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Naval Athens Essay

2586 words - 11 pages

There is no coincidence that the rise of Athenian Democracy goes chronologically hand in hand with the rise of the Athenian Navy. Following the defeat of the Persians by the Greeks, Athens’ naval successes allow it to surpass the previous naval power of Corinth; create the Delian league to fund and support this navy; and eventually ruffle enough feathers with their fellow Hellenic neighbours that they inspire the Peloponnesian war. Overall their naval reputation and intimidation comes from the skill of the men who maneuver and command the ships, and the tool they use to wield their power, the Athenian trireme. By looking at the design of the trireme, and the work and numbers put both into ...view middle of the document...

14) (Thucydides 1996).
What we do know is that the Athenian navy in the archaic period did consist of triremes, but would have mostly constituted two smaller types of ships (Jordan 1975) rather than the overwhelming percentage of triremes seen in the classical period.

Triremes were unfortunately had to make stops on shore nightly whenever possible, because they ship needed to dry out and the crew would be given time to rest and eat without being confined to the smaller space available in the trireme (Jordan 1975). This was not always the case though; there is a recalling of a time when a trireme did have to sail through the night, when one ship had to catch up to the trireme headed to Mytilene (Jordan 1975). This type of travel was possible with a trireme, but it would sail slightly slower since men had to take turns rowing, eating barley cakes and wine (Thucydides 1996)(3.49.4), and sleeping, since they had not enough room for everyone to take a break at once. Another example is when they couldn't anchor at Pylos, men "took their meals on shore in their turn" (4.26.3)(Thucydides 1996). This would not have done any harsh damage to the ship in small amounts, but if it were to travel this way consistently there would be definite problems with ship maintenance.
To actually build a trireme, it consisted of a number of different types of resources and uniquely skilled laborers. The ship was built "shell first", meaning the side planks were constructed before laying in the "backbone", keel, or general load bearing skeleton of the ship (Hale 2009). The keel was said to be made of a Turkish oak (Fields 2007) which is said to be even stronger than traditional or common oak. Oak itself was strong and therefore was chosen for the keel because the ship would need to be dragged up onto shore nightly in order to dry out, so the wood had to withstand scraping along the shore over and over (Hale 2009). Not only must the keel be strong, but the builders also tossed any wood that contained knots or cracks in order to avoid the wood breaking from its own imperfections (Hale 2009). The side planks, put together by builders standing on a sort of scaffolding, was made out of green pine in order to allow it to be easily bent (Hale 2009), and would be secured by pegs being placed into corresponding holds and being hammered together (Hale 2009). Following the planks, they started to place the ribs of the boat, adding screens and leather "tubular sleeves" to keep out flying hazards or even just water from the lower decks of rowers (Hale 2009). Other strengthening tactics included flax seed ropes within the planks, used for its strength in water, copper spikes (Fields 2007) and girding cables, which "acted as tendons" for the ship (Hale 2009).
The ship required all this strength for the most part in order to effectively ram its enemy, which is what an Athenian trireme was used for. It's main strength was "to sail around and charge the...

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