Athenian Naval Finance in the Classical Period

The trierarchy, its place in Athenian society, and how much did a trieres cost?

Rosemary Peck

The School of Archaeological Studies
The University of Leicester

Dissertation submitted for the BA degree in Ancient History and Archaeology

March 2001


The overall aim of this dissertation is to discuss how much it would cost to build, equip and man a trieres. It will attempt to establish who was financially responsible for this, what percentage of the costs were paid by the state, and what percentage were paid by the trierarch. The dissertation will attempt to uncover the responsibilities of a trierarch, and the responsibilities of the state in the administration of the Athenian Navy.

The most important information, in regards to the financial and administrative dealings of the Athenian navy, can be found in the Attic stelai. By studying these inscriptions, in particular those known as the "arithmos" formulas we can establish an in depth view of fourth and fifth century BC naval practices.

This study of the Athenian naval establishment has ascertained that the state naval establishment was reliant upon the financial backing of wealthy Athenians. Due to the fragmentary nature of the evidence it is impossible to establish a set of figures that could be stated to be, without any doubt, the cost of a trieres or its equipment; nor the level of wealth that a trierarch would need to possess in order to become liable for the trierarchy, or even a definitive figure for an average trierarchic outlay.

Total no. of words (estimated) = 16,400

HTML conversion by Anu Dudhia - 06-DEC-01


List of Illustrations
Chapter 1 - Introduction
1.1 The dissertation
1.2 Critique of the available sources
1.3 Seapower in the Ancient Mediterranean
Chapter 2
2.1 The trieres.
2.2 The importance of naval power in Classical Athens.
2.3 The development of the Athenian navy and its administration.
2.4 Liturgies and their importance in Athenian society.
Chapter 3 - The Trierarch
3.1 Who were they and what did they do?
3.2 How were trierarchs appointed and how could they exempt themselves?
3.3 What difficulties did they face?
Chapter 4 - The Crews
4.1 Who were the crew?
4.2 How were they paid and at what rate?
4.3 What did they eat and how much did it cost?
Chapter 5 - The Trieres
5.1 How were the triereis built?
5.2 The cost of construction.
5.3 The cost of the ship and its equipment.
1. List of equipment
2. Table of costs relating to the construction and fittings of a trieres.
3. Who were the officials of the on-shore administration of the Athenian navy?
4. What were the symmories?


I would like to express my immense thanks to Dr. Lin Foxhall for her assistance in choosing the title of this dissertation, and her patience as my personal tutor and dissertation supervisor. Both she, and Dr. Graham Shipley have been invaluable sources of advice and constructive criticism throughout.

I would also like to thank the director of the British School at Athens, David Blackman, for his assistance in the early stages of planning the dissertation. His advice on reading materials, and his assistance in organizing a visit to see the Olympias whilst I was at the Summer School in 1999 and again in the summer of 2000, was invaluable.

I would like to thank Andrew Wilson for his assistance with the translation of the inscriptions used in this study. Without his help this study would never have been completed!

Finally I would like to thank Lucy Franklin and Victoria Neyland for proof-reading this document. Their comments and support have been truly appreciated.

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List of Illustrations

Figure 1 The trieres Olympias, photograph author's own
Figure 2 The Kyrenia II, photograph author's own
Figure 3 Map showing the Mediterranean Casson (1991)
Figure 4 The Athenian Trieres - Olympias, (photograph author's own)
Figure 5 The Lenormant Relief, from Casson (1994, 66)
Figure 6 Geom 2, Attic Krater of the Dipylon group (Morrison and Williams, 1968, 18)
Figure 7 Geom 8, Attic Krater of the Dipylon group (Morrison and Williams, 1968, 22)
Figure 8 Geom 9, Attic Krater of the Dipylon group (Morrison and Williams, 1968, 22)
Figure 9 Section of the Lenormant Relief (Morrison and Williams 1968, 170-3)
Figure 10 IG I3 153. (
Figure 11 Table showing attested pay and provisioning rates (based on information from: Demosthenes 4.28, 51.11; Thucydides 1.5.6-7, 6.31.1-3, O.5.5, 8.28.2; Xenophon 1.5.607)
Figure 12 Diagram showing general arrangement of the trieres, by J. F. Coates, taken from Morisson (1996, 288)
Figure 13 Diagram showing the mid section of a trieres, by J.F. Coates taken from Morrison (1996, 289)
Figure 14 Inside the hull, photograph authors own
Figure 15 Table showing maximum and minimum yearly expenditure, using evidence cited in this study
Figure 16 Theoretical division of expenses,
based on the trierarch assuming a 1/3 share of all costs (except the hull) using the figures based on minimum outlay.
Figure 17 Theoretical division of expenses,
based on the trierarch assuming a 1/3 share of all costs (except the hull) using the figures based on maximum outlay.

