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Greek Warships



Know Your Historical Warships: From 7th Century BC – 17th Century AD

When it comes to history, maritime pursuits had undoubtedly enhanced the ‘reach’ of humankind, from the perspective of both migrational activities (like the Austronesian people) and trade networks (like the Phoenicians). Over time, the coastal geographical locations of various settlements rather translated into strategic economic centers that were worth defending – thus giving way to the first naval powers of the world. This, in turn, led to the design and evolution of naval ships, namely warships, that were built for the dedicated purposes of defense and attack maneuvers.

Interestingly, one of the consistent design templates for such warships pertains to the galley – basically a ship that is primarily propelled by rows (of oars) instead of sails. Consequently, the war galley survived in its various forms (with multifarious weapon systems) for millennia, possibly from circa 1500 BC to 17th century AD, until the advent of more advanced naval crafts. In essence, we must understand that war galley is not exactly a definitive type of warship, but rather a general design upon which different types of warships are based on.

On the other hand, a frigate originally referred to any kind of warship with sails, built for speed and maneuverability, and as such tended to have a smaller size than the main warship. By the 17th century, frigates, known for their speediness, carried lighter armaments than the ‘ship of the line’. The corvettes were even smaller than the frigates, sometimes modified from the sloops – and thus were only reserved for coastal defense (and raids) and minor engagements during the Age of Sails (1571–1862).

To that end, in this article, we will discuss the renowned historical warships (some based on the galley design, while others based on sails) that have sailed the high seas, with the time period covering almost 2,500 years – from 7th century BC till 17th century AD.

1) Bireme and Trireme (origins from circa 7th century BC) –

Source: Assassin’s Creed Wiki

Herodotus mentioned penteconter, a type of ship that had a single set of oars (possibly numbering 25) on each side. This ship, with its function bridging the gap between exploring and raiding, was probably one of the first types to be used by the Greek maritime city-states and colonies for communication and coastal control. However, arguably the first known ship dedicated to naval warfare possibly pertains to the bireme. Boasting a much bigger design than the penteconter, a typical bireme of 80 ft length (remus meaning ‘oar’ in Latin) had two decks of oars on each side, complemented by a single mast with a broad, rectangular sail. More importantly, befitting its status as a warship (or war galley), the bireme was also fitted with the embolon, the battering ram or beak that could smash into enemy vessels.

Now according to one hypothesis, the Greek bireme was possibly inspired by the fast-moving galleys used by the Phoenicians. However, within a matter of centuries, the bireme evolved into the trireme (with three decks of rows) with larger dimensions, sturdier design, double masts (one large and one small), and more number of crew members (possibly reaching 200, with 170 of them being rowers). Furthermore, the command structure involving such trireme warships, especially in the ancient Athenian navy, was quite streamlined with a dedicated captain, known as the trierarch (triērarchos) who commanded his group of experienced sailors and oarsmen.

With the sheer domination of such war galleys in the ancient Mediterranean theater (circa 4th century BC), it should come as no surprise that the trireme further evolved into the quadrireme, the quinquereme, and so on. One pertinent example would relate to Tessarakonteres (diagram above) – belonging to Ptolemy (Ptolemaios) IV Philopator, who ruled the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt from 221 to 204 BC. According to a description penned by Athenaeus, the giant Hellenistic warship with its 40 tiers of rows and seven rams was supposedly manned by 400 sailors (for rigging and regulating the sails) 4,000 rowers (for handling the oars) and 2,850 armed marines – thus accounting for a total of 7,250 men, which is more than the crew numbers required aboard the largest existing aircraft carrier in the world!

The Roman Republic and the Carthaginian Empire was also known for maintaining a large fleet of quadriremes and quinqueremes, and as such, many of these warships were also fitted with artillery in the form of catapults and ballistae. Moreover, the Roman marines devised a mechanism known as corvus (meaning “crow” or “raven” in Latin) or harpago. This was a sort of a boarding bridge that could be raised from a 12-ft high sturdy wooden pillar and then rotated in any required direction. The tip of this bridge had a heavy spike (the ‘corvus‘ itself) that clung on to the deck of the enemy ship, thus locking the two ships together. The Roman soldiers crossed across this makeshift bridge, and directly boarded the enemy ship. This naval tactic gave the Romans the upper-hand since they were known for their expertise in close-quarter combat.

2) Liburnian (origins from circa 2nd century BC) –

The smaller liburnian ships on the flanks, supporting the quinquereme in the center. Source: Telias

After the Roman Republic gained its ascendance over the Carthaginians, its naval power was relatively secure, and as such, the status quo was reflected by the conventional fully-decked galleys equipped with partially-submerged rams, mechanical artillery, and possibly even turrets (for archers). In a few cases, Roman ingenuity still won the day – with one example pertaining to the desperate Roman fleet, under the command of one Decimus Brutus, fighting the Veneti and their sturdy ships (during Caesar’s Gallic Wars, circa 56 BC). In response, Brutus devised the incredible tactic of using grappling hooks that would allow them to cut the rigging of the heavy Venetic vessels.

However, with the gradual supremacy of the Romans in the Mediterranean region, the state didn’t really require large ships for expansive military actions. Furthermore, a new kind of foe came to the fore by 1st century BC – the pirates with their lighter vessels who made frequent raids on the coasts of Illyria and the various islands of the Adriatic. In response, the Romans adopted the designs of these lighter, more-maneuverable ships – and the result was the liburnian (liburnidas), a single-banked galley that was later upgraded with a second bank of oars. The name was possibly derived from the ‘Liburni’, a seafaring tribe from the Adriatic coast.

In essence, the liburnian functioned as the faster warship-variant of standard biremes and thus were used for reconnaissance, raids, and general escort duties for merchant vessels. Over time, there were various types of liburnian warships, with some fitted with heavier frames and rams for better offensive capability (rather than speed). In fact, by the time of the emergence of the Roman Empire, the liburnian was basically used as a blanket term for most types of Roman warships (and even cargo vessels). As for the historical significance, Agrippa was known to have effectively used his fleet of liburnian warships against the forces of Marc Antony and Cleopatra, in the decisive Battle of Actium, in 31 BC.

3) Dromon (origins circa 4th-5th century AD) –

The most prevalent warship by circa 5th century AD (till 12th century AD), especially in the Mediterranean waters, pertained to the dromon (‘runner’ or ‘racer’). As could be ascertained from the name itself, this galley-type vessel was designed as a fast craft that eschewed the outrigger used in earlier Greek and Roman warships. According to some historians, the dromon might have been the evolution of the liburnian, and as such was the mainstay of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) navy that maintained its naval supremacy during the early medieval era. Dromon-type galleys (or at least similar warships) were also used by their proximate foes, namely the Arabs, by circa 7th century AD.

In terms of modifications in design, the dromon possibly boasted a full deck (katastrōma) that may have carried artillery, while also conspicuously having no battering ram. Instead, the warship was fitted with an above-water spur (with a sharp point) that was used for breaking enemy oars, as opposed to puncturing hulls. One can also hypothesize how the dromons, irrespective of their single bank or two banks of oars, were fitted with the effective lateen sails (triangular shaped), possibly introduced by the Arabs, who, in turn, derived the technology from the Indians.

4) Fireship (used in different eras, from circa 5th century BC- 19th century AD) –

Illustration by Graham Turner

In terms of naval technology, fireship is a blanket term used for different types of warships that were used with various tactical outcomes. For example, one of the oldest accounts of a ‘fire ship’ pertains to a ship literally set on fire by the Syracusans, who then guided the burning vessel towards the Athenians (during the Sicilian expedition, circa 413 BC). The latter, however, was successful in mitigating the danger by putting out the flames. A similar type of tactical ploy was also used during the Battle of Red Cliffs (circa 208 AD) when the general Huang Gai let loose fire ships (stocked with kindling, dry reeds, and fatty oil) towards his enemy Cao Cao.

