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CELOX (κέλης, κελήτιον), derived from κέλλω, cello, “to urge on,” means a swift boat. The Greek word also means “a race-horse;” and some maintain (e. g. the Schol. on Thuc. 1.53, and Graser) that from this is derived the meaning “boat.” This peculiar build of boat is said to have been invented by the Rhodians (Plin. Nat. 7.208). It was much used by pirates (Phot. 154, 10; Liv. 37.27); but was more especially employed as attendant on the fleet (Isid. Orig. 19.1, 22), either for bringing news (Xen. Hell. 1.6, 26) or negotiating with the enemy (Thuc. 1.53; cf. Plaut. Mil. 4.1, 39). Further, each state appears to have had such boats for various official purposes, just as we hear of δημοσίαι ἄκατοι at Athens (cf. Plaut. Capt. 4.2, 93). Built for swiftness, they were necessarily narrow, and Appian (App. BC 2.56 fin.) calls one ὀξύ. They had no decks, and only one bench of oars (Plb. 5.62, 3: τούτων κατάφρακτα μὲν εἴκοσι διαφέροντα ταῖς κατασκευαῖς ἐν οἷς οὐδὲν ἔλαττον ἦν τετρήρους, τὰ δὲ λοιπὰ πριήρεις καὶ δίκροτα καὶ κέλητες). When Isidore (l.c.) says celoces. were biremes or triremes, he means worked by two or three pairs of oars, not having two or three benches of rowers (Jal, Glossaire Nautique, art. Celes). Each oarsman probably pulled two oars, else we should not find the epithet πεντέσκαλμος (Ephipp. fr. 3, Mein.) applied to the κέλης; for then the oarage would be uneven: or else only one side of oars was counted. We also hear of κελήτιον δίσκαλμον (Synes. Ep. 167 A); and the Schol. on Thuc. 4.9 tells us that a κελήτιον was a small vessel rowed by a single man. But we must suppose the piratical vessels to have been manned by a fairly large crew; still, perhaps, less than forty (Thuc. 4.9). It was the build, then, not the size, which was the distinctive feature of the κέλης. In order to be independent of the weather, it appears to have been always rowed. (See Varro in Nonius, 527, ed. D. Gottofred: “Nautae remivagam movent celocem.” ) In many points of employment, it will be seen that these κέλητες resembled our gunboats.

A slightly different build of vessel, rather more round, like our brigantine, also used by pirates (Suidas, s. v.), was the ἐπακτροκέλης (Aeschin. c Timarch. § 191), which (according to the Etym. M.) combined the properties of an ἐπακτρὶς or transport for carrying away the spoils, and of a κέλης for swiftness in pursuit and flight. (See generally Scheffer, Militia Navalis; Jal, Glossaire Nautique; and especially B. Graser, Deveterum re navali, § 59.)


hide References (7 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (7):
    • Thucydides, Histories, 4.9
    • Xenophon, Hellenica, 1.6
    • Appian, Civil Wars, 2.8.56
    • Polybius, Histories, 5.3
    • Polybius, Histories, 5.62
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 37, 27
    • Thucydides, Histories, 1.53
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