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Chapter One

1.1 The dissertation

This dissertation will focus on the importance of seapower to classical Athens, because it underpinned her influence and cultural achievements. It will explore the realities of the enormous expenditure necessary to create, equip, man and maintain a successful fleet. The overall aim of the dissertation will be to understand the responsibilities of a trierarch and how wealthy he needed to be in order to discharge his trierarchy successfully. How were debtors and defaulters treated? How did the compensation system for damage work? In order to explore these and other questions, this dissertation will discuss how much it would cost to build, equip and man a trieres. It will attempt to establish who was financially responsible for this, and what percentage of the costs were paid by the state, and what percentage were paid by the trierarch.

[Figure 1]
The trieres Olympias
(photograph authors own)

The trierarchy has been a somewhat neglected aspect of naval history. Gabrielsen (1994) discusses the nature of the trierarchy as a liturgy and this area must be briefly discussed in order to understand the nature of Athenian naval finance. This dissertation, however will attempt to look beyond the generalised figures of scholars such as Gabrielsen and Boeckh (1840), and attempt to look at the figures pertaining to an individual trieres.

"Two aspects of the trierarchy recommend its examination:
  1. it was by far the most important public service required of an Athenian, because not only was it an instrument of command in the Athenian navy, but it was also closely associated with the public economy of the city;
  2. it provides within the larger framework of the liturgies the best documented field of research whereby the meaning and significance of the whole system may be explored." (Armstrong 1949, 4).
In Chapter two, there is a discussion of the evidence for the importance of the trieres at this time, and how Athens became a major naval power and in what manner it was financed. The origins and development of the trierarchy are important, but poorly documented. It is therefore very difficult to make definite statements regarding the nature of the institution. Before the final years of the 480's B.C. Athens' navy was quite small. It was dwarfed by those of Corinth, Korkyra and Samos according to the testimony of Thucydides (1.13-14). Also he claims that it was not made up of many triereis. The study of the build-up of the Athenian navy and the origins of the trierarchy presents two sets of problems. Firstly, can the trierarchy be seen as the direct or indirect successor of the naukrariai? Secondly when did it come into being and what were the circumstances of its inception? Chapter three explores the subject of the trierarch himself. It attempts to assess who they were and what they were responsible for. Not all were like Konon Anaphlystios, who was in charge of no less than 11 ships (alone or jointly). The naval records show he paid outstanding debts of 34,923 drachmas. But this was a mere fraction of the total he paid overall. This figure related merely to the liability for replacing equipment and for the compensation demanded foe lost or damaged hulls. These were debts discharged after the termination of a trierarchs service, so the figure above does not cover the running costs throughout the trierarchies. Gabrielsen (1994, 2), states this as 3,000 drachmas a piece as a reasonable estimate. Therefore Konon's total outlays on his known trierarchies would have stood at 67,923 drachmas (his evidence for stating this; see page 270, ff4). Chapter four explores who made up the crews of these ships. It also attempts to understand how much they were paid and how. Having explored the roles of the people, it is time to look at the trieres herself. Chapter five explores how much it would have cost to build, maintain and equip the vessel.

1.2 Critique of the available sources

Available sources vary widely in reliability, from the contemporary histories of
Thucydides and Herodotos, to the late lexica of Sudas. Herodotos, Thucydides, Aristophanes and Pseudo Xenophon are the main contemporary sources for the fifth century. We must take into account that Herodotos and Thucydides were written with limitations dictated by their own purpose, thus little direct information on the social or economic problems of the time should be expected. Neither writer was engaging upon an account of the institutions in place at the time, nor were they writing about a political or cultural history of Athens. They both assume that there is no need to explain the organization of the armies or navies, the methods of recruitment and training, the officers, the trierarchic system of the docks and shipbuilding institutions. Important data can be derived from inscriptions, though many are unfortunately fragmentary. The orators are a rich source of information for the fourth century, but this has encouraged the practice of ascribing fourth century practice to the fifth century, this can be dangerous. Similarly, this is done with inscriptions, where the wealth of information from the fourth century is used to fill out fifth century lists.

Other extremely valuable information can be gleaned from the processes undertaken to create the reconstructions of the Olympias (Figure 1), and the Kyrenia II (Figure 2).

[Figure 2]
The Kyrenia II
(photograph authors own)

1.3 Seapower in the Ancient Mediterranean

It was the standard warship of classical times. The Greeks called it trieres, the Romans triremis and most scholars have followed the Romans to call it a trireme. But for the purposes of this study, it will be referred to in the Greek.

Oared warships are at the heart of the Greek, Hellenistic and Roman story, from Homer to Constantine. In the seventh and sixth centuries BC they transported the colonists from their mother cities to all parts of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. In 480 BC the Greeks won possibly their most significant battle against the much larger Persian fleet in the narrow waters of Salamis. Athens supremacy at sea was founded upon the crucial role that she played in the victory. The skilled use of the trieres enabled her to win, and maintain for some decades, hegemony over some of her former allies.