On the other hand, an arguably more effective version of the fireship was devised by the Eastern Romans (Byzantine Empire) during their momentous encounter against the Arabs, in circa 677 AD. Utilizing the aforementioned dromon-type warships, the Romans fitted their darting galleys with special siphons and pumping devices, instead of the usual beak (or spur). These siphons spouted ‘liquid fire’ (or Greek Fire) that continued to burn even while floating in the water. In fact, some writers have gone on to explain how the viciously efficient Greek Fire could only be mitigated by extinguishing it with sand, strong vinegar or old urine.

Suffice it to say, the weapon and the fireship were perfectly tailored to naval warfare and as such the Eastern Roman Empire used it in numerous marine-based encounters to secure victories – with notable examples involving the crucial successes achieved against two Arab sieges of Constantinople. However, the procedures of making and (subsequent) deployment of Greek Fire remained a closely guarded military secret – so much so that the original ingredient has actually been lost over time. Still, researchers speculate that the composition of the substance might have pertained to chemicals like liquid petroleum, naphtha, pitch (obtained from coal tar), sulfur, resin, quicklime, and bitumen – all combined with some kind of a ‘secret’ ingredient.

Furthermore, there are 11th-century conceptions pertaining to Northern Song Dynasty fireships that were possibly equipped with flamethrowers that were similar to the Greek Fire mechanisms of the Eastern Roman navy. By the Age of Sails (1571–1862 AD), various navies used explosive fireships. These vessels, drizzled in tar and fat and filled with gunpowder, were operated by a small crew who made their escape during the last moments before the incendiary fireship could run into an enemy craft. Suffice it to say, such ruthless naval tactics were usually reserved for assaults on anchored ships, rather than in the open seas.

5) Viking Longship (circa 10th century AD) –

While Viking raiding ships were one of the defining features of Viking raids and military endeavors, these vessels had a variance in their designs – which is contrary to our popular notions. According to historians, this scope of variance can be credibly hypothesized from the sheer number of technical terms used in contemporary sources to describe them. To that end, the Vikings before the 10th century made very few distinctions between their varied merchant ships and warships – with both (and other) types being used for overseas military endeavors. Simply put, the first Viking raids along the English coasts (including the plundering of the Lindisfarne monastery in 793 AD, that marks the beginning of the Viking Age) were probably made with the aid of such ‘hybrid’ ships that were not specifically tailored to military purposes – as opposed to the ‘special’ ships showcased in The Vikings TV series.

However, in the post-9th-10th century period, the Viking raiders boosting their organized numbers by military establishments or ledungen, did strive to specifically design military warships, with their structural modifications tailored to both power and speed. Known as snekkja (or thin-like), skeid (meaning – ‘that cuts through water’) and drekar (or drakkar, meaning dragon – derived from the famed dragon-head on the prow) these streamlined longships tended to be longer and slimmer while accounting for a greater number of oars. On the other hand, increased trading also demanded specialized merchant ships or kaupskip that were broader with high freeboards, and depended on their greater sail-power.

Given their svelte design credentials, the Viking longship traditionally required only a single man per oar when cruising through the neutral waters. But when the battle was at hand, the oarsman was joined by two other soldiers whose job was to not only give a lending hand (for increasing the ship’s speed) but also to protect the oarsman from enemy missiles. And as the Viking raids became more profitable and organized, the wealth was translated to even bigger and better warships. One good example would pertain to King Olaf Tryggvason’s (who ruled Norway from 995 to 1000 AD) aptly named Long Serpent. According to legends, this ship supposedly carried eight men per half-room (or oar) at the naval Battle of Svolder, which would equate to over 550 men overboard if we also count the other combatants. Now in practical terms, this scenario might have been a bit exaggerated with probable translation issues. But even if we account 8 men per room (or 4 men per oar), the total number of men that Long Serpent could carry would have gone beyond 300!

6) Carrack (origins in 14th century AD) –

Considered as one of the most influential ship designs in the history of navigation, the carrack was probably among the first sea vessels that evolved beyond the design of war galleys. In essence, the carrack eschewed any form of oar-based system, instead entirely relying on sails. To that end, a fully-evolved carrack design was typically square-rigged on the foremast and mainmast and lateen-rigged on the mizzenmast. The size of the carrack, with its carvel-built robust hulls, also made it stand out from its galley-based predecessors, with some versions boasting capacities around a whopping 1000-tons.

By the early 16th century, the carrack (also known as nao in the Mediterranean theater) became the standard vessel for the Atlantic trade routes and exploration. Simply put, the massive capacities of the carracks made them ideal candidates as merchant ships while their sturdy design and high stern (with large highcastle, aftcastle, and bowsprit) made them effective as military warships.

7) Caravel (origins in 15th century AD) –

The caravels of Christopher Columbus – the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria (possibly a carrack). DEA/G. Dagli Orti/Getty Images

In reaction to the relatively ponderous nature of the aforementioned carrack-type warships and merchant vessels, the Portuguese (and later the Spanish) developed the caravel – a smaller but highly-maneuverable sailing ship with three masts and ‘modular’ sails. Pertaining to the latter, the sails of the ship could be adapted in accordance with the situation and requirement of the crew – with both lateen-rigged (caravela latina) and square-rigged sails (caravela redonda).

Suffice it to say, such levels of design flexibility allowed the caravel to be at the forefront of Portuguese exploration endeavors. One pertinent example would relate to the Niña and Pinta ships of Columbus that were instrumental in their journey to the Americas. By the end of the 15th century, larger variants of caravels were built by the Portuguese, often as dedicated warships with better mobility. Some of these designs boasted four masts (with a combination of both square and lateen rigs), along with forecastle and sterncastle (although they were smaller than carracks).

8) Galleass (origins in late 15th century AD) –

Engraving of a galleass from Plan de Plusieurs Batiments de Mer avec leurs Proportions (c. 1690) by Henri Sbonski de Passebon. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Designed as a compromise between the sail-driven larger ships and the oar-driven galleys, the galleass was fitted with the combination of oars (usually 32 in number) and masts (usually 3 in number). In essence, the warship was designed to have the better maneuverability of galleys while also having the volumetric capacity to hold heavy artillery. Suffice it to say, many maritime factions adopted the design of galleasses, namely the Venetians who used them effectively in the Battle of Lepanto (1571) and the Ottomans who called their ‘hybrid’ ships mahons.

Unfortunately, over time, the limitations of such frigate-type galleasses came to the fore, especially because of their ‘compromising’ design. For example, most of the galleasses couldn’t carry the sturdy square sails because of the size of the galley-based hull. At the same time, the increased size, when compared to a standard war galley, didn’t allow the galleass to be as maneuverable as its oar-based predecessor.

9) Chebec (origins in 16th century AD) –

A North African answer to the European warships with their broadsides (longitudinal side of the ship where the guns are placed), the chebec (or xebec – possibly derived from the Arabic word for ‘small ship’) was the evolved variant of the war galleys used by the Barbary pirates. In response to the sails and guns of the larger European warships, the chebec was also designed to make room for broadside cannons. However, at the same time, the chebec was distinctly smaller and more streamlined in its overall form – especially when compared to the massive carracks (naos) of the Mediterranean.

Over the course of a few decades, the chebec warships completely ditched the oars, while relying on three massive lateen sails – thus making the complete transition from a galley to a sailing ship. At the same time, their intricate design credentials like the adoption of large lateen yards, angular positioning of the masts, and longer prows made them speedier and more maneuverable than the bulky warships of the period. Interestingly enough, the effectiveness of the chebec warships led to their adoption in the 18th-century navies of both France and Spain.

10) Turtle Ship (origins in late 16th century) –

When the Japanese forces under daimyō Hideyoshi invaded Korea in 1592, they boasted of two significant advantages over their foes – their Portuguese supplied muskets, and their aggressive tactic of boarding enemy ships (supported by cannon fire). However, Korean Admiral Sun-Shin Yi had an answer for these ploys in the form of the newly designed Turtle Boat (Geobukseon in Korean). Constructed with the aid of newly raised private money, this relatively small fleet consisted of ships (with lengths of 120 ft and beams of 30 ft) covered in iron plates. The core frame was made from sturdy red pine or spruce, while the humongous structure itself incorporated a stable U-shaped hull, three armored decks, and two massive masts – all ‘fueled’ by a group of over 80 sinewy rowers.

