The trireme – derived from the Ancient greek word meaning three-rower – were fast and agile warships of around 37 meters in length, which dominated the Mediteran Sea from the 7th to 4th centuries BC.
Although the ship had sails – it’s primary propulsion came from 170 oars over three levels, one above the other. With one man per oar, the configuration necessitated minimal waste of space and highly regimented discipline. Steering was provided by a set of oars at the stern.
The trireme was capable of sustained speeds of around six knots and on a good day, the oarsmen – rowing for 6–8 hours – could propel the ship between 80 to 100 kilometres, or 50 to 62 miles.
Each ship was highly decorated to flaunt its patrician’s wealth, with eyes, painted figureheads and ornaments around the bow designed to intimidate the enemy – and used for ramming and piercing enemy ships – a specialty of the Athenians.