A galley is a type of ship propelled by rowers that originated in the Mediterranean region and was used for warfare, trade and piracy from the first millennium BC. Galleys dominated naval warfare in the Mediterranean Sea from the 8th century BC until development of advanced sailing warships in the 17th century. Galleys fought in the wars of Assyria, ancient Phoenicia, Greece, Carthage and Rome until the 4th century AD. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire galleys formed the mainstay of the Byzantine navy and other navies of successors of the Roman Empire, as well as new Muslim navies. Medieval Mediterranean states, notably the Italian maritime republics, including Venice, Pisa, and Genoa, relied on them as the primary warships of their fleets until the late 16th century, when they were displaced by broadside sailing warships. Galleys continued to be applied in minor roles in the Mediterranean and the Baltic Sea even after the invention of steam propelled ships in the early 19th century.
The galley engagements at Actium and Lepanto are among the greatest naval battles in history.