However, the piece de resistance of the Turtle Boat was its special roof that consisted of an array of metallic spikes (sometimes hidden with straws) that discouraged the Japanese from boarding the ship. This daunting design was bolstered by a system of 5 types of Korean cannons emerging from 23 portholes, that had effective ranges of 300 to 500 m (1000 ft to 1600 ft). And finally, the awe-inspiring craft was made even more intimidating – with a dragon-head on the bow of the vessel that supposedly gave out sulfur smoke to hide the ponderous movement of the boisterous boat.

11) Galleon (origins in 16th century AD) –

According to historian Angus Konstam, the early 16th century was a period of innovation for ship designs, with the adoption of better sailing rigs and onboard artillery systems. A product of this technological trend in marine affairs gave rise to the galleon – a warship inspired by the combination of both the maneuverability of caravels and the hefty nature of carracks. To that end, the galleon was possibly developed as a specialized marine craft with a keel-up design dedicated primarily to naval battles and encounters, but also having some cargo-carrying capacity.

After the 1570s, it was the Spanish navy that took an active interest in developing their own version of the galleon – thus leading to the Royal Galleons of the Spanish Armada. These incredible warships ranged from humongous 1,000-ton (with 50 onboard guns) to 500-ton (with 30 onboard guns) capacities but were complemented by graceful designs, with a sharper stern, sleeker length-to-beam ratio (when compared to bulkier carracks), and more effective hull shape for carrying artillery. However, by the early 17th century, the sizes of the Royal Galleons were trimmed down – to be increasingly used as escorts (and even cargo ships) for the highly profitable transatlantic trade routes.

As for the artillery on-board the typical galleon, there were several varieties, including the larger canones (cannon), culebrinas (culverins), pedreros (stone-shotted guns), bombardettas (wrought-iron guns), and versos (swivel guns). Among these, the pedreros – used as close-range anti-personnel weapons, and bombardettas – with their lower ranges when compared to bronze guns, were increasingly considered as outdated by the 17th century. On the other hand, the versos, with their swivel-mount and faster breech-loading mechanisms, were effective and flexible for both solid-shot and grapeshot.

12) Schooner (origins in the 17th century) –

The schooner was typically defined as a relatively small marine vessel with two or more masts – with fore and aft sails on both these masts. Now while it was smaller than the general warships of the period, the schooner (and the even tinnier sloop) were the preferred crafts commanded by the pirates who operated in the Caribbean region from around 1660-1730 AD. This probably had to do with their relative inconspicuousness, greater speed, and better maneuverability – especially when compared to the bulky merchant ships. Simply put, the pirates of the Caribbean tended to prey on the merchant vessels rather than the powerful warships that usually even moved in squadrons.

As for the ship-mounted guns, the sloop and larger schooner were typically equipped with the 4-pounder (also called the Canon de 4 Gribeauval), the lightest weight cannon in the arsenal of the contemporary French field artillery. These gun pieces weighed around 637 lbs and had a maximum range of over 1,300 yards. Larger pirate ships (like Black Bart’s Royal Fortune) obviously carried bigger guns, including the medium 8-pounder and heavy 12-pounder.

Conclusion – Ship of the Line

HMS Hercule – ship of the line, painting by Louis-Philippe Crépin. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Unfortunately, in spite of the many modifications (both structural and organizational) made on the Spanish galleon, naval warfare in the decades of the mid 17th century changed significantly in terms of formations and maneuvers. To that end, in the following years, one of the widespread tactics adopted by many contemporary European navies related to the ‘line of the battle’ – basically entailing the formation of a line by the ships end to end, which allowed them to collectively fire their cannon volleys from the broadsides without any danger of friendly-fire.

The adoption of such tactics translated to ships being used as floating artillery platforms, thereby resulting in the design of heavier vessels with more number of guns – better known as the ‘ship of the line’. Suffice it to say, the sleeker warship (like the galleon) was ironically anachronistic, with the focus of shipbuilders once again shifting to the bigger warships with broadside artillery platforms.


10. Yamato -class: Yamato & Musashi

The Imperial Japanese Navy is known for unleashing some rather unsettling creations in the midst of World War II maritime conflict. Yet while “Bigger is Better” is admittedly associated with American military might and engineering achievements, it is less well known that shipbuilders in Japan went about creating some of the most impossibly massive and terrifying battleships the world has ever seen. The Yamato -class ships consisted of the namesake Yamato herself, and her sister ship the Musashi. The Yamato -class represented an enormous investment of battle resources in terms of materials, personnel, fuel, and armament in just two ships. These machines were the largest warships of all to be deployed during the Second World War.

With an enormous hull length stretching 863 feet, the Yamato -class was greater in size than all other battleships worldwide, with 20 percent more water displacement than any American vessel. The USS Iowa -class vessels were the only battleships longer than the Yamato -class ships, but this vessel was still less massive than the Yamato. Over 30 percent of the total weight of the ship was comprised by the steel armor assigned to the vessel, while the weaponry included the most massive guns in the history of warships. The main guns of the Yamato -class were the greatest in size placed on a warship, firing 18-inch diameter shells. The shells could be lobbed at an incredible range of 25 miles. Musashi was sunk on October 24, 1944 in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, while Yamato was sunk when intercepted on a mission to be run aground and fight to the end in defense of Okinawa on April 7, 1945.


Ancient Greek warships

People called the earliest Greek warships pentekontors. They were probably designed to compete with similar Phoenician ships being built about the same time. Pentekontors were long, narrow ships, designed to go fast so they could overtake other ships and attack them. They had 25 rowers, or oarsmen, on each side.

By the 500s BC, in the Archaic period, though, Greek carpenters – like Phoenician carpenters – were building even faster ships. These new ships had more oars, and more oarsmen to pull them. And they had bronze points on the front, called rams, so they could smash into enemy ships and break them up.

Greek trireme (Lenormant relief, ca. 410 BC, now in Athens Acropolis Museum)

People called these new ships triremes, meaning “three oars”. Instead of twenty-five oarsmen, triremes carried seventy-five on each side, three times as many. They had three sets of oars, one on top of the other, so they could go very fast. Archaeologists think that triremes could go as fast as 14 knots in good weather. Triremes didn’t carry very many soldiers though – they were weapons themselves, for naval warfare, not troop carriers.

In the 400s BC, in the Classical period, the Greeks also built a heavier kind of ship called the quinquireme, meaning “five oars.” Quinquiremes were not as common as triremes, but they were heavier and harder to blow off course when there were strong winds. Quinquiremes also had lead coatings on their bottoms to protect them against being rammed by enemy ships.


Greek Warships - History

About ancient Greek warships.

A trireme (derived from Latin: “tres remi:” “three-oar” Greek Τριήρης, literally “three-oarer”) was a type of galley, a Hellenistic-era warship that was used by the ancient maritime civilizations of the Mediterranean, especially the Phoenicians, ancient Greeks and Romans.

History

The trireme derives its name from its three vertical rows of oars on each side, manned with one man per oar. The early trireme was a development of the penteconter, an ancient warship with a single row of 25 oars on each side, and of the bireme (Greek: διήρης), a warship with two banks of oars, probably of Phoenician origin. As a ship it was fast and agile, and became the dominant warship in the Mediterranean from the 7th to the 4th centuries BC, when they were largely superseded by the larger quadriremes and quinqueremes. Triremes played a vital role in the Persian Wars, the creation of the Athenian maritime empire, and its downfall in the Peloponnesian War.

Construction

In English, no differentiation is made between the Greek triērēs and the Latin triremis. This is sometimes a source of confusion, as in other languages these terms refer to different styles of ships. Though the term today is used almost exclusively for ancient warships, modern historians also refer to medieval and early modern galleys with three banks of oars per side as triremes. The rowing arrangement of these differed considerably, though, since knowledge of the multi-level structure of the original triremes was lost some time during Late Antiquity.