The logistical demands and the construction and maintenance of a fleet was costly and few state treasuries (if any) had the ability to fund such projects entirely on their own. Therefore there was the need of a solid fiscal infrastructure for the operation of triereis fleets. Athens utilised the liturgy system. Each commander of a warship was asked to perform a leitourgia. (Gabrielsen 1994, 6)

[Figure 3]
Map showing the Mediterranean.
Casson 1991)
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Chapter Two

2.1 The Trieres

[Figure 4]
The Athenian Trieres - Olympias
(photograph author's own)

According to Morrison (1996, 279) the trieres was the first type of oared warship to have files of up to thirty or so oarsmen on three levels. It was the archetype of the polyremes which were developed from it, the pentereis (5's), the tetrereis (4's) and so on. It was developed due to a desire for larger craft. It works on the principle that if the number of rowers per foot of side is increased, it will increase the size of vessel, without any loss of power (Rodgers 1964, 42). The most famous pictorial evidence for a three-banked galley is the Lenormant Relief (Figure 5), which can be seen in the museum on the Athenian Acropolis. The trieres was the logical offspring of the two-banked pentecontor. But the changes required to make room for the third bank in the hull itself would result in a deeper, heavier ship which would cancel out many of advantages of the extra row. The Phoenicians did build in the hull and their ships were probably slower and less agile. At some time in the seventh century BC a naval architect added an outrigger (paraxeresia) above the gunwale, projecting laterally out from it. Basically this meant there was now the room for a third bank of rowers, without drastic change in the general lines of the hull. Therefore they possessed the speed and manoeuverability of the predecessor, but with vastly increased power. It was not until the second half of the sixth century that the trieres became the main warship of the Mediterranean, as it was costly and needed to prove that it was worth the outlay (Casson 1991, 84).

It obviously managed to prove this as the trieres remained a substantial component of fleets throughout the period. The Olympias (Figure 4) reconstruction showed that the trieres was capable of sprinting at a speed of more than nine knots. It was able to travel for hours at four knots, with half the crew rowing in turns. It was capable of executing a 180 degree turn in one minute and in an arc no wider than two and a half ship lengths. It also showed that the crews needed no endlessly long training, they became adept at the oars within weeks (Casson 1991, 85).

The standard complement (pleroma) of a trieres was two hundred men. These were split into three categories; nautai (oarsmen), hyperesia (the petty officers), and the fighting personnel, epibatai and archers. (IGII2 1951). The number of oarsmen, who were usually drawn from the thetic class was one hundred and seventy, with one man per oar. The hyperesia were the sixteen specialists on board, (Gabrielsen 1994, 106; Morrison and Williams 1968, 257). The crews of the trieres are discussed in further detail in chapter four.

[Figure 5]
The Lenormant Relief
Casson, 1994 66)

2.2 The importance of naval power in Classical Athens

"Employment for the proletariate was found on the benches of the triremes." (Armstrong 1949, 10).
Therefore the character of the Assembly and thus its policies might depend upon whether the fleet was at home or away on expedition. Sources state that the demos and in particular the naval element of the demos held an influential position in the Assembly. Therefore its importance in Athenian every day life is clear.

Athens supremacy at sea was founded upon her ability to utilise the trieres as an effective weapon. She capitalised upon her role in the battle at Salamis in 480 to win hegemony over some of her former allies. Thanks to the encouragement of Themistokles, Athens had channelled the proceeds of a windfall from the silver mines at Laurium into a fleet. They were designed by Themistokles himself "for speed and quick handling" (Plutarch Cimon 12.2). Her fleet of 200 triereis were built before the second Persian Invasion, for a naval war with Aegina, and enabled the Greeks to repel the invasion successfully. After the repulsion of the Persians the naval forces under Athenian command liberated the Greek cities of Asia Minor and the offshore Islands, part of Cyprus and even invaded Egypt (Morrison and Coates, 1986).

The last third of the fifth century BC Athens found herself at war with her Peloponnesian allies. She ensured her power at sea with the mastery of the skill in fighting with triereis. Unfortunately she overestimated the value of sea power when fighting against a continental league. A disastrous campaign in Sicily in 415 BC was ill-planned and overconfident. It was merely a precursor to her ultimate defeat by Sparta in 404. Even after her defeat and surrender, she continued to fight her destiny. With inadequate resources and varying success she clung to some semblance of maritime supremacy in the eastern Mediterranean for three quarters of a century, despite competition from strong Peloponnesian, Theban and Macedonian fleets. She was finally defeated in 322 BC, off Amorgus, by a Macedonian-led Phoenician fleet (Morrison and Coates, 1986). Athens boast was to the superior quality of her ships. They were not only a battle weapon, but also the means by which Athens deployed her military power quickly and effectively. A character in Aristophanes, an Athenian traveller, in the year of the Sicilian campaign, was asked for his country of origin. His response could be deemed to be a truly fitting epitaph for Athenian sea power;

"Where the fine triereis come from." (Birds, 108).

