Building the Trireme - Frank WelshLondon: Constable, 1988, Hardback in Dust Wrapper.
Condition: Very Good — in Very Good Dust Wrapper.
Includes: Black & white photographs; Diagrams; Maps;
From the cover: “The Athenian trireme, the light, speedy and efficient warship of ancient Greece, has been the subject of contentious speculation for centuries. Very few carvings or vase-paintings exist to indicate just what it looked like and how the rowers were seated. Scholars since the sixteenth century have argued whether the word ‘trireme’ implies three tiers of rowers, or has another meaning altogether — say, three men to each oar. In 1975 this controversy erupted again in a heated interchange of letters in the correspondence columns of The Times. Also vigorously disputed was whether any Greek oared warship could have reached the speeds recorded by the historian Xenophon.
Three men — Frank Welsh, John Morrison and John Coates — decided to cut the Gordian knot by building a trireme that accorded with the historical and archaeological evidence, and inviting 170 British oarsmen and women to try it out at sea. Morrison, a classical scholar, and Coates, a naval architect, were to design it.
This book is an account of that venture, from its origin during a dinner table conversation; through the arousing of interest among the world’s press and the enthusiastic help of the Greek Navy; the raising of funds, and the problems of design and construction using 2,000-year-old techniques; to the building of the trireme in Greece and the eventful, often hilarious sea trials. The results roundly vindicated Morrison and Coates: the disparate, inexperienced volunteer crew of all ages, all sizes and both sexes, soon achieved creditable speeds, and a bonus was the discovery of the warship’s manoeuvrability. Graeme Fife, one of the volunteers who in an Appendix to the book gives an oarsman’s view of the trials, recorded: We have a first real measure of the stunning agility that sent her twisting and Burning in the seas with astonishing speed, like a Spitfire in the air. The book ends with the commissioning into the Greek Navy of the first trireme for 1,500 years to sail the wine-dark Aegean, and is a fascinating odyssey in search of an important nugget of historical truth.”