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Galleon vs. Galley: What's the Difference?

Edited by Sawaira Riaz || By Sumera Saeed || Updated on November 6, 2023
A galleon is a large, multi-decked sailing ship used from the 16th to 18th centuries, while a galley is a long, narrow ship propelled by oars and sails, historically used in the Mediterranean.

Key Differences

Galleons and galleys represent two different classes of sailing vessels with distinct features and historical periods of use. Galleons were large, multi-decked ocean-going ships primarily used by European nations from the 16th to the 18th centuries, known for their role in trade and warfare. Galleys were oar-powered ships with a single deck, used for millennia before galleons, known for their speed and maneuverability in the confined waters of the Mediterranean.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 06, 2023
The design of a galleon with its towering superstructure and heavy armament made it less maneuverable than the galley, but more capable of oceanic voyages. Galleys, with their slender profiles and reliance on rowers, were designed for quick engagements and coastal raiding, but they lacked the cargo capacity and seaworthiness for long voyages.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 06, 2023
Galleons were a symbol of national might during the Age of Sail, often serving as flagships in naval expeditions. Galleys, on the other hand, were infamous for their use of galley slaves, who propelled these vessels across the seas long before the galleon's era.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 06, 2023
The armament of a galleon typically included numerous cannons on multiple decks, making them formidable opponents in naval battles. Galleys were equipped with a ram and sometimes smaller guns, relying on boarding actions and close combat more than artillery.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 06, 2023
In terms of legacy, the galleon is often remembered for its role in the colonization of the Americas and the transport of treasures back to Europe. The galley, with its ancient lineage, is often associated with the classical civilizations of Greece and Rome, and later with the maritime republics of the Mediterranean.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 06, 2023
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Comparison Chart

Era

16th to 18th centuries
Ancient times to the Renaissance
Sumera Saeed
Nov 06, 2023

Design

Large, multi-decked, heavy armament
Long, narrow, single-decked, oar-powered
Sumera Saeed
Nov 06, 2023

Use

Ocean voyages, trade, and warfare
Coastal navigation, quick engagements
Sumera Saeed
Nov 06, 2023

Maneuverability

Less maneuverable, built for the open sea
Highly maneuverable, suited for enclosed seas
Harlon Moss
Nov 06, 2023

Crew

Sailors and soldiers
Rowers (often slaves) and marines
Aimie Carlson
Nov 06, 2023
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Galleon and Galley Definitions

Galleon

Designed for long-distance trade and military expeditions.
The galleon set sail for a months-long voyage across the Atlantic.
Harlon Moss
Nov 06, 2023

Galley

Designed for speed and maneuverability in naval battles.
The galley’s design allowed it to outmaneuver larger vessels.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 06, 2023

Galleon

A symbol of maritime dominance in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Galleons were the pride of the Spanish Armada.
Janet White
Nov 06, 2023

Galley

An ancient ship propelled mainly by oars.
The Roman galley moved swiftly towards the enemy.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 06, 2023

Galleon

A large sailing ship used during the Age of Discovery.
The Spanish galleon was laden with gold from the New World.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 06, 2023

Galley

Often used in the Mediterranean for warfare and piracy.
The Ottoman galley was a feared sight along the trade routes.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 06, 2023

Galleon

Often heavily armed with cannons to protect against pirates.
The galleon's cannons roared during the ocean battle.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 06, 2023

Galley

Typically had a single deck and could carry sails.
The galley carried both oarsmen and sails for versatile movement.
Janet White
Nov 06, 2023

Galleon

Characterized by its square rigging and three or more masts.
The galleon's masts stood tall against the horizon.
Sara Rehman
Nov 06, 2023

Galley

Known for the use of galley slaves for rowing.
The galley slaves rowed tirelessly, chained to their oars.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 06, 2023

Galleon

A large three-masted sailing ship with a square rig and usually two or more decks, used in the 1500s, 1600s, and 1700s, especially by Spain as a merchant ship or warship.
Sumera Saeed
Mar 04, 2023

