The Ptolemies intended to rule the Mediterranean Sea to ensure the safety of Egypt's northern shores. This was achieved by building a powerful fleet of ships.
Their navy was one of the cornerstones of the empire, protecting Egypt and guaranteeing its political and economic independence.
King Ptolemy the First Soter was the founder of this massive sea force and it continued to grow under his successors. He was so dedicated to the development of his naval fleet that his contemporaries called him "the Prince of Ships".
The Ptolemaic ships, whether in the naval, merchant, or river fleet, had a variety of styles known all over the Hellenistic world.
Naval ships were of many forms and sizes, the most important of which was the ship called the Barides. This style was probably used beginning in the fifth century BC as it was mentioned by the Greek poet Aeschylus in his play "Pers".
Ships called Kerkuros were used both for naval and trade purposes, while a smaller style of naval ships was called Lembos. This was closer in shape to a boat and was used for launching quick strikes. Merchant ships also came in many shapes and sizes.
The most important of these was the larger ship called the Korbita that sailed the Mediterranean in the first and second centuries BC. Then in the first century BC, the Kybaea was commonly used.
The improvements made on mercantile ships by the Ptolemies helped trade flourish.
The Ptolemies became the richest kings of their time. They were fond of displaying their wealth and built magnificent ships with which they sailed the seas.