provide the rationale for this apparently peculiar mode of operation and expose the purposes for the lubrication and slope of the rails.