Design

No surviving written source gives complete information on the construction or form of the trireme. Already in the 4th century, the writer Zosimus lamented the loss of the information concerning the trireme’s construction.[9] It is worth noting that with the 1987 construction of Olympias, historians and researchers became aware of how dreadful the conditions aboard triremes truly were. For example, Olympias had to be cleaned every five days due to the stench of 170 rowers’ sweat. Keep in mind that these modern rowers used toilet facilities, presumably unlike the rowers in antiquity

Propulsion and capabilities

The ship’s primary propulsion came from the 170 oars (kōpai), arranged in three rows, with one man per oar. Evidence for this is provided by Thucydides, who records that the Corinthian oarsmen carried “each his oar, cushion (hypersion) and oarloop”. The ship also had two masts, a main (istos megas) and a small foremast (istos akateios), with square sails, while steering was provided by two steering oars at the stern (one at the port side, one to starboard).


Although not much evidence has been found regarding the uses of psychedelic mushrooms in Ancient Greek magical traditions, some scholars suggest the incorporation of drugs in rituals involving the descent to magical worlds. Many ceremonies were kept under strict secrecy, with the Eleusinian Mysteries being a prime example, and we might never truly know everything there is to know about them, suggests Jennifer Wirth.

The Oracles of Delphi, who were priests and priestesses, were perhaps some of the most important people involved with magic rituals in Ancient Greece. The oracles were believed to have the ability to translate cryptic messages direct from the gods, and to make prophetic statements.

The Pythia was the name given to any priestess who served as an oracle in the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. The priestess was a woman over fifty years of age, lived apart from her husband, and dressed in a maiden’s clothes. According to Plutarch, who once served as a priest at Delphi, the Pythia first enters the inner chamber of the temple (Adyton). Then, she sits on a tripod and inhales the light hydrocarbon gasses that escape from a chasm on the porous earth. This observation can be confirmed by modern geologists. After falling into a trance, she mutters words incomprehensible to mere mortals. These words are then interpreted by the priests of the sanctuary in a common language and delivered to those who had requested them.

The world of Ancient Greek magic is rich and vast. Much research has been done in different areas of cults and rituals and an even larger amount of information can be learned from Greek mythology. But much is still unknown about the secret and magical practices of the ancient Greeks, particularly the practices belonging to the initiatic schools, such as the Eleusinian Mysteries.


History of Greece The Rise of the Junta

Using a NATO plan to protect Greece against a communist invasion, a handful of junior officers led by Colonel George Papadopoulos, fearful of the upcoming election and the rise of the left, overthrow the Greek government and declare martial law, outlawing strikes, labor unions, long hair on men, mini-skirts, the peace symbol, the Beatles, Sophocles, Tolstoy, Aeschylus, Socrates, Eugene Ionesco, Sartre, Chekhov, Mark Twain, Samuel Beckett, free press, new math and the letter Z

During George Papandreou's eighteen month reign as prime-minister the problems between the Greek-Cypriots and the Turkish minority on the island of Cyprus come to a head. The island has been under British rule since 1878 and granted independence in 1960. There are some who want the island to unite with Greece ( enosis ), others who wanted to partition the Greek and Turkish Cypriots, and some who believe the two peoples could live together peacefully. In 1963 Archbishop Markarios (photo), the President of Cyprus, stirs up a hornets nest when he attempts to reduce the power of the Turkish minority in the Cypriot government. Turkey reacts with saber-rattling and prepares to invade the island after fighting breaks out between the two groups. This is brought to an end by President Lyndon Johnson who tells the Greek ambassador: "#@%$ your Parliament and your Constitution. America is an elephant. Cyprus is a flea. Greece is a flea. If those two fleas continue itching the elephant they may just get whacked by the elephants trunk. Whacked good. We pay a lot of good American dollars to the Greeks, Mr. Ambassador. If your Prime Minister gives me talk about Democracy, Parliament and Constitutions, he, his Parliament and his Constitution may not last very long." The UN sends in a peace-keeping force and the Turkish-Cypriots are sent to enclaves, instead of being spread all over the island. The US proposes a union of Cyprus with Greece in exchange for the Turkish-Cypriots having their own self-governing areas protected by Turkish bases. (Turkey would also get the island of Kastellorizo in the bargain.) This proposal is rejected by George Papandreou which does not win him any brownie-points with the Americans. He aggravates them even more when he begins releasing communists who had been languishing in prison since the end of the civil war.

The US also is nervous about Papandreou's son, the Harvard-educated Andreas, who after leaving his job as head of the Department of Economics at University of California at Berkeley, has returned to Greece with his American wife and his family to take part in his father's government. According to de-classified documents, the CIA wanted to spend several hundred thousand dollars on candidates to defeat the Papandreous. In their words "we have kept an eye on Andreas Papandreou long enough to know, realistically speaking, that he belongs to the camp of individuals opposed to US interests. In contrast with the other candidates, Andreas is particularly strong in his views". Some officials in the Johnson administration believe the United States should take drastic measures to support a moderate government and weaken the political influence of the Papandreous to avoid a resurgence of the communists. The State Department is not convinced that Andreas Papandreou is such a threat that they should funnel money into Greece to help defeat him. According to Secretary of State Rusk "the risk of the covert operation being revealed is much greater than the political gain it predicted".

As for the US embassy, a declassified memo states they believe that if elected, Andreas Papandreou would ". greatly reduce military spending, will gradually direct Greece away from NATO, and will gravitate to the Soviet block to promote Greek products. In this policy, he has found natural allies in the Left-wing and the Communists. In view of this, I believe it is highly critical for us to look more closely into Andreas' relations with the extreme Left-wing and the communists, find out how much money he has and where it comes from, and to the degree we are able, limit his real and potential political influence. "

In other words the US Embassy wants to find some dirt on the Papandreous and destroy them, at least politically. To be fair to the Americans, they have spent millions upon millions in Greece to keep the Greeks from becoming communist and now here comes Andreas, after two decades in academic America, who wants to have friendly relations with Russia. But the fact is that Papandreou is not a 'commie-lover' or 'left-wing fanatic'. In his past life in the United States he had been a supporter of Adlai Stevenson and Hubert Humphrey and worked on their campaigns. He is an economist and a visionary who wants to do what is best for Greece, not what is best for the USA. And what is best for Greece is getting the country out of the cold war and the pointless waste of money on defense. The Americans' fear of Papandreou is the kind of fear-induced Pavlovian, knee jerk reaction that turns intelligent people into closed-minded fanatics and creates problems in relationships between countries that take generations to heal.

In the meantime King Paul dies in 1964. He is succeeded by a very young King Constantine (in photo with Queen Anna Marie) who on July 5 1965 deposes the popularly elected government of George Papandreou, which had found itself increasingly at odds with the Americans, the establishment and the King. A group of officers including Petros Garoufalias, the Minister of Defence, claimed to have discovered a conspiracy of young officers within the military, led by Andreas Papandreou, who were planning to overthrow the government, kick out the king and establish a dictatorship. The organization is called ASPIDA or 'Shield'.

Whether this conspiratorial organization actually exists is debatable, but it is used to create a constitutional crisis that brings down the Papandreou government. The senior Papandreou requests that King Constantine allow him to take over the Ministry of Defense from Garoufalias who has refused to step down. The king, whether he was within his rights or not, denies his request, stating that the investigation of Andreas for ASPIDA makes this a conflict of interest. Papandreou offers his resignation, not really expecting the King to accept it. But his resignation is accepted. Several members of Papandreou's Center Union, which is really just a coalition of parties and personalities, are convinced to defect and attempt to put together a puppet government that is more acceptable to the oligarchy. This group are known as the Apostates (defectors). The Palace, the Greek Military, the American military and CIA stationed in Greece finally have George Papandreou where they want him: Out of power, leaving Andreas exposed, without parliamentary immunity, to face charges in the ASPIDA affair.

