AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 ICONIC ITEMS - TRIREME

You might not immediately know what a Trireme is but, chances are, you’ll probably recognise one. Think of the classic film ‘Jason and the Argonauts’ and you’re pretty much there already: the Argos, the ship that takes Jason and his crew on their many adventures, is a Trireme. And, although Jason’s quest to find the Golden Fleece is part of the rich heritage of Greek myth, the Trireme was a real vessel and the state-of-the-art war machine of the Ancient Greeks. In fact, without the Trireme, they’d have lost their battle for supremacy in the Eastern Mediterranean.
 

The Trireme – The Most Successful Vessel In The Eastern Mediterranean
Homer describes the art of shipbuilding in the Odyssey and the very same galleys he describes that brought his hero, Odysseus, home from the Trojan Wars, were later developed to incorporate a ram just where the bow of a modern ship would be. Thus, by arming the galley’s bow, the ancient shipbuilders turned their vessels into true warships, easily capable of sinking an enemy at sea.
Further refinements were made until, around 600 BC, the Corinthians started to build their galleys with three tiers of oarsmen, and the Trireme was born. The design was so successful that it was quickly copied by other city states in Ancient Greece so that it quickly became the most successful warship in the Eastern Mediterranean.

 

Why Was The Trireme Such A Successful Ship?
As we’ve seen, galleys had been around for centuries, yet nothing quite as awesome as the Trireme had ever put to sea. In an age when mariners were largely at the mercy of the winds, the Trireme possessed unprecedented propulsive power. This was achieved with 170 oarsmen set in three tiers along each side of the vessel—31 in the top tier, 27 in the middle, and 27 in the bottom. Despite this hefty complement of oarsmen, the Trireme was both light and strong and capable of speeds of almost 10 knots. The most modern cruise ship will seldom exceed 20 knots which, given the two and a half millennia that separates them, makes the Trireme something very special indeed.

 

Greece Strikes Back At The Battle Of Salamis 

If you’re thinking of cruising to Athens to admire the ‘Mother of Civilisation’, then spare a thought for the sailors who once fought so bravely to save it. In 480 BC the Persians under their king, Xerxes, had routed the Athenians and left them to flee their capital and re-group on the island of Salamis, just across the Saronic Gulf from Piraeus. Despite being heavily outnumbered the nimble Triremes of the Greek alliance managed to destroy some 200 Persian craft and turn back the advance. Athens was saved and the rest, as they say, is history. 

 

 

The Trireme That Cruised To Britain And Beyond
It’s incredible to think that in the 4th century BC, Pytheas, a Greek geographer set sail from the port of Marseille – or Massalia as it was known to the Ancient Greeks – on a voyage past the Pillars of Hercules to mythical northern lands. As well as Britain and Ireland, Pytheas’ ‘cruise’ extended further north and allowed him to witness both the Midnight Sun and even the edge of the Arctic ice.
One can only imagine how long Pytheas would have dined out on the stories he’d have told when he returned to the Mediterranean and his fame spread throughout the Greek islands and across the empire of the Ancient Greeks. If you’d like to cruise to the lands of the ancient civilisations that brought us the Trireme, why not call us today or visit the website?