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The Navy of Ancient Greece

greek ship

The earliest Greek warship was known as a pentecounter. The pentecounter had one row of fifty oarsmen. The Greeks later made improvements to their ships by copying the bireme, a type of Phoenician ship, which had two rows of oarsmen. Around 700 B.C., the first trireme was used in Corinth. The trireme had three rows of oarsmen on each side, totaling one-hundred and seventy oarsmen per ship. This ship became the main naval vessel from 500 B.C. to 300 B.C. In addition to the oarsmen, a trireme also held a crew of thirty marines and five officers.

The trireme was equipped with a bronze ram in the front. The ship could travel at speeds of up to eight or ten knots in order to ram and sink enemy ships. Another battle tactic was to pull up close to an opponent’s ship to knock out their oars making it difficult for the ship to maneuver.

When not in battle, the trireme was used with its two large sails to travel from place to place. During a battle, the sails were taken down and oar power was used.



Warfare in Ancient Greece

Armies     Navy     Siege Warfare   Battles in Ancient Greece

Battle of Marathon      Battle of Salamis       Battle of Thermopylae

Peloponnesian War