The Trireme

How was a trireme built? By E.J. de Meester. For many centuries people have speculated about the way the warships of the ancient Greeks and Romans were built. Most controversial is the trireme (Greek trièrès, Latin triremis) in which three rowers sat next to each other on each side (six in a row in total). Two attempts have been made to build a full-size replica of a trireme: in the 19th century under Napoleon III and in 1985-7 by the English professor John Morrison and the ship designer John Coates. The second attempt was undoubtedly more successful than the first, but many aspects are still controversial. It seems that there are plans in the Netherlands to build a third replica. I became interested because I was building little ship models as a hobby, and also because of two exhibitions: Greece and the Sea in the New Church in Amsterdam in l987 and Ancient Ships and Seafaring in the Allard Pierson Museum in Amsterdam in l995-6. At the latter exhibition there was a test section that was used to design the Olympias, the trireme of Morrison and Coates. One was allowed to sit in it, which I did, after much hesitation, when there was nobody around (apart from the surveillance cameras). The Olympias itself was scheduled to come to Amsterdam too, but unfortunately this was cancelled because the hull was too worm-eaten.

Read More