The Galley Experience

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This account was left by a slave named Jean Marteille de Bergerac in seventeen-seven, who describes his experiences in the galley: 

 

“Think of six men chained to a bench, naked as when they were born, one foot on the stretcher, the other on the bench in front, holding an immensely heavy oar (fifteen feet long) bending forwards to the stern with arms at full reach to clear the backs of the rowers in front who bend likewise; and then having got forward shoving up the oar’s end to let the blade catch the water, then throwing their bodies back on to the groaning bench.  A galley-oar sometimes pulls thus for ten, or even twenty hours, without a moment’s rest.  The boatswain or other sailors, in such a stress, puts a piece of bread steeped in wine in the wretched rower’s mouth to stop fainting and then the captain shouts the order to redouble the lash.  If a slave falls exhausted upon his oar he is flogged till he is taken for dead, and then pitched unceremoniously into the sea.”

 

 

 

                                                                           

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