2.3 The development of the Athenian navy and its administration

In order to understand how Athens achieved this position, it is necessary to analyse the development of her navy through from the Archaic period. The ownership of ships by wealthy aristocrats in the Archaic period was an effective tool, used to promote the military, political and social superiority of that class, as well as being a practical means for taking part in economic activity (Finley 1981, cited in Gabrielsen 1994, 25). Success in any of these fields brought the perpetrator the rewards of power, wealth and prestige. Success depended upon the possession of naval skills which would have been cultivated through the transportation of goods by sea, piracy and regular bouts of warfare. Haas (1985), states that the interlocking of these types of duties was made possible by the types of ships in use at the time. This was a period where there was no real distinction between a merchantman and a warship. Before the distinction between types of vessel became complete and the specialized warship emerged other older vessels, such as the triakontor and the pentekontor, held the dominant positions in armed combat and in the long-distance transportation of goods. In particular the pentekontor combined the structural characteristics of a freight carrier and a warship. It was used for sea trade, piracy and warfare - an extremely versatile and convenient vessel (Herodotos 1.163.2, Plutarch 26.3-4). Thucydides (1.10.4) states that in the early days vessels were not kataphract (i.e. fenced-in), but were in fact "fitted out rather pirate-style in the old-fashioned way."

Therefore the concept of a navy in this period was structurally and quantitatively different from the state navy created later (Gabrielsen 1994, 25). The main differences were the size of the fleet, the types of vessels that were used, the magnitude of demands for resources, the scale and sophistication of the framework needed to run the organization, and most importantly the mode of financing naval activity. There was no formal and all-embracing network of obligations comparable to the later liturgy system. There was no statutory prescription of who was to take financial responsibility for the ships and crews etcetera.

The system at this time rested on the military prowess and generosity of the aristocracy. This was dictated by a system of ethics and above all the pursuit of arete (excellence) and not by law.

"A man does not become agathos in war if he should not hold firm when he sees bloody carnage and thrust at the army from close at hand. This is arete" (Tyrtaios 12Bergh, cited in Gabrielsen 1994, 26).
Hard work, danger and high financial expense were inseparable form the idea of the aristocratic excellence of those who secured the safety and security of society with their own armour and ships. This was still an important social role in the Classical period when the naval system came under the control of the state. It is important to bear in mind that the steady growth in democracy in the fifth century had a close relationship with the increase in sea power,
"... for in every phase of Athenian life responsibility for action was placed upon the individual to work for the group." (Armstrong 1949, 11).

Thucydides (1.13.1) touches upon the availability of funds, ship-building materials and technical know-how being the short-term prerequisites for building up a fleet. However, of more importance were the long-term requirements;

  • Uninterrupted access to supplies (especially timber)
  • Permanent harbour and dockyard facilities (these should be adequately supplied with equipment and have spares in stock and be manned by shipwrights and other personnel).
  • An effective administration system.
  • The facilities for the quick recruitment of skilled crews for ships (now requiring four times the complement of vessels such as the pentekontor.
  • A steady stream of revenue to enhance the limited resources of the state Treasury.

It is widely believed that the administration and financing of Athenian warships before 480 was the responsibility of the naukrariai. In the sixth century (or perhaps earlier) there were 48 naukrariai forming subdivisions (twelve in each) of the old four tribes. Each of these naukrariai was presided over by a prytanes (official). They were made up of wealthy citizens, the naukraroi who performed a liturgy to supply, maintain and command the ships and crews.

Cleisthenes reforms of 508/7 meant a reorganization of the system. He increased their number to fifty and transferred some of the duties of the naukraroi to the demarchs. The traditional view is that the naval obligations of the institution were kept until the reforms of Themistokles and the institution of the trierarchy in 483/2 (Gabrielsen 1994, 20).

Can the validity of Amit's view (1965) regarding the naval duties of the naukrariai and the existence of the liturgy system before 508/7 be questioned? Gabrielsen (1994, 20) believes so, that there is no real evidence to suggest a link between the naukrariai and the Athenian fleet. The evidence he cites to refute the traditional scholarly view is impressive and very convincing. Firstly Gabrielsen (1994, 20) states that the archaeological evidence is unhelpful, that the tradition of identifying ships on the so-called Dipylon group of vases (Figures 6, 7, and 8), of circa 760-735 B.C., as those provided by the naukrariai is impossible to prove.

[Figure 6]
Geom 2, Attic Krater of the Dipylon group
Morrison and Williams, 1968, 18)

[Figure 7]
Geom 8, Attic Krater of the Dipylon group
Morrison and Williams, 1968, 22)

[Figure 8]
Geom 9, Attic Krater of the Dipylon group
Morrison and Williams, 1968, 22)

This argument can also be applied to the identification of the trieres on the fifth century Lenormant Relief (Figures 5 and 9) as the sacred ship, the Paralos (Morrison and Williams, 1968, 18-28). Secondly, Gabrielsen (1994, 20) argues that the earliest evidence for the naukrariai, which is found in Herodotos (5.71.2) is too brief to give a description of their functions and the meaning of his words is debatable, also his testimony is contradicted by that of Thucydides (1.126.8). His next argument is in regard to a passage in the Athenaion Politeia (8.3) which attests to the naukrariai and the naukraroi as being involved in financial activity. It is a particularly valuable passage as it gives as its source obsolete laws. It is likely that the author had indirect access to reliable documentary evidence. The passage itself refers to the naukrariai as a political and administrative entity and to the naukraroi as officials collecting money for the naukraric fund, and also paying out from this fund. The financial dealings including the construction and maintenance of warships would appear to be an invention of modern scholars (Jordan 1972, 10-11 for example). A fourth piece of evidence that Gabrielsen (1994, 21) questions is this. The connection between the naukrariai and the fleet is not directly clear in the Athenaion Politeia (21.5), which deals with the Cleisthenic reforms of 508/7. The character as local subdivisions is implied and if this is true then this is not incompatible with their traditionally held status as subdivisions of the tribes (Athenaion Politeia 8.3), but whether the passage (21.5) actually means that there was a complete replacement of the nakrariai by the demes is a unsure.

