Wiki article on this topic: Rowing is the act of propelling a boat using the motion of oars in the water by displacing water to propel the boat forward. Rowing and paddling are similar but the difference is that rowing requires oars to have a mechanical connection with the boat, while paddles are hand-held and have no mechanical connection.
This article focuses on the general types of rowing, such as the recreation and the transport rather than the sport of competitive rowing which is a specialized case of racing using strictly regulated equipment and a highly refined technique.
In the Ancient World, all major ancient civilizations used rowing for transportation, commerce, and war.. It was considered a way to advance their civilization during war and peace.
The beginning of rowing is clouded in history but the use of oars in the way they are used today can be traced back to ancient Egypt. Whether it was invented in Egypt or something learned from Mesopotamia via trade is not known. However, archaeologists have recovered a model of a rowing vessel in a tomb dating back to the 18-19th century BC.
From Egypt, rowing vessels, especially galleys, were extensively used in naval warfare and trade in the Mediterranean from classical antiquity onward. Galleys had advantages over sailing ships: they were easier to maneuver, capable of short bursts of speed, and able to move independently of the wind.
During the classical age of oared galleys, the Greeks dominated the Mediterranean while the Athenians dominated the other Greeks. They used thousands of lower-class citizens to serve as rowers in the fleet. The Classical trireme used 170 rowers; later galleys included even larger crews. Trireme oarsmen used leather cushions to slide over their seats, which allowed them to use their leg strength as a modern oarsman does with a sliding seat. Galleys usually had masts and sails, but would lower them at the approach of combat. Greek fleets would even leave their sails and masts on shore if possible.
The use of oars in rowing instead of paddling came rather late to northern Europe, sometime between 500 BC-1 AD. This change might have been hastened by the Roman conquest of Northern Gaul. However, between 500-1100 AD, combined sailing and rowing vessels dominated trade and warfare in northern Europe in the time that has come to be known as the Viking Age.
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