The warship was the TRIREME (or triereis) propelled by a square sail and 170 rowers (arranged in three levels of oarsmen). Top speed was 8.6 knots; average speed was approximately 7 knots. The older fifty-oared warships (pentakonter) and merchant ships attained perhaps one-half to one-third the speed of the trireme.
A trireme during a "long day" of 16 hours rowing and with a favorable wind (plus two hours stop for rest and a midday meal) could cover 130 nautical miles in a day (Xen., Ana. 6. 4. 2). In 427 B.C. the Athenians sent a second trireme to countermand the punishment voted to Mytilene. The first trireme carrying the initial orders had been dispatched one day earlier and, at an average speed, covered the 184.5 nautical miles between PIRAEUS (port of Athens) and Mytilene in just over 2 days. By rowing continually in shifts and taking meals on board, the crew of the second trireme covered the same distance in a record speed of 24 hours (Thuc. III. 39).
Average Sailing Times of Trireme
From G. Glotz, Ancient Greece at Work (London, 1927), pp. 294-95.
|Dr. Kenneth W. Harl
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