The corvus (meaning ‘crow’) was a Roman device used to board enemy ships whilst at sea.
Rome was not a major naval power and discovered that, although it was supreme on land, it could not shatter the maritime empire of Carthage. Determined to deploy its infantry at sea, Rome devised a platform that could be lowered from the prow of a ship onto a neighbouring vessel, before a heavy, beak-shaped spike on the underside pierced the deck of the opposing craft, effectively locking the two ships together.
Roman troops could therefore clamber aboard the enemy vessel. The crow was successfully deployed in a number of engagements but its weight made ships unstable. It appears to have contributed to the loss of two Roman fleets during storms in 255 and 249 BC.
This article was first published in the June 2015 issue of History Revealed and answered by one of our Q&A experts, Miles Russell.