The Apistos (the ‘Unbelievable’) ship

CGI Model – Grant Cox (Materials/Lighting/Rendering/Animation).

Software – 3DS Max/Vray/Photoshop

These renders and animations imagine how a legendary Roman-era ship, described in a medieval copy of a manuscript discovered in a Venetian archive, may have looked. The manuscript features a description of a great ship by an eye-witness named Lucius Longinus, who can in turn be cross-referenced against a papyrus excavated at Myos Hormos during the University of Southampton’s fieldwork (1999–2003). According to the manuscript, the vessel was commissioned by Amotan, a hugely wealthy freedman who was long thought to have been nothing more than a legend. Christened the Apistos (which translates as the ‘Unbelievable’), the ship was built to transport Amotan’s huge collection of statuary to a temple complex. The ship sunk, however, probably due to the weight of its cargo. Extracts from the papyrus read:

The ship was of a size never before comprehended by those of us versed in the ways of the sea as being possible to design and construct, and was called the Apistos. As a consequence, all of the timber resources that could be brought here by means of normal trade were insufficient to provide for its construction. Instead, the finest shipwrights of Alexandria, where suitable materials were more readily available, created the primary elements of the vessel before dismantling them and transporting them to Myos Hormos for construction. It measured 137½ cubits from bow to stern, spanned 29 cubits across its widest point, and was furnished with a hold a full 16 cubits in height that the vessel’s master assured me was able to carry 245,000 modii of goods.* Even with the great cargo on board, there was still enough space in the vessel to house a consignment of trade goods equal to the amount normally sent to the Far-Side Ports in a single ship.

* In Vitruvius (Book III, Ch 1), a cubit is equated to 1½ Roman feet, equaling 444mm. A modii is a Roman measure equating to about 8.73 litres.

More information on Myos Hormos can be found here.