The Greek people however, at least those who support the Center Union which happens to be the majority of the people, see the whole thing as a big farce and another example of the lack of true democracy in Greece. On New Year's day of 1966 the King gives his annual address and says the communists are responsible for the political agitation. Perhaps as a consequence of the king's speech the music of Mikis Theodorakis is banned on Greek radio. In March thousands of Greeks and foreigners take part in the annual peace march from Marathon to Athens to commemorate the third anniversary of the assassination of Grigoris Lambrakis. Demonstrations gather momentum, as the Papandreous begin another Anendotos (unyielding fight) traveling around the country raising support while criticizing the Apostate government which lacks any popular support and is basically unable to govern. A caretaker government is finally appointed to take the country to new elections to be held on May 28 of 1967. (In the Greek constitution appointing a caretaker government is seen as the only way to have a fair election since a party in power would have an unfair advantage with the apparatus of the state at his disposal.). By the end of 1966 it is obvious to all that the Papandreou's revitalized Center Union is going to win this next elections by a landslide. When attempts to convince the Papandreous to agree to a postponement of the elections fail, King Constantine, Queen Frederika and a group of generals plan a coup for May 13th. The name of this organization is IDEA.

Unknown to the members of IDEA, another group led by Colonel George Papadopoulos, the liaison officer between the CIA and the KYP(The Greek CIA) and his cohorts Nikos Makerezos and Stylianos Pattakos, have planned their own coup for an earlier date. These Junior officers had worked closely with the members of IDEA and had used their information and influence to occupy critical military and intelligence posts. On April 21st, using 'Prometheus' a NATO plan for neutralizing a communist uprising in case of an attack by a Soviet bloc country, they overthrow the Greek government and declare martial law. They begin arresting hundreds of known and suspected leftists, as well as politicians and public figures. They justify their coup by declaring that it is necessary to stop a communist threat and to cure the society of the cancer that threatens to destroy its Hellenic values.

Thousands of communists are thrown into prison or internal exile on islands like Makronissos . Martial law, censorship, arrests, beatings, torture, and killings are all part of the cure the colonels have in mind for Greece. Andreas Papandreou is imprisoned for his involvement in ASPIDA and would have most likely been executed except for the pressure on US President Lyndon Johnson by American academics. Despite his opinion that Andreas Papandreou benefited from his years in America and then betrayed it, Johnson orders the leaders of the colonels not to kill him. Papandreou is released eight months later and leaves the country to spend the next 6 years as a critic of the junta. The Junta claim to have truckloads of evidence that the communists were planning to take over the country. This evidence is never produced.

Even though there are close ties between the Colonels and the US intelligence, the belief that the CIA was behind the coup is difficult to completely accept much less prove. From all appearances the US Government and the CIA were also caught by surprise. Perhaps they had their money on the King's coup, and knowing this, the Colonels were careful in masking their intentions to their American counterparts since they did have close contact on a regular basis. Four of the five officers who took power on the 21st of April 1967 were closely connected to the American military or to the CIA in Greece and if George Papadopoulos was on the payroll of the CIA then he was the first CIA agent to become Premier of a European country. But that still does not mean the Americans planned or ordered the coup, just as the members of IDEA had no idea that their junior officers were up to something.

Regardless of whether or not they knew about it, the US government does not take long to recognize the dictators as the legitimate Greek government, just one week after the coup. The British are not so easily convinced and take an extra day before they recognize the Junta as well. The Americans continue the massive military and economic aid to go with a growing military presence in Greece. If it is not an American imposed dictatorship it sure looks like one to the people of Greece. On May 5th US Secretary of State Dean Rusk declares that the Truman Doctrine does not permit interference in the internal affairs of Greece, a surprise to anyone who was around in the forties. Shortly after the coup a photo is released showing King Constantine with the leaders, as a sign that it has the blessing of the palace. The King sends a sign to the Greek people that he is doing this against his will by clasping his hands in front of him. But for a country in which more than half the population don't even want a king it is a pointless gesture. The King, like the dictators is seen as a tool of outside interests or what in Greece is known as 'the foreign factor'.

In June of 1967 the Junta announces Army Order No.13 which states that it is forbidden ". to reproduce or play the music and songs of the composer Mikis Theodorakis, the former leader of the now dissolved communist Organisation, the Lambrakis Youth because this music is in the service of communism . to sing any songs used by the communist youth movement which was dissolved under Paragraph Eight of the Decree of 6 May 1967, since these songs arouse passions and cause strife among the people. Citizens who contravene this Order will be brought immediately before the military tribunal and judged under martial law." A short time later Theodorakis himself is arrested. After a few months in prison he is sent with his family to the mountain village of Zatouna in Arcadia. The banning of Theodorakis music at this moment is a crime in itself. He has been working with the poet Manos Eleftheriou on a series of songs in the laika or popular music style, which are simple and direct. The collection is called Ta Laika and to this date is perhaps the best music of his career. Unfortunately it would be eight years before the people of Greece would be able to hear it.

In December the King attempts a counter-coup which fails. He and his family escape to Rome. It is the end of the monarchy in the land of the Hellenes. Perhaps having a King may have been a good idea at the beginning of the new Greek state, as a symbolic leader to keep the country together in that first chaotic period. But the Greeks realize that the Kings are and have always been tools of the western powers and are themselves foreigners with not an ounce of Greek blood between them. King Constantine lives in exile and raises a family, hoping to return to Greece one day even as a private citizen, which he eventually does, for the funeral of his mother Queen Frederika , one of the most controversial and out-spoken figures in the history of the Greek monarchy. Of German decent she was at one time photographed in the uniform of the Nazi Youth. Following the abolition of the monarchy in Greece she becomes something of hippy and goes to India to be with her guru Jagadguru Chandrasekarendra Saraswathi Swamigal. (It's true. Check it out by clicking on her photo.)

As dictatorships go the Greek Junta is not as brutal as some, unless of course you are a communist or even suspected of being one in which case it is hell on earth. The police and soldiers who do the actual torturing do it with impunity, declaring to their victims that they have the USA and NATO behind them. The list and description of methods used to extract information is horrifying and for the most part the information they are trying to get are the names of more people they can torture and get to sign confessions to justify the torture. It is a pointless exercise and more of an excuse for individual cruelty than a plan to get any kind of important information. But despite what is going on behind closed doors at ESA (Hellenic Secret Police), the Junta is putting on a happy face for the foreigners which creates a period of investment and economic growth for the country. Greece is now a 'safe environment' for international investors with the threat of communism gone. It is a time of road building and ribbon cutting, when it seems every week either Papadopoulos or Patakos is on the Greek cinema newsreels dedicating a new hospital or clinic, surrounded by an assortment of soldiers in uniform, politicians in suits and bearded priests in their Sunday finest. Some claim that every few decades the Greeks need a Metaxas or a Papadopoulos to bring order and get everybody moving in the same direction for awhile. With Greece now seen as a 'safe' environment for investors, money starts pouring in at the same time as concrete is poured for thousands of hotels and apartment buildings and the face of Athens begins to change dramatically. Many people make deals with developers, exchanging their family homes for two or three apartments in a four or five story apartment building on the same spot. Gradually the old houses disappear as Athens builds upwards and outwards.

The first real sign of violent discontent is a bomb attack on Papadopoulos by Alexandros Panagoulis on the coastal road outside of Athens on August 13th 1968. When the plan fails Panagoulis is captured and imprisoned and for the next five years subjected to physical abuse as well as psychological torture. The most moving protest is the funeral of George Papandreou in November of that same year in which millions of Athenians follow the casket to the cemetery in defiance of the dictatorship. There are clashes with the police and 41 people are arrested. In between these two events the United States announces that its aid in heavy arms will continue. In March of 1969 Nobel Prize poet George Seferis issues a public statement against the dictatorship. In August of that year a series of bombings in Psihiko target among others the automobiles of the US Military Attache and other Embassy and military officials. On December 10th Greece withdraws from the Council of Europe to avoid the humiliation of being expelled.

