Stephen A. Williams
Development of the Trireme and Naval Warfare: Alalia to Salamis.
(Under the direction of Dr. Timothy Runyan) Department of History, September 2004.
The purpose of this thesis is to examine the development of the Mediterranean warship from a two-level multipurpose vessel to three-level dedicated ramming man-of-war, and to attempt the establishment of a range of dates for possible origin of the latter design. Two ship designs, trieres and trireme, are differentiated and assigned possible origin locales and dates. Three current origin theories are discussed: Greek, Phoenician, and Egyptian. Each is based on primary source literature, but all fall short of providing the best possible fit. Ionia is argued as place of origin. The main source, Herodotus, is scrutinized for possible anachronistic assertions and placed in context with other source material including archaeological evidence.
Progressing through the eighth and seventh centuries B.C., the evidence builds against an early origin date. The Battle of Alalia is of special concern as it establishes the terminus post quem for any trieres or trireme construction. Also, ramming tactics were first used here, setting the course for all later warship design. Vessels progress from seaborne platforms for soldiers to oar-propelled ramming ships. Subsequent battles highlight the three-level warship evolution from dual-purpose ships such as Polycrates' Samania and its eventual rise to prominence in navies during the last quarter of the sixth century. Three-level warship design evolution is exemplified by the Battle of Salamis in 480 B.C., where the Greeks rowed the trieres victoriously against the Persian trireme. The trieres helped raise Athens to great heights, controlling much of the Mediterranean for many decades to come.