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The Trireme

Girl Power: Triremes' Names

The Trireme OlympiasThe Greek word form trireme (trieres) is, of course feminine. And today we accept unquestioningly that ships are in some way of feminine gender: a quick survey of boats in my local harbour in Norfolk was enough to confirm this impression. But does the proud owner of "Doris" realise that his craft shares her name with an ancient warship?

But what sort of feminine names did the Athenians give their fighting ships? [The list below includes names given to quadriremes as well as triremes]

The names are all to be found on Tabulae Curatorum Navalium - a series of 4th century BC inscriptions, now in the Epigraphical Museum, Athens (IG2 1614 -1628)

But why did a society as relentlessly macho as Athens name its most deadly weapons after women? Send me an email if you have any ideas!


    On these pages below you'll find the complete lists. There are four basic categories:

  • triremes named after goddesses or heroes/heroines of myth (compare Santa Maria, Titanic, Queen Mary)

  • triremes named after cities or regions (like the Lusitania or the United States)

  • triremes named for abstract qualities, ideas or concepts (like Captain Cook's Endeavour, Bligh's Bounty or the ill-fated Herald of Free Enterprise)

  • triremes with animal or bird names (like Drake's Pelican and Golden Hind), or named after objects

  • triremes with adjectival names - descriptive of a supposed quality.


  • I am very grateful to Roly Peck who forced me to take an interest in her pet subject! The full text of her research into how the trireme was paid for is here:

The Trieres "Olympias" on manoevres near Poros Summer 2001. Olympias waas originally built to help publicise Greece's bid for the 1996 centenary Olympics: she is a fully commissioned member of the Hellenic Navy.

[photo David Jenkins]

Interesting links:

For a comparable list of US Navy ships see:

and an analysis of principles for ship-naming in the USN

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