The ships of the ancients were very imperfect in comparison with modern ones. Navigators crept carefully along the shores, from one headland or prominent point to another, making a harbor if practicable every night; and when out of sight of land, being ignorant of the compass and quadrant, they guided their course by the sun and certain stars. Even in St. Paulís time, vessels passing from Palestine to Italy, sometimes wintered on the way!
Acts 27:12 28:11. The ancient ships were in general small, though a few large ships are on record. They were often highly ornamented both at the prow and the stern; and the figurehead or "sign," by which the vessel was known, was sometimes an image of its tutelar divinity. They were usually propelled by oars often in several "banks" or rows one above another, as well as by sails. In war, the galley tried to pierce and run down its antagonist.
The Phoenicians were celebrated for their ships and their extensive commerce, as appears from Ezekielís description, Ezekiel 27:1-36, as well as from numerous ancient historians. Though Joppa and in Christís time Caesarea were Jewish ports, 2 Chronicles 2:18 Jonah 1:3, yet the Jews were never a maritime people, and most of their foreign navigation would appear to have been carried on by the aid of Phoenicians, 1 Kings 9:26 10:22 22:49,50. Paulís graphic and faithful description of his voyage and shipwreck in Acts 27:1-44, discloses many of the peculiarities of ancient navigation. For the "ship of Tarshish," see TARSHISH.