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Page 9

An Athenian Triearch

 

    Among this unaristocratic crowd we observe a dignified old gentleman with an immaculate himation and a long polished cane. Obsequious clerks and sailing masters are hanging about him for his orders; it is easy to see that he is a trierarch—one of the wealthiest citizens on whom it fell, in turn, at set intervals, to provide the less essential parts of a trireme's outfit, and at least part of the pay for the crew for one year, and to be generally responsible for the efficiency and upkeep of the vessel.[11] This is a year of peace, and the patriotic pressure to spend as much on your warship as possible is not so great as sometimes; still Eustathius, the magnate in question, knows that he will be bitterly criticized (nay, perhaps prosecuted in the courts) if he does not do "the generous thing." He is therefore ordering an extra handsome figurehead; promising a bonus to the rowing master if he can get his hands to row in better rhythm than the ordinary crew; and directing that wine of superior quality be sent aboard for the men.[12] It will be an anxious year in any case for Eustathius. He has ill wishers who will watch carefully to see if the vessel fails to make a creditable record for herself during the year, and whether she is returned to the ship house or to the next trierarch in a state of good repair. If the craft does not then appear seaworthy, her last outfitter may be called upon to rebuild her completely, a matter which will eat up something like a talent. Public service therefore does not provide beds of roses for the rich men of Athens.

    Eustathius goes away towards one of the wharves, where his trireme, the "Invincible," is moored with her crew aboard her. Let us examine a typical Athenian warship.

 

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