The Development of the Trireme

By Anthony J. Papalas , published August 1997


The trireme appeared in c. 700 BC. At first they were not built in great numbers and were used mainly to transport troops but in the last quarter of the sixth century BC the Greeks developed the trireme into a powerful military machine which achieved dominance in naval affairs. Propelled by 170 oarsmen and supported by 30 crew members it was used in all major naval engagements in the fifth and the first part of the fourth century BC. On good days it could cover over 100 miles and using its single broad square sail as well it could negotiate the strong currents in the Straits of Messina and the Bosphorus and buck the Etesian Winds. The oarsmen also served as hoplite soldiers.

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Filed under: Antiquity | Mediterranean
Subjects include: Battles & Tactics | Navies | Ship Handling & Seamanship | Shipbuilding & Design | Strategy & Diplomacy | Weapons

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