• Imagining History

What is a Greek Trireme? - A Quick Read for Kids

Updated: Oct 5

The Trireme was a Greek Warship. It was a massive wooden vessel that had both sails and three banks of oars. In fact, that’s why the ship was called a Trireme, as they had three tiers of oars. It took up to 170 oarsman to move a Trireme, and when they were pulling with maximum effort the warship could travel through the waves at 10mph.

There would be archers on the deck to rain down arrows on their unsuspecting foes. To follow this attack up, a favoured tactic of a Trireme commander (called a Trierarch – these lucky captains had a lovely big chair, placed on the deck at the rear of the ship, to sit down on), would be to smash their enemies with the massive bronze ram on the bow of their ship. At this point Hoplite soldiers could jump aboard to finish off the enemy.

Thanks to the many islands of Ancient Greece, Triremes were very important and were vital to defend a city-state. At its peak, Athens had a stonking fleet of 300 Triremes!

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