One of the oldest ships in the Mediterranean Sea was a galley. Her origin arose from rowing and sailing antique vessel and her development lasted to the beginning of the 19th century, when she was met in some sea countries of southern Europe. In the Middle Ages they built vessels with one row of heavy oars. On large galleys every oar was handed by power of 5 - 6 people. Throwing machines were installed on the decks of these ships. Slings, bows, arbalests, throwing darts were used to start a fighting and a boarding finished it. Culmination point of a 'modern' galley usage was a battle at Lepanto in October 7, 1571 when 200 Christian and 273 Turkish galleys met each other. The victory of the Christian fleet under the leadership of Juan Austrian saved forever the Eastern coasts of the Mediterranean Sea from the Turkish domination. Generally galleys were battle ships. Such countries as Venetia in about the year of 1700 had at its service nearly 200 galleys and galleasses. The galley-type ships were met in Holland, Denmark, Russia and Sweden. Some of the galleys had three masts.
The Venetian galley reached from 40 to 50 m at length, 5 m at width and the space from the keel to the deck consisted of about 1.8 m. At every side of the galley there were from 26 to 50 thwarts placed at an angle to the board. There were three rowers at every thwart each of whose had his own oar (tertsaruolo system). In the 15th century thwarts were placed vertically one above the other and from three to six men managed the oar (scalochio system). Oars were installed on a beam raised above the board - postitsa. The beam was supported by cross-beams - backalaras. A bulwark (Ital. 'impavesata') was placed on the postitsa to defend rowers from enemy's shots. This name came from the name of special large shields - pavese, which were used by fire-arm shooters. Firstly the shields were installed vertically along the plansheer. Later on they were changed into wooden lids with small openings through which oars were passed.
The deck of a galley was divided by cross planks - muzhluks - at three parts: the bow, middle and the stern part. A small platform was placed in the bow part the edges of which rose along the boards. It was a placement of soldiers at their preparation for a fighting. In the stern part of the ship there was a stern room - a pavilion. Venetians richly decorated the walls of it. A canopy, usually made of expensive cloth, covered the pavilion. The middle part of the ship where the rowers were placed was divided into two parts by a prolonged passage - kursheya. It was a place for supervisors - comits and undercomits. The galley's bow passed into a long ram and rose above the waterline.
Usually galleys had two masts - the foremast on the bow platform and a main mast at the distance of 1/3 of the galley's length, counting from the bow. The both masts carried Lateen sails. A fighting technique less differed from used in the antique times - the galley went on an enemy's ship shooting at her from guns. When the ram stroke the free-board of the enemy's ship the soldiers boarded her.
On galleys as well as on dromons there were catapults and other throwing machines. Warriors were armed with 'Greek fire', arrows and later on with fire-arm weapons. Then this weapon was changed into gunnery. In the bow part of the ship under the raising of a deck, usually in the middle of the deck on the kursheya, a heavy gun was installed - a 'kursheya's gun'. Two smaller guns were placed at the both sides of it.
Two groups of galleys were distinguished: galley-zenzils - narrow, fast and maneuvering galleys and bastard-galleys - wide, with a round stern, less quick and less maneuvering galleys. The latter as they were used for good transportation, were called trading galleys.
A very fast fusta came from galleys with her 18 - 22 thwarts for rowers at each board, galleota with her 14 - 20 thwarts, brigantine with her 8 - 12 thwarts, sayeta (a light frigate on the basis of which a trading vessel with three mast arose) with a square sail on the foremast and Lateen sails on the main and the mizzenmast, and, at last, a frigate with her 6 - 20 thwarts. All the abovementioned names of vessels were later used for nomination of vessels of quite different types.