John S. Morrison, John F. Coates, and N. B. Rankov
If, like me, you’re the kind of person who will, when visiting Athens, take a side trip to Piraeus to see a reconstructed trireme, you’ll love this book. That ship, the Olympias, is the subject of this book.
The Olympias is a large-scale experimental archaeology project. The exact arrangement of oars and rowers on these ships was a mystery. None of them survive — not even as underwater wrecks — and the few inscriptions and statues that show them are open to many interpretations. The Olympias represents a best-guess about ancient trireme design. Since “The Athenian Trireme” is the second edition of this book — the first having be published before the ship was completed — it includes info about where the modern version’s designers went wrong (resulting in a ship slightly slower than ships in ancient accounts).
The book surveys the evidence about trireme design, the history of their use, the design of the reconstruction, and the results of the reconstruction’s sea trials. It goes into detail about crew size, battle tactics, and performance of these ancient vessels. What surprised me most was the trireme’s ability to accelerate quickly, turn sharply, and stop quickly.
I really liked this book. That probably says something about my level of history geekiness. (By the way, right next to Olympias in Piraeus is the 1907 cruiser Georgios Averof; yes, that was an awesome travel day.)