Projection fixed to the front end of a fighting vessel and designed to damage enemy ships struck by it. It may have been developed by the Egyptians as early as 1200 BC, but it was most commonly used on Phoenician, Greek, and Roman galleys. It was briefly revived in the mid-19th century, notably in the American Civil War, when rams mounted on armored, steam-driven warships were used effectively against wooden sailing ships. Improvements in naval weaponry and the spread of metal-hulled ships soon made it obsolete again. See also battering ram.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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