Next point; the traditional contention in regard to a fragment of Kleidemos' Atthis (FgrH 323:F8, cited in Gabrielsen 1994, 22) is that Cleisthenes transferred the duties performed by the naukraroi to the demarchs, except their naval responsibility (Jordan 1972, 14). This is based upon an identification of "the one hundred parts that are now called symmories" with the trierarchic symmories in Demosthenes (14.17). This would be a convenient link between the naukrariai and the fleet. However, Kleidemos' symmories could only be proved to be trierarchic if it could be proved that his book was written at a time when the trierarchic symmories were in place (i.e. the second half of the fourth century). Even if this could be proven, the existence of the eisphora symmories at the same time makes any concrete identification somewhat difficult. The association of the "hundred parts" with Demosthenes (14.17), a proposal which was probably never actually in effect, is in itself shaky to say the least (the proposal was a subdivision of the twenty symmories into one hundred smaller parts). The number of eisphora symmories is unknown and it is unclear as to which of the symmories Kleidemos is referring to. The naukrariai at this point have no concrete link to ships and the navy, but they were entrusted with a fund for something! The next piece of evidence to come under close scrutiny from Gabrielsen (1994, 23) is that of a second century A.D. writer, Pollux. Passage 8.108 (cited), claims that the naukrariai supplied two horsemen and one ship. It would appear that his testimony is purely speculative, and unlikely accretions to the passages in the Athenaion Politeia (8.3, 21.5) mean that he attributes the naukraroi with the power to decide on revenues and expenditure of the demes. It is also possible that many have been drawn to this link between the naukrariai and the fleet because the prefix nau means ship - or does it?

The chief piece of support for the traditional argument that the naukrariai were linked to the fleet has recently been attacked, twice! Solmsen's view that the inference of the nomenclature meant that there must have been an affiliation to the navy, nau means ship and kraros means commander, is simple (1898, cited in Gabrielsen 1994, 24).

[Figure 9]
Section of the Lenormant Relief
Morrison and Williams, 1968, 170-3)

However, Billingmeier and Sutherland-Dusing (1981, cited in Gabrielsen 1994, 24) have proposed an alternative, that naos (meaning temple), which can be attested in Attic dialect as neos, a Mycenean adjective na-wi-jo (used to describe bronze), hence na-u-do-mo (naudomoi), rendering "temple builders", not "ship wrights". The later use of nau in the sense of a temple is attested in the compounds naukoros, (orneokoros) meaning "warden of a temple" and nauphlax. Therefore the naukrariai "temple-heads", were a group of religious financial officials, entrusted with the guardianship of temples and their treasures. However this does not eliminate the naus = ship theory (see Gabrielsen 1994, 48). A further challenge to this is that the prefix nau is derived from naio "I dwell", while kraros is an old form of kleros, which means a lot or piece of land, thus naukrariai means "every discrete settlement in Attica, perhaps in contradistinction to phratries, which might comprise several discrete settlements."(Gabrielsen, 1994, 24). Put simply the arguments based upon nomenclature can never be discounted or truly credited, as the more you twist something around, eventually you get it to say whatever you want it to!

2.4 Liturgies and their importance in Athenian society

Leitourgia is a compound of the words for public and work. It signified "work for the people" or "a service rendered to the state". By definition the term encompasses the idea that wealthy individuals had an obligation to expend part of their wealth and times on service to the community. There were two kinds of liturgy, regular liturgies (of a religious character) and extraordinary liturgies of a military character (Armstrong 1949, 5). The ethical and ideological matrix of which liturgies were a part dates from the age of Homer. In his and other works of the time benefactory service to the community was presented as the prerogative of a class of men distinguished by high birth, wealth and military valour. The possession of and overt demonstration of attributes, particularly in war, confirmed excellence (arete) of a mans deeds, conferred upon him the highest title of moral acclaim, agathos (Gabrielsen 1994, 7). The performance of liturgies was a mark of distinction and was a highly honourable service. It had a strong appeal to the competitive spirit of those who were qualified to serve. But this appeal to patriotism, vanity and ambition fostered the potential evil of excessive rivalry and expenditure (Armstrong 1949, 6). Voluntarism was at a premium and unwillingness to perform trierarchies was the object of public disdain. Treierarchic expenditure was seen publicly as one of the qualities most deserving of charis (political gratitude). Many of the law court speeches enumerating trierarchic expenditure to justify their wealth, and to prove that they had administered their wealth in the interests of the community (Gabrielsen 1994, 10).