Galley

A large, usually single-decked medieval ship of shallow draft, propelled by sails and oars and used as a merchant ship or warship in the Mediterranean.
Sumera Saeed
Mar 04, 2023

Galleon

A large, three masted, square rigged sailing ship with at least two decks.
Sumera Saeed
Mar 04, 2023

Galley

An ancient Mediterranean seagoing vessel propelled by oars.
Sumera Saeed
Mar 04, 2023

Galleon

A sailing vessel of the 15th and following centuries, often having three or four decks, and used for war or commerce. The term is often rather indiscriminately applied to any large sailing vessel.
The galleons . . . were huge, round-stemmed, clumsy vessels, with bulwarks three or four feet thick, and built up at stem and stern, like castles.
Sumera Saeed
Mar 04, 2023

Galleon

A large square-rigged sailing ship with three or more masts; used by the Spanish for commerce and war from the 15th to 18th centuries
Sumera Saeed
Mar 04, 2023

FAQs

What were galleons used for?

Galleons were used for oceanic voyages, trade, and naval warfare.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 06, 2023

What is a galley?

A galley is a long, narrow ship propelled by oars and sometimes sails, used in ancient and medieval times.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 06, 2023

How many masts did galleons have?

Galleons typically had three or more masts.
Sara Rehman
Nov 06, 2023

How were galleys propelled?

Galleys were propelled by oars and sometimes by sails.
Harlon Moss
Nov 06, 2023

Did galleys have multiple decks?

No, galleys usually had a single deck.
Janet White
Nov 06, 2023

What kind of weapons did galleons carry?

Galleons were often heavily armed with cannons.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 06, 2023

What is a galleon?

A galleon is a large, multi-decked sailing ship from the 16th to 18th centuries.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 06, 2023

What were galleys used for?

Galleys were used for quick engagements, coastal navigation, and sometimes as warships.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 06, 2023

Could galleons navigate shallow waters?

No, galleons were not built for shallow waters due to their deep drafts.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 06, 2023

What kind of weapons did galleys carry?

Galleys carried a ram at the bow and sometimes small guns; they relied on boarding actions.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 06, 2023

What time period is the galleon associated with?

The galleon is associated with the Age of Sail, particularly the 16th to 18th centuries.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 06, 2023

Are galleys still used today?

No, galleys are also historical and not used today.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 06, 2023

Did galleys have sails?

Yes, galleys could have sails, but they were primarily oar-powered.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 06, 2023

Did galleons have oars?

No, galleons relied on their sails for movement.
Aimie Carlson
Nov 06, 2023

Could galleys navigate shallow waters?

Yes, galleys could navigate shallow waters due to their shallow drafts.
Harlon Moss
Nov 06, 2023

Are galleons still used today?

No, galleons are not used today; they belong to a specific historical period.
Harlon Moss
Nov 06, 2023

Did galleons have rowers?

No, the crew of galleons were sailors and soldiers, not rowers.
Sumera Saeed
Nov 06, 2023

What time period is the galley associated with?

The galley is associated with ancient times through the Renaissance.
Harlon Moss
Nov 06, 2023

Were galleons part of the Spanish Armada?

Yes, galleons were prominent ships in the Spanish Armada.
Janet White
Nov 06, 2023

Were galleys used by the Roman Empire?

Yes, galleys were a key part of Roman naval warfare.
Harlon Moss
Nov 06, 2023
About Author
Written by
Sumera Saeed
Sumera is an experienced content writer and editor with a niche in comparative analysis. At Diffeence Wiki, she crafts clear and unbiased comparisons to guide readers in making informed decisions. With a dedication to thorough research and quality, Sumera's work stands out in the digital realm. Off the clock, she enjoys reading and exploring diverse cultures.
Edited by
Sawaira Riaz
Sawaira is a dedicated content editor at difference.wiki, where she meticulously refines articles to ensure clarity and accuracy. With a keen eye for detail, she upholds the site's commitment to delivering insightful and precise content.

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