Trieres - Greek Naval Warfare c.400BC.

Some Historical Data:

It would take many volumes to impart all the information there is to be found about this subject - but here is an ultra-condensed set of data about Greek Trieres.

The Crew of a Trieres

This is always quoted as 200 people - plus the captain - 201 in total.
  1   Trierarch (Captain).
  4   Archers (The Captains' Bodyguard)
  1   Auletes (Piper or Drummer, Kept the Rowers in time)
  1   Helmsman  (Steering Oars)
  1   Pentekontarchos (Accountant, Bought Food/Drink for the crew)
  1   Boatswain (Sails and Rigging)
  10  Sailors (Sails and Rigging)
  1   Prorates (Navigator and Bow Lookout)
  1   Shipwright (Running Repairs)
  10  Soldiers.
  170 Rowers (Who could also fight - but who had no shields or armor)
When a vessel was used as a troop carrier, it might carry 30 additional soldiers - at a severe penalty to speed. When used to carry horses for the cavalry, they would have just one row of oarsmen and proceed quite slowly.

Speed and Endurance

These varied between vessels depending on how they were built - also between crews with differing experience and depending greatly on how tired they were. Also, a ship gradually became water-soaked and hence heavier - so dragging a ship out of the water and allowing it to dry out would improve subsequent speed. Removing barnacle incrustations might help some too. Finally, a ship 'cleared for action' would leave it's sails, masts and rigging ashore and be considerably lighter/faster as a result.

As a rule-of-thumb:

   7 knots could be sustained for a whole day.
  12 knots for 10 minutes only.
  15 knots for very short bursts.

The ship could be back-watered (reversed) at 2 knots easily - but by turning the crew around to face the opposite direction, they may have managed 6 knots in reverse.


  Quarter speed in 2 seconds.
  Half speed in 8 seconds.
  Full speed in 30 seconds.