In the fifth and fourth centuries BC, wealthy citizens of Athens, as well as metics, had an obligation to perform liturgies at a national or deme level. There were many ways in which the wealthy could bestow their wealth and time upon the populace, the most common being:

  1. the choregy, the financing of dramatic choruses.
  2. the gymnasiarchy, the supervision of athletic competitions.
  3. the hestiaseis , the provision of public banquets.
  4. the architheoria , the leadership of the sacred embassy.
  5. the arrephoria, the organisation of processions.

Citizens were also expected to perform military liturgies. For example the proeisphora, or obligation to pay war tax in advance (eisphora = war tax). The largest of all liturgies was the trierarchy, where wealthy citizens would serve as the commander of a warship and defray part of the accruing costs. The liturgy system was attached to democracy, and this was emphasized by the reorganization of the system, shortly after Athens' departure from democratic rule. The Oligarchic ideology sat uneasily with liturgical demands. Aristotle advised for the attachment of liturgies to the magistracies (Ath. Pol. 1321a, 31-42). His pupil Theophrastus made an oligarchic character lament the obligations that this class were under, "When shall we cease to be victims of these liturgies and trierarchies?" (Char. 26.6, cited in Gabrielsen 1994, 7). It is interesting to note that in Hellenistic times there was some level of the assimilation of the liturgies to the magistracies. Trierarchies had a political character, plus a political and social function. They can be seen as a reliable guide to the position of economic elite. Lysias (21,11-13), in an appeal to jurors that he not lose his property

"So, if you are well advised, you will take as great care of our property as of your own personal possessions, knowing that you will be able to avail yourselves of all that we have, as you were in the past.... whereas, if you impoverish me, you will wrong yourselves besides."
Stating that the loss could be as detrimental to the state as to himself.

Athenians were not constantly engaged in public generosity to defend their property, or to avert the hostile intentions of the demos, though the evidence in the law court speeches may seem to suggest this. Nor is there good evidence that the tangible rewards the claimants hoped for were automatically given, however it is clear that the relationship between the state and the liturgists was one of reciprocity and interdependence.

The trierarchy offered the best opportunity for glorious, patriotic service (Armstrong 1949, 7).

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Chapter Three
The Trierarch

3.1 Who were they and what did they do?

It can be said that there is a general agreement amongst scholars that the trierarch was the captain of a ship. He was responsible for the ship and the crew which he led in battle. Put simply the trierarch was the highest ranked of 5 officers aboard a trieres. He was a political appointee from among the ranks of the wealthy, called to assume the expense of fitting and maintaining a trieres for one year. Casson (
1991,86) seems to believe that the trierarch was usually a titular commander and that if he had any naval experience it was by sheer coincidence.

Amit (1965, 107) believed Themistokles joined hands with the rich, who generally presented their own ships for the city's service. Ships built in this way became state property and their builders became trierarchs. They were not the owners of the ships, but officers in command, by state nomination and they remained privately responsible for their ships. The particularly rich and ambitious continued to take part in the navy on their own private ships, an example would be that of Cleinias at Salamis (Amit 1965, 107). Alternatively it could be argued that privately owned ships were always in the minority. There is also general agreement that in the fifth century the trierarch was primarily a fighting man (Jordan 1975, 134), but this does not necessarily imply that there was no financial obligation at this time. The office not was not simply a military commission, it was also a liturgy, and the most important of liturgies in the opinion of Amit (1965, 103).

There is evidence of metics undertaking the expense of the trierarchy. Pasion (a slave) was bought by the Banking and Loan Company, owned by Antisthenes and Archestratus. He worked his way up through the company, having started as a porter, eventually taking over the running of the bank when its owners became too old. He branched out and bought ships to charter and a shield making factory. He was devoted to the city which had given him the opportunity to do well and gave the army a gift of 1,000 shields and once volunteered to take on the trierarchy of five ships on one occasion. His service to the city was rewarded with citizenship (Casson 1991, 98).

The technical and military character of the duty and the expenses to be disbursed by the trierarch made it a very distinctive part of the naval administration of Athens. It was a financial obligation performed with pride, but frequently undertaken more or less reluctantly.

"Moreover, I observe that already the state is exacting heavy contributions from you: you must needs keep horses, pay for choruses and gymnastic competitions, and accept presidencies; and if war breaks out, I know they will require you to maintain a ship and pay taxes that will nearly crush you." (Xenophon, Works on Socrates 1 Ec.2, 6)

It has been argued by scholars that the ability to pay became as important as professional competence and experience in the selection of trierarchs for the Athenian fleet, and this cannot be denied. However the extension of this argument to state that fourth century trierarchs did not command their ships in person, but left this duty to their kybernetes cannot be taken at face value. Further evidence from inscriptions and other sources refute this (Jordan 1975, 134).

The evidence for fifth century trierarchs personally commanding their trieres is not disputed and abundant in Herodotos, Xenophon's Athenaion Politeia 1.18 and in inscriptions (IGI2 75.13, 36; IGI2 116.24-25; IGI2 950.3, 42), whereas the evidence for the fourth century may be abundant but seems to have been glossed over in favour of the testimony of the orators. In the fourth century, after the symmory system had been established, there is good evidence for trierarchs serving on board (Diodorus Siculus 14.99.4; Xenophon Hellenica 6.2.13, 6.2.34), additionally the kybernetes are hardly mentioned. The mode of recruitment and the rules regarding temporary and permanent exemption for the trierarchy (see below) show that it never lost its military character, although it was viewed as a fiscal entity.

