An Introduction to the Trireme Olympias

Olympias is a reconstruction of an Athenian Trireme of the 5th and 4th centuries BC, built in Greece to a design worked out by John Coates, a naval architect, taking into consideration ancient evidence researched by John Morrison, former President of Wolfson College, Cambridge. Olympias was commissioned into the Hellenic Navy in 1987. The first two pictures show Olympias propelled in two ways: by sail and under oar (click on images to view full-size).

She is manned by 170 oarsmen (and women), 85 a side, arranged in three tiers, Thranites at the top, Zygians in the middle, and Thalamians at the bottom. Height generally determines where you sit. The ideal crew height is 5'10", and if you are over 6'1" you will probably find conditions cramped on board. You can get an idea of what it looks like from the inside from this sketch.

The last picture gives you a side-on view of Olympias coming into dock.

Text by Charlie Day, photos: top Paul Lipke, others
Mary Staley Pridgen

The Trireme Self-Assessment Questionnaire

Photographs from the Perseus Encyclopedia.