"‘I, of course, was put to the oars.'"

Despite the impression gained from such films as Ben Hur, there is little evidence that slaves were often used in the Roman galleys. It was believed that, on board military ships at least, only free men could be entrusted with such work. Slaves were sometimes recruited in  times of emergency, but they would usually be promised their freedom. Chained galley slaves were, however, common in some other cultures, particularly the Ottoman Empire.