Ancient Greek Naval Warfare

Before 800BC there was no dominant ship type used in the navies of the Aegean Sea. Most ships were little more than long boats of a primitive design. In war they were mainly used to transport troops and naval battles were boarding actions. In 800BC the ram was invented and this changed naval battles to a contest of speed and maneuver. At first this led to the development of the Penteconter (meaning 50-oared), a sleek ram-armed and fast war galley power by fifty oars, with twenty-five to a side and manned by fifty oarsmen. A large Penteconter could range up to 37-38 meters, the beam would be four meters to allow room for the rowers to work the oars. These ships would have a top speed of 9-10 knots. There was also a smaller war galley, the Triaconter (meaning 30-oared) used in the navies of the Aegean Sea.

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