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When the wife of some Admiralty official touches a button to release a new cruiser from the stays, and breaks a bottle of wine over her bows, the spectators accept these actions as the right thing, because they have been performed for centuries. But the spectators do not usually enquire into the origin of the custom, to discover which we have to go back to the ancient libations practised on the launching of a new vessel. A priest with a lighted torch, and possessed also of an egg and some brimstone, was in attendance; and amid shouts of acclamation it was devoted to the god whose image it carried. Greek and Roman vessels generally carried in the prow a carved image of some deity, to whose name the launching service was dedicated. The image remained as a feature of ship-building until quite recent years, and we retain a semblance of the old ceremony.

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