The trireme

Athens' fighting ship

The Trireme (Greek trieres) was the "state of the art" fighting ship designed to be able to cover long distances quickly under oar and sail, and in battle to ram enemy ships with devastating effect. Money from the new vein of silver in Laurion enabled Athens to buy timber from Italy to increase her fleet from 40 in 489 BC to 200 in 480. The polis paid for the ship and its crew: equipment and repairs were paid for by a rich citizen as one of the liturgies (trierarchia - a brilliant Athenian notion which shamed the richest citizens into spending their wealth on the city, without the need for taxation). A full-scale replica of a trireme was launched in 1987, painstakingly reconstructed, using all available ancient evidence (especially the Lenormant relief - below). Full information about Olympias, the Greek navy's least up-to-date- ship can be found on the official trireme project web site.

Lenormant relief

Trireme names

Why were all Athenian triremes given girls' names? I've recently discovered that the names of several hundred fighting ships are preserved on an inscription in Athens. A fascinating list!


From the Battle of Salamis (480 BC) to Aegospotami (404 BC) Athens was totally supreme at sea, and her reliance on the fleet led to the political importance of those who rowed and crewed . Important factors were:-