Trierarchies remained to some degree optional, though it is hard to tell whether genuine volunteers were a typical phenomenon. Men were eligible in one of five ways: Firstly they could volunteer. After 358/7 B.C. on certain occasions men could be formally called upon to perform voluntary trierarchies (naval epidoseis). They could be reported to authorities by others (the antidosis challenge would come into this category). The duty could be bequeathed together with property, either directly by taking over duty itself, or indirectly by taking over outstanding naval debts. The final manner in which a citizen could become liable was when legal contexts enforced the liturgy upon them, for example in the case of the antidosis challenge if they were deemed to be wealthier than their adversary (Gabrielsen 1994, 72). However liability for the trierarchy did not depend upon the absolute wealth of the candidate. They had to appoint a definite number and these were chosen from the richest citizens (Amit 1965, 110).

The principle criterion for appointment to the trierarchy cannot be disputed: trierarchs had to be wealthy and sources record individuals whose financial circumstances were sufficient and insufficient to bear liturgical expenses, but they never an place an economic limit upon the income of a potential trierarch. When looking at the economics of the classical Greek world it is important to remember that estates were not always measurable or thoroughly valued and their precise worth was often unknown. Also in a legal sense only "visible" wealth made a man liable for liturgies. The ascertainment of property owners liable to the trierarchy must have taken place in the demes. But a question to be asked is was preselection assisted by centrally kept records? Were there official and currently revised lists of those liable? Jones (1957) and Davies (1971 cited in Gabrielsen 1994, 68), say that yes, lists existed and were kept up to date by the strategoi, but in contrast there are no lists for those liable to agonistic liturgies. Some scholars believe that there probably were lists of those who had served recently, but no complete lists of those liable for the trierarchy and this seems to be a much more logical argument (Rhodes 1982, 3) What evidence is there for the list argued for so vehemently by Jones and Davies? Except for a mention in Demosthenes (18.105-6) of certain registers, no other such documents have been found. Also it is inferred from a stipulation after 358/7 that trierarchies were performed by a gross total of 1,200 men (see Appendix 4), also the surviving fragments of inscriptions (the so-called diadikasia documents) listing persons liable to some duty, finally there are sources describing tasks of strategoi when appointing trierarchs (Gabrielsen 1994, 68). Obviously the implications of such updated registers would ascertain the nature of the trierarchic census class. The main implications are that firstly all persons listed there must have been legally obliged to perform the liturgy, and therefore the element of personal choice to undertake liturgies voluntarily would in practice be non-existent. Secondly, especially after 358/357 B.C. trierarchies were discharged by a well defined group of persons, who made up an occasionally adjusted panel, rather than one assembled each year (Rhodes, 1982, 3). These points can all be argued either way, but most likely is Gabrielsen's argument that they represent things other than the trierarchy. Could this be coincidence or an elusive sign of the way the institution worked? Could the absence of a fixed liturgical census have helped to ensure some stability in the size of the liturgical class? Therefore not using lists of those eligible for the trierarchy may have been motivated by practical considerations, i.e. the preservation of privilege traditionally enjoyed by property owners to show patriotism by undertaking services at will. Also it would imply that the economic elite managed to maintain a certain freedom in their display of munificence by opposing the use of lists.

Herodotos and Thucydides both indicate that before Themistokles, Athens was not a sea-power, but we may assume that whatever military strength she possessed was land-based. The organization of the land force was based upon a basic division of the populace, the tribe. After the introduction of the ten Cleisthenic tribes, the Athenians mustered forces and fought by tribe. There were ten generals, and they were in command of their own tribes. There were ten taxiarchs and phylarchs chosen, one for each tribe. The catalogues of heavy-armed infantry and cavalry were tribally arranged. Those who fell in war were listed according to their tribe. Administrative boards were often composed of a member from each tribe. The Council of Five Hundred was made up of fifty persons per tribe. It is a striking feature of Athenian society and her constitution. It is natural to suppose that Athens would have turned to the tribal organization of the land forces as a prototype on which to model the naval organization, with the necessary adaptations (Armstrong 1949, 15-16).

If Armstrong's tribal theory is correct then it would be reasonable to assume that the trierarchy was also tribally arranged. During the fifth century the trierarchs were appointed annually, by the tribes, not the strategoi as generally believed (see Chapter three for further discussion). They were enrolled from tribal lists of those who were qualified to serve. The generals authority was limited to a selection of the annually enrolled trierarchs for particular campaigns only. Therefore the trierarchs (forty per tribe) represented their tribes with personal and financial service, individually. There must have been some system of rotation within the tribe, as trierarchs were not liable for consecutive service (see below).

Ship's complements were composed of citizens in the Pre-Periclean period and in later years, they made up a substantial core of men. Naval service was obligatory throughout the period of Athenian naval ascendency. They must have been mustered by a system similar to that of the land forces. Citizen sailors would have been raised and assembled according to the tribe and trittys to which they belonged. They served aboard triremes commanded by a trierarch of their own tribe (Armstrong 1949, 100-101).

