The trireme Olympias, a commissioned vessel of the Hellenic Navy and a reconstruction of a warship type widely used in the Peloponnesian Wars, as recounted by the ancient Greek historian Thucydides—who is the subject of two articles in this issue, by Williamson Murray and Karl Walling. Note the bronze bow ram—a trireme’s “main battery”—and the eponymous three banks of oars. The sails, here furled, were used in transits. Triremes maneuvered tactically under oars alone; under oars they were capable of turns and course reversals in their own length, sudden accelerations, and brief sprints.
The ship, built in Piraeus with the support of the Hellenic Navy and other donors, had been designed by British naval architects, historians, archeologists, and classicists in a successful attempt (as was proved in trials) to solve in particular the long-standing mystery of how three banks of oars had been arranged in hulls of the size, capacity, and performance attested to by ancient sources. The ship today is on display in Phaleron, near Athens. See the Hellenic Navy’s website, http://www.hellenicnavy.gr/.
Photograph from the Historical Archives of the Hellenic Navy, used by the kind permission of the Hellenic Navy General Staff. (The photo has been slightly altered to remove distracting modern notes while retaining human scale.)
Volume 66, Number 4