In another major even of 1969 Kosta-Gavras releases his film Z about the assassination of Grigoris Lambrakis. The movie has been filmed in Algeria since it obviously could not be filmed in Greece. It is nominated for a large number of top awards, including an Oscar for Best Picture, winning the Oscar for Best Foreign Film. It also wins the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Picture, and is named best picture by the New York Film Critics Circle Awards and National Society of Film Critics Awards . The film also is nominated for a Golden Palm award at the Cannes film festival. The soundtrack, by Mikis Theodorakis, who is under arrest at the time, becomes a hit record though of course like the film it is banned in Greece. The film ends with a list of things banned by the Junta which include the peace movement, strikes, labor unions, long hair on men, mini-skirts, the peace symbol, the Beatles, Sophocles, Tolstoy, Aeschylus, Socrates, Eugene Ionesco, Sartre, Chekhov, Mark Twain, Samuel Beckett, free press, new math and the letter Z , which means ' he lives '.

On March 26, 1970 the regime closes the daily newspaper Ethnos. Greece is accused of violating human rights by the Committee for Human Rights of the Council of Europe and later that year cancels its agreement which allowed the International Red Cross to investigate conditions of political prisoners in Greece. In April Mikis Theodorakis, who has once again been imprisoned, becomes ill with tuberculosis and is permitted to leave Greece for France, though his family are forced to stay behind as hostages. A month later his family escapes Greece with the help of friends and from this point on Theodorakis becomes a symbol of the resistance, performing concerts and speaking around the world. That same year Andreas Papandreou in exile in Ontario, Canada publishes his book Democracy at Gunpoint which tells the story of the events that led to the Junta and his experience at the hands of the dictatorship including the months in solitary confinement. It is probably the best first-hand account of this period. In October of 1971 Vice-President Spiro Agnew visits Greece, under heavy security. Two years later he becomes the first Vice-President to resign due to criminal charges, which include extortion, tax evasion and bribery. Two months after his visit the government of Greece announces that negotiations are taking place to make Athens the home port for the US 6th Fleet. A year later the agreement is signed. The Nixon-Agnew election campaign also receives a half a million dollar donation from the Junta, alleged to have come from the CIA, though a senate investigation of the donation is cancelled at the request of Henry Kissinger.

In September of 1972 another great figure dies, this time the poet George Seferis , considered the most distinguished poet of the pre-war period, whose poems often reflected a deep sense of the tragedy of the Greek people and who only a few months previously had denounced the Junta. Thousands of young people march with Seferis' coffin to the grave site, turning his funeral into one of the largest mass demonstrations against the dictatorship. A few months later, in January of 1973, a number of students are put on trial for having formed a political party and distributing leaflets. Students at the Polytechnion (Polytechnical University of Athens) abstain from lessons and the dictatorship passes a law that any student cutting classes will be drafted into the army. Students at the law school barricade themselves and ask for the abolition the oppressive laws. They leave peacefully after being promised safe passage by the Junta. This promise is broken and the students are beaten up by the police.

In May of 1973 the Greek Navy attempts to overthrow the dictatorship and capture the island of Syros. Led by Commander N. Pappas, a veteran of several aborted attempted counter-coups, the plan was to begin on May 23rd. But by the 21st of May members of the group were being arrested and tortured. Commander Pappas with the agreement of his crew on the destroyer Velos to the astonishment of British, American, Italian, and other naval commanders, abandoned a NATO exercise and sailed to the fishing port of Fiumicino, Italy, where two officers went ashore and tried to telephone the exiled king, who was living on the outskirts of Rome. After the Italians surrounded the ship with police boats, those who wished to defect were granted political asylum, and the rest sailed back to Greece with the ship. The incident attracted the attention of the international media. After the fall of the Junta Commander Pappas was promoted to admiral.

Culturally the music goes on. Stellios Kazantzides, Stratos Dionysiou, Marinella, and newcomer George Dalaras are big stars, making records, playing concerts, and doing the central clubs in the winter and the outdoor clubs on the coast in the summer. But there is also a musical revolution going on in the basement clubs around Platia Victoria and Archanon Streets. The leader of this movement, though nobody would call it a movement and he probably would not call himself the leader, is Dionysios Savopoulos, who has fused traditional Greek music with Zappa-esque rock, Dylan-like lyrics that evoke nationalism while at the same time poking fun at the Junta in a language so cryptic it is unlikely they understood the songs were about them. Like Theodorakis, Savopoulos becomes a hero of the youth. His album Vromeko Psomi (Dirty Bread) is a classic, a thinly veiled attack on the dictatorship, that if they heard it, must have had the colonels wringing their hands wondering what to do with this guy. Eventually he is charged with plagiarism and imprisoned though by now he is an icon. Savopoulos spends a winter playing at the rock club Kitaron where he re-introduces the youth of Athens to the music of Sotira Bellou, the aging rembetika singer, who opens his shows, as well as the Karagiozis- shadow puppet theater which tells the unwritten history of the Greek people trying to conform to the laws, customs, values, fashions and politics of Western Europe that had been imposed upon them by the countries that helped liberate them from the Turks.

There had always been rock music in Greece. From the time of the Beatles, groups like the Idols and the Charms played British-American sounding beat or garage pop with a Greek accent. The most popular of these groups, and probably the best, were Aphrodite's Child, led by keyboard player Vangelis Papathanasiou and bass-playing vocalist Demis Roussos, who moved to France during the dictatorship and become well-known with a number of big European hits. Vangelis is a sort of Greek Brian Wilson, a keyboard wizard with a great ear for melody and a desire to produce great music rather than just be a performing pop-star. In 1960 he and Kostas Ferris create the concept album 666, which becomes the group's final release. The album which is supposedly based on The Book of Revelations is considered one of the best, most innovative and diverse progressive rock albums of all time. However, by the time the record company, who are disturbed by the cover and the material, finally release it Aphrodite's Child no longer exists. The most controversial song on the album is titled with the infinity symbol and features Irini Pappas apparently having an orgasm while doing a mantra-like chant on top of Vangeliesque sound effects. One would assume that this is what kept the record company from embracing the project whole-heartedly. In fact the record company asks Vangelis to remove this song and he refuses. The album becomes a cult classic and the note that it has been recorded under the influence of Sahlep, leads people to believe it is some kind of drug induced fantasy album. But Sahlep is the therapeutic drink sold in the winter by street venders in Athens made from a mountain orchid.

Among the bands that decides to stay in Greece and play, or more likely are unable to leave because of military obligations, (which in Greece means if you are 19 and not in school you go, and if you are in school you go when you are finished), are groups like MGC who play hard rock, mostly covers, Bouboulia , Pelomabeque and Morka , the last group led by Greek-American Dorian Kokas. Exedaktilo is an R&B Rolling Stones type band with 2 excellent guitar players, who play at the Kittaro Club with the three-piece group Socrates Drunk The Conium , the best of the bunch, a Hendrix-style blues band with great original material and an incredible guitar player by the name of Yannis Spathas. The bands would each play in a club, 5 or 6 nights a week, for the entire season which started in late September and ended sometime in May. Playing down the street from Kittaro in the Elatirion Club was Poll , led by Kostas Tournas , Robert Williams and Stavros Logarides , a hippy-folk-rock band similar to Crosby-Stills-Nash and Young, who were the closest thing to Beatlemania with screaming girls attending their concerts which were held mostly on Saturday and Sunday afternoons in cinemas. Their importance in Greek cultural history was that they were singing and playing original rock music in Greek, which had been done before but not successfully. Unlike French, the Greek language goes well with rock music.

The reason I mention these bands and the underground club scene is because at the time this music was the primary opposition to the Junta within Greece. Kids are growing their hair, smoking hashish and listening to western music coming into the country through the US Military Radio station AFRS, and the huge number of small clandestine radio stations. In 1971 the movie Woodstock is shown in Athens, causing near riots. For young people it is one of the most exciting events of the period and when the recently deceased Jimi Hendrix appears on the screen the glow of a thousand bic-lighters and candles fills the theater. The youth of Greece see there seems to be a world of peace, love and music outside and their country is a prison in comparison. The colonels want to keep western pop-culture out of Greece and keep the youth isolated so they might fully embrace their Hellenic-Christian values. Their police raid the clubs, taking away long-haired young men, cutting their hair and sending them to do their military service. But the junta find it is impossible to keep the spirit of young people bottled up. In June of 1973 Papadopoulos calls a referendum on the monarchy and the establishment of a parliamentary republic, granting amnesty to many political prisoners, including Alexander Panagoulis, the man who had tried to assassinate him. He appoints himself president, forming a government with veteran politician Spyros Markezinis to lead the country toward elections. The junta seemed to be liberalizing itself though it cannot convince the youth who are becoming more outspoken. It is obvious that the plan is for the elections to legalize the dictatorship. In November students begin to gather at the Athens Polytechnic following protests and clashes with police at a memorial service for George Papandreou. From this point on for the youth of Greece it is simple: The government is the enemy and this is war.