The duties of the trierarch were many and varied. He was directly responsible for his ship and crew, subject to the orders of the strategos. On small expeditions he would have been directly subordinate to the strategos, but upon full mobilization it is most likely he would have taken his orders from the taxiarch. In Demosthenes (50.32, 50) the trierarch Apollodorus takes his orders from his general, whereas his kybernetes will only take orders from his captain. He was obligated to undertake sea trials of the ship in his care and when in the company of other ships was required to sail in formation. When sailing independently he had the authority to dispose of funds as he saw fit and most likely in the absence of the strategos was likely to have the power to enforce matters of discipline aboard ship (Jordan, 1975). Pay and rations came from the Treasury, but the trierarch acted as bursar. In the fifth century and through part of the fourth century, ships were remitted empty and the trierarch was responsible for the recruitment of the crews. In 360 B.C. conscription was enforced to man ships, which must have eased the situation somewhat . He was also responsible for the training and fitness of crews.

3.2 How were trierarchs appointed and how could they exempt themselves?

In some sources it would appear that trierarchs were nominated by the Assembly (Athenaion Politeia 3.4). Thucydides (7.69.2) states that nomination was transferred to the phylai and in Aristotle (Athenian Constitution 61.1) the strategoi prepared the list of trierarchs. Could this be due to changes in custom? Certainly it would appear that in the fourth century one of the strategoi, threatens a sausage seller with appointment (Aristophanes, Knights 912-18). This could be used to imply that the same practice was in operation in the fifth century too. This is a little too speculative in my opinion. However this passage has been subject to a certain amount of overexposure, in this context at least (the scholiast; Jordan 1972, 62-63; etc.). Aristophanes was a writer of comedies, not absolute fact. Also, depending upon which translation you agree with will entirely influence the information to be gleaned from it. It is important to look at this question carefully. In order to do so it is necessary to pose three further questions;
  • Did the Athenians elect or appoint their captains of the fleet?
  • When did they designate them?
  • If they were not elected, who appointed them?

Both the Old Oligarch and Thucydides (2.24) say that trierarchs served by appointment, that took place annually, with the inference that their one year term began with the Attic year. So we have a basis for our argument. The generals, assisted by the taxiarchoi were responsible for providing the men and officers of the Athenian miltary establishment. The only exception to this was the manning of the triereis (see Chapter Four). Jordan (1972, 61) believes that through most of the fourth century it was customary for the generals to appoint the trierarchs (Demosthenes 2.30, 35.48, 39.8 and Aristotle Athenian Constitution 61.1) and that there is no evidence to suggest that this practice was a modification on an earlier system. He later goes on to contradict himself (63), however, saying that in the fifth century trierarchs were appointed by tribe (citing as evidence Thucydides (7.69), IG I2 1950.3, 42 and IG I2 951.8, 34). It is difficult to dismiss the evidence for the tribal selection of trierarchs, even through the fourth century. All the inscriptions list trierarchs according to tribe (IG II2 1622 for example), even in the periods when the symmories were in operation (see Appendix 4).

Amit (1965, 110) claims that there was no exemption other than natural or physical inability to fulfill the trierarchy. He lists the nine archons, epiclere heiresses, orphans, cleruchs, invalids, and associations as the only persons liably to exemption. He takes his evidence from Demosthenes. He also states that as long as the trierarchy was an active service the age limits for service were probably the same as other military duties, 18-60, and 20-50 for normal full active service. He also argues that young men just over 20 whose fathers were alive were not liable. In reality, exemption can be seen as a little more complicated than Amit's view. The trierarchy can be said to be a duty or a tax (telos), exemption to a liturgy is termed atelia, a person who is exempt, ateles. Liturgies had an exemption period for those who had discharged a liturgy in the previous year, or were currently discharging a liturgy, which were one or two archon years, depending upon the liturgy. Gabrielsen (1994, 86) feels that this surely implies that the trierarchy was the most onerous to perform. However indications are scarce regarding when the privilege was granted and how long it may have lasted. A citizen was not obliged to perform 2 different liturgies simultaneously, but did this apply to those on the list of nominal trierarchs? If exemption for all 12,000 men (during the period of the symmories, see Appendix 4) were granted it would mean that 36,000 men would be required over any three year period to fulfill the obligation! (Gabrielsen 1994, 87).

The passage in Demosthenes 14.16 that Amit refers to does indeed list five categories of property owners or property that by 354 were excluded from the 1,200 liable for the trierarchy, though Amit's interpretation is a little superficial. Gabrielsen (1994, 86-89) clarifies the passage in this manner. Those exempt were heiresses (epikleroi), orphans, the property of klerouchs (klerouchika), the property of corporations (koinonika), and adynatoi (those "not able" to serve). His theory contradicts the commonly held belief that though they could provide money the owners were unable to perform personal service, therefore ineligible for the trierarchy (Jordan 1972, 67; Rhodes 1982, 8, 10; Ruschenbusch 1978, 282). