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Several wooden steamships were purpose-built as rams, or converted from existing commercial vessels, such as General Price, pictured to the right.The theory behind the revival of the weapon derived from the fact that, in the period around 1860, armour held superiority over the ship-mounted cannon.The surface of the ram was decorated with several symbols.

This would be driven into the hull of an enemy ship in order to puncture it and thus sink, or at least disable, the ship. The ram has damage attributed to collision(s) with Roman ships (ram against ram).

Carthaginian naval ram from the Battle of the Aegates (First Punic War, 241 B. It carries a 35-character Punic inscription, offered as a supplication to the god Baal and Actium.

There is evidence available to suggest that it existed much earlier, probably even before the 8th century BC.

They appear first on stylized images found on Greek pottery and jewelry and on Assyrian reliefs and paintings.

Only a few instances of non-accidental ramming are recorded from the Age of Sail.

With the development of steam propulsion, the speed, power and maneuverability it allowed again enabled the use of the ship's hull, which could be clad in iron, as an offensive weapon.The shell was cast as a single piece to perfectly fit the timbers it protects.The casting of an object as large as the Athlit ram was a complicated operation at the time, and would have been a considerable expense in the construction of a war galley.A ram was a weapon carried by varied types of ships, dating back to antiquity.The weapon comprised an underwater prolongation of the bow of the ship to form an armoured beak, usually between six and 12 feet (2–4 m) in length.Naval warfare in the Mediterranean rarely used sails, and the use of rams specifically required oarsmen over sails in order to maneuver with accuracy and speed, and particularly to reverse the movement of a ramming ship to disentangle it from its sinking victim, lest it be pulled down when its victim sank.