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A galley is a type of ship that is propelled mainly by rowing.
The galley is characterized by its long, slender hull, shallow draft and low freeboard (clearance between sea and railing).
Ancient galleys were named according to the number of oars, the number of banks of oars or lines of rowers.
The terms are based on contemporary language use combined with more recent compounds of Greek and Latin words.
Virtually all types of galleys had sails that could be used in favorable winds, but human strength was always the primary method of propulsion.
This allowed galleys to navigate independently of winds and currents.
They remained the dominant types of vessels used for war and piracy in the Mediterranean Sea until the last decades of the 16th century.
By the 17th century, however, sailing ships and hybrid ships like the xebec displaced galleys in naval warfare.
Many of them were similar to birlinns, close relatives of longship types like the snekkja.
By the 14th century, they were replaced with balingers in southern Britain while longship-type "Irish galleys" remained in use throughout the Middle Ages in northern Britain.
Among the most important is the Byzantine dromon, the predecessor to the Italian galea sottila.
This was the first step toward the final form of the Mediterranean war galley.