The trireme

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EXHIBITS    >    The nautical technology of the ancient Greeks    >   

The trireme


It was an oared warship with three rows of oars on each side. It constituted the masterpiece of ancient Greek naval art and the glorified weapon in the Persian wars. It was the revolutionary development of the bireme (very probably from the Corinthian shipbuilder Ameinokles) with the addition of a supplementary row of oarsmen in the empty space next to the gunwale at a higher level than that of the other oarsmen. For the guarantee of the required torque, the brilliant outboard oarlocks (outriggers) were devised. The three rows of oarsmen ensured the ship triple motion force than the penteconter without a necessarily increase in length. This was an important advantage in persecutions and the embolisms/ramming of opponents. Navigation was achieved with the two big oars of the stern. Complementarily, it had a big square sail in the middle and a smaller one at the stern with many pulleys for its unencumbered handling. The crew usually consisted of 170 oarsmen, 10 sailors, 14 (to 80 in special cases) warriors, 5 commanders and the captain. It reached 40 metres in length, 5,20 metres in width and 1,10 metres in draft. Its speed reached 12 naval miles per hour. Usually, it had a full deck mainly for the protection of the oarsmen but also the unencumbered transport of warriors. The particular model constitutes the copy of the reconstructed trireme with the name of "Olympia" from Greek Navy with the designs of Britain's Coates and Morrison.

SOURCES: "Dellopoulos, The Greek Trireme", " Morrison Coates Rankov Boris, Athenian Trireme: the History and Reconstruction of an Ancient Greek Warship", "Demosthenes, Logoi", "Thucydides, Histories (Peloponnesian War)", "Xenophon, Greek"