In popular culture [ edit | edit source ]

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Syntagma Square in Athens. Many names of the battlefields where the Greek army participated are inscribed on both sides.

The Axis occupation of Greece, specifically the Greek islands figures in several English language books and films based on real special forces raids such as Ill Met by Moonlight, The Cretan Runner, fictional ones like The Guns of Navarone, Escape to Athena or They Who Dare and Captain Corelli's Mandolin, a fictional occupation narrative.


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1 By ‘the accepted theory’ in this paper I mean the group of solutions (they are legion) which, though differing in details of arrangement, agree in this, that a trireme had three banks of oars at a substantial interval one over the other, a quinquereme five, a dekeres ten, and so forth, each oar rowed by one man and the lowest bank fairly near the water. (I do not include Bauer, or so much of Assmann as relates to breit-polyereis.) All these solutions rest on a common basis and fall together if that be destroyed. The most important current expression of this theory, beside Mr. Torr's , , is Assmann's hoch-polyeres theory (art. Seewesen in Baumeister , and several papers, notably Jahrb. 1889 , p. 91 Google Scholar , Zur Kenntniss der Antiken Schiffe), followed by Droysen, Griechische Kriegsaltertümer in Hermann's Lehrbuch Luebeck , , Das Seewesen der Griechen und Römer , 2 vols. 1890 Google Scholar and Schmidt , , Ueber griechische Dreireiher , 1899 Google Scholar to judge by Luebeck's article biremis, it will be adopted in the new Pauly-Wissowa. Bauer's theory (Griechische Kriegsaltertümer in Müller , 's Handb. d. klass. Alt.-Wiss. , 1893 Google Scholar , and several papers), that a trireme had a very slight interval between the banks and that ships larger than triremes never had more than three banks but employed more than one man to an oar, is quite a separate matter. Important is Admiral Fincati , 's Le Triremi , 1881 Google Scholar a trireme had three oars to one bench, like a Venetian galley a zenzile. I unfortunately only know this book in Serre's translation, at the end of Vol. 1 of his Marines de la guerre, 1885 and 1891, from which I cite it. I cannot classify Admiral Serre though accepted, I believe, in France, his views seem to bear little relation to the evidence. Weber , 's book Die Lösung des Trierenrätsels , published 1896 Google Scholar , but written much earlier, with many blunders and mistranslations, contains ideas. A trireme had three men to an oar, a quinquereme five, etc. Accepted by Speck , , Handelsgeschichte , 1900 Google Scholar . Weber has no monopoly in mistranslations. The best exposition of the accepted theory prior to Assmann is probably that of Cartault , , La Trière Athénienne , 1881 Google Scholar . I understand he afterwards agreed with Bauer. While this paper was in the press two important articles appeared: one by Mr. Torr in Dar.-Sagl. s.v. navis, which seems to state his version of the accepted theory more definitely than was done in Ancient Ships the other by Mr. A. B. Cook in Whibley's Companion to Greek Studies, who favours the Venetian theory, but not very decidedly. References to Torr in this paper are to Ancient Ships unless otherwise stated.

2 I have had to notice the boats on Trajan's column, and one or two other matters, and, of course, writers of later date.

3 A trireme a zenzile was one in which three men sat on one bench on the same level, one a little astern of the other, each rowing one oar, the three oars issuing through one opening side by side, and giving the appearance of a bundle of three oars (see Figs. 1 and 2). In the galley a scaloccio several men rowed each oar.

4 The monumental evidence is often overrated. Even in the case of the best monuments, one can never say how far the artist may have sacrificed truth of detail to artistic considerations. It will be considered under E.

5 However little one wishes to dogmatise, one cannot always be writing in the potential mood and expressing every shade of proper reservation.

6 By ‘the larger polyereis’ in this paper I generally mean quadriremes to dekereis both inclusive, nothing over a dekeres being heard of in action.

7 A is very old as an opinion. B and a good deal of D (2) are new, I think. C (1) is given correctly by Bauer. D (1) is primarily Weber. In referring in this paper to Bauer's arrangement I mean his arrangement considered physically, i.e., as a slight interval only between the rows, apart from questions like the meaning of thranite or παρϵξϵιρϵσία.

8 τῷ τὴν ἐμβολὴν εἶναι κατὰ τὰς πρώτας θρανίτιδας κώπας The only writer known to me who cites this passage is Breusing , , Die Lösung des Trierenrätsels , 1889 Google Scholar and as he could not understand it at all, he said that the words from τῷ τὴν ἐμβολὴν to the end must be a gloss. If one may discard everything as a gloss that does not suit one's own theory, one can prove anything. No one who has seen a bumping race, and watched the cox of the boat in front washing off the nose of the boat behind with his steerage, will have any difficulty in construing the passage. I quote Polyaenus throughout from Woelfflin-Melber. He made considerable use of Ephorus but according to Melber , , Ueber den Quellen und der Wert der Strategemensammlung Polyäns , ( 1885 )Google Scholar , the passages most material to this paper (5, 43 3, 11, 7 and 12 and 13 5, 22, 2) are derived from some earlier work on naval tactics.

9 Assmann has to translate it (Baumeister, 1616) ‘neben den hintersten Thranitenriemen,’ which is not in the Greek.

10 This passage, unlike the former, is not evidence against anyone but those who accept Assmann's view (based on the monuments) of the παρεξειρεσία as an outrigger or ‘oar-box’ (Riemen-kasten) however, as it is conclusive that Assmann is right on this point, this is not very material. Chabrias' new steering oars were not where the old ones were. The new ones were through the παρεξειρεσία therefore, the old ones were not. But the old ones were in the usual place on the stern of the ship, as shewn by their lifting clear of the water therefore the old view, that by παρεξειρεσία is meant the stern (and bow) of the ship beyond the oarage, is untenable. The same conclusion is supported by Peripl. Pont. Eux. 3, the waves coming in not only through the oar-holes but over the παρεξειρεσία (where the reference must be to a higher point, not a different point) amd by the frequent references to ships losing part of their παρεξειρεσία in action (Thuc. 7, 34 is a good instance). But the absolutely decisive passage is Polyaen. 3, 11, 13 Chabrias stretches skins over the παρεξειρεσία of each side of the ship (ὑπὲρ τὴν παρεξειρεσίαν ἐκατέρου τοίχου) and nails them to the deck above, thus making a Φράγμα which prevented the waves washing in and the oarsmen looking out. Chabrias here improvised a cataphract. Assmann never really proved his own theory of the παρεξειρεσία at the same time there is nothing in Buresch's , attack on it, Die Ergebnisse der neueren Forschung über die alten Trieren (Woch. für klass. Phil. 1891 , No. 1)Google Scholar .

11 In a Rhodian inscription of the first half of the first century B.C. (I.G. xii. fase. i. No. 43) trihemioliai are contrasted with cataphracts, and again triremes with aphracts. suggesting that the trihemiolia was then a smaller or less important ship than a trireme. The form τριηρημιολία (Ath. 203 d) suggests that Photius is right in calling it a trireme if so, it was a light trireme evolved from a hemiolia (as to which see n. 22), as the trireme from the pentekontor. The suggestion that it means a ship of 2½ banks is the merest guesswork.

12 κατὰ μέσον τὸ κύτος ὑπὸ τὸν θρανίτην σκαλμόν Cited by Weber.

13 As I shall often have to refer to the battle of Chios, I should note that some writers (e.g. Beloch, Bevölkerung, and Ihne) doubt the accuracy of Polybius' version, obviously diawn from Rhodian sources, that it was a defeat for Philip. But even if so, this cannot affect the details of single events, which are precisely given for even if the Rhodians wrote up an account of the battle for the honour of Rhodes and Theophiliscus, they would take all the more care to put in details that either did happen or might, consistently with nautical probability, have happened. The account of this battle is hardly affected by Polybius' supposed inaccuracies as to the first Punic war, for which his sources were far different. One cannot go into the case for Polybius in a note but I would point out (1) that, as to the numbers, no one, I think, haa, yet examined the numbers in the sea-fights generally up to Actram, and the only examination for part of the period that I know of— Kromayer , , Die Entwickelung der röm. Flotte vom Seeräuberkriege des Pompeius bis zum Schlacht von Actium ( Philol. 1897 ), p. 426 Google Scholar —accepts the great numbers recorded for the war with Sextus Pompey (2) that to bring in the population question (Beloch, Serre) is surely to explain obscurum per obscurius (3) that the real exaggeration is not in the separate accounts of battles, which generally mention ‘ships’ or ‘cataphracts,’ but in the summing-up chapter (1, 63), where Polybius has used πεντήρεις when he ought to have said warships, as appears both from the separate accounts and from the columna rostrata (C.I.L. 1, 195) and (4) that Ihne's objection (Röm. Gesch. 2 2, 47) that the Romans had ships before the first Punic war, neglects the obvious explanation that Polybius or his authority means no more in speaking of the creation of the Roman fleet than we might in speaking of the creation of the German fleet—a first serious bid for seapower. See also n. 91.

14 Schol. Frogs 1074 τῷ θαλάμακι· τῷ κωπηλατοῦντι ἐν τῷ κάτω μέρει τῆς τριηροῦς· τῷ θαλάμακι· οἱ θαλάμακες ὀλίγον ἐλάμβανον μισθὸν διὰ τὸ κολοβαῖς χρῆσθαι κώπαις παρἀ τὰς ἄλλας [Γ] τάξεις τῶν ἐρετῶν ὅτι μᾶλλον ἦσαν ἐγγὺς τοῦ ὕδατος. ∥ ἦσαν δὲ τρεῖς τάξεις τῶν ἐρετῶν· καὶ ἡ μὲν κάτω θαλαμῖται, ἡ δὲ μέση ζυγῖται, ἡ δὲ ἄνω θρανῖται. θρανίτης οὖν ὁ πρὸς τὴν πρύμναν, ζυγίτης ὁ μέσος, θαλάμιος ὁ πρὸς τὴν πρῷραν. (I cite down to || from Rutherford's ed. of the scholia (1896) he does not give the latter half, which is therefore not in the codex Ravennas. I cite it from the codex Venetus. In the former half, according to the facsimile published by the Hellenic Society, cod. Ven. omits Γ̅.) Schol. Ach, 162 τῶν ἐρεττόντων οἱ μὲν ἄνω ἐρέττοντες θρανῖται λέγονται, οἱ δὲ μέσοι ζυγῖται, οἱ δὲ κάτω θαλάμιοι. Hesych. θρανίτης ὁ πρὸς τὴν πρύμναν, ζυγίτης ὁ μέσος, θαλάμιος ὁ πρὸς τῄ πρῴρᾳ (so Suidas and Zonaras), Hesych. θαλάμιος ἐρέτης δ κατωτάτω ἐρέσσων ἐν τῇ νηἰ θαλάυιος λέγεται, δ δὲ μέσος ζύγιος, δ δὲ ἀνώτατος θρανίτης. θαλάμιαι κῶπαι οἱ κατωτάτω καὶ οἱ ταύτην ἔχοντες τὴν χώραν θαλάμιοι λέγονται. Suidas. θρανίτης λεώς τῶν γὰρ ἐρεττόντων οἱ μὲν ἄνωθρανῖταιλέγονται, οἱδὲμέσοιζυγῖται, οἱδὲκάτω θαλάμιοι. Etym. Mag. θαλαμίδιοι κῶπαι ὁ κατώτατος ἐρέτηςθαλάμιος λέγεται, δ δὲ μέσοςζύγιος, ὁ δὲ ἀνώτατοςθρανίτης. Eustath. 1818, 52 ἔχειδέ, φησίν (Pausanias), οὗτος (thranite) τὴν ἄνω ἕδραν, τὴν δευτέραν ζύγιος, τὴν τρίτην θαλάμιος. 640, 11 θαλαμῖται καὶ θαλάμακες ἐρέται οἱ ὑπὸ τοὺς θρανίτας. Lastly Pollux 1, 87 καλοῖτο δ᾿ ἂν καὶ θάλαμος οὗ οἱ θαλάμιοι ἐρέττουσι τὰ δὲ μέσα τῆς νεὼς ζύγα, οὗ οἱ ζύγιοι καθῆνται τὸ δὲ περὶτὸ κατάστρωμα θρᾶνος, οὗ οἱ θρανῖται. —There is another scholion on Frogs 1074, given by Zuretti , , Scolii al Pluto ed alle Rane d'Aristofane dal codice Veneto 472 Google Scholar e dal codice Cremonense 12229, L, 6, 28: τρεῖς τάξεις ἦσαν ἐν τῇ τριήρει· οἱ μὲν πρῶτοι θρανῖται καλούμενοι, οἱ δὲ δεύτεροι ξυγῖται, οἱ δὲ τρίτοι θαλαμακες.Read with Eustath. 1818, 52, this illustrates the use of πρῶτος as sternmost in Polyaen. 5, 43 above.

15 Unless it be Ar. , Mech. 4 Google Scholar , discussed under F.


The Salient Features of Ancient Greek Ships

Greece is a country that lies on the Aegean, Mediterranean and the Ionian Seas. Since the country is scattered around the sea, marine transport has been the primary source of transportation for the Greeks since ancient times. In contemporary times, marine transport has developed to a great extent but the allure and the attraction of the Greek ships of the ancient times still exists.

The salient features and the importance of the ancient ships of the country can be explained and elaborated as follows:

  • The Greek ships primarily used oars to ensure faster movement of the vessel in the water. However, there was a basic distinction that only war ships used oars while the ships used as merchant navy vessels had sails. The Greek ships used for the purpose of war were referred to as Pentekonters
  • Two of the most famous war-ships used by the Greek are the Trireme – which won them the war against the Persians (Battle of Salamin) in 480 BC and the Brireme – which was used during their war against Troy in 1250 BC. Brireme and Trireme are so named for the set of oars used to propel the ships forward. In the case of the first war-ship, there were two sets of oars on both sides of the ship. In the second type, the oars were positioned on three sides of the ship
  • Another feature of the Brireme ancient ships was that one side of the ship was partially raised i.e. the concept of out-rigging was used. This was primarily done to ensure that at no point of time a collision between any of the two sets of oars was caused. The number of men employed to oar the ship forward in the Brireme is said to be around 120 – 60 on each side
  • The oarsmen on the trireme were numbered to be around 90 on each side of the ship. The speed of the trireme was around 14 knots, which is quite a good acceleration for ships of that era. Additionally, the trireme was equipped with arsenal to fight the enemy as opposed to carrying infantry to do the fighting against the enemy
  • The bow of the Brireme had a protrusion so that if the need arose, then the enemy’s ship could be rammed by the Brireme bow to puncture and destroy the enemy war-ship
  • The amount of time gap between the usage of the Brireme and Trireme is around 800 years. This effectively proves the aspect of development of the Greek ships of the ancient times
  • Another variety of the ancient ships of Greece is the Quinquiremes. These Ancient Greek ships had a set of five oars and were built on the bulkier side so as to ensure them complete protection against gales and stormy winds. As compared to the previous two varieties, the Quinquiremes were not used that popularly even though their emergence was around the same time – during 400 BC
  • The most important and notable feature of the Quinquireme was that it was coated with lead to protect it from getting punctured and destroyed by enemy ships

Ships have been in operation in the Greek history for about 100 centuries now. There have been numerous instances of several Greek ships of the ancient times being raised and restored. The ancient ships of Greece depict the success that the country enjoyed against its rival countries and the subsequent formation of the world’s super-power of that era.

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