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Page 10

The Evolution of the Trireme

 

    The genesis of the trireme was the old penteconter ("fifty-oar ship") which, in its prime features, was simply a long, narrow, open hull, with slightly raised prow and stern cabins, pulling twenty-five oars to a side. There are a few penteconters still in existence, though the great naval powers have long since scorned them. It was a good while before the battle of salamis that the Greek sea warriors began to feel the need of larger warships. It was impossible to continue the simple scheme of the penteconter. To get more oars all on one tier you must make a longer boat, but you could not increase the beam, for, if you did, the whole craft would get so heavy that it would not row rapidly; and the penteconter was already so long in relation to its beam as to be somewhat unsafe. A device was needed to get more oars into the water without increasing the length over much. The result was the bireme (two-banker) which was speedily replaced by the still more efficient trireme (three-banker), the standard battleship of all the Greek navies.[13]

 

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