The Olympias during sea trials

The Trireme Trust

The Trireme Trust was set up in 1982 by the historian and academic, John Morrison, naval architect, John Coates, and writer Frank Welsh to investigate a centuries-old controversy about the nature of the trireme, the most important warship of the ancient Mediterranean world. Their collaboration resulted in the building and launch in 1987 by the Hellenic Navy of a full-scale reconstruction, the Olympias, powered in accordance with the ancient evidence by 170 oars arranged over three levels. A series of six sea-trials between 1987 and 1994 demonstrated that the ship could be rowed efficiently and fast, despite almost universal academic opinion that a three-level arrangement of oars was wholly impracticable. A full-scale, sit-on model of the reconstructed oar system was featured in the Transport section of the Millennium Dome exhibition in 2000, and similar models are currently on display in both the Henley River and Rowing Museum and the Manchester University Museum. In 2004, the ship itself was used to carry the Olympic flame across Piraeus harbour shortly before the opening of the Athens Olympic Games. Since 1994, the Trireme Trust has been dedicated to disseminating information about the ship as widely as possible, through publications, lectures to schools and historical/archaeological societies, supply of photographic images, and television and press interviews, and to carrying out further research based on the sea-trials.

The Trireme Trust archive

The Trireme Trust archive includes all the relevant correspondence, design notes, construction drawings and sea trials documentation relating to the "Olympias" project. Thanks to the generosity of The River and Rowing Museum (RRM) the archive is housed at the RRM Museum at Henley.

Online search facility

The archive's index is entirely computer based with access provided via the online search facility. The archive database provides summary records of all the correspondence, technical drawings, plans and sea trials reports relevant to the project. These summary records and plan images can be viewed online via the "Search" link. Should a researcher need fuller access to the physical archive, visits can be arranged to view requested documents at the River and Rowing Museum. A pro forma e-mail visit request form can be found on the search page. This arrangement facilitates access by recognised institutions such as schools or approved academic researchers to the archive, with the object of making the full Trireme development history available to as wide an audience as possible. Photographic images have been archived separately and are not currently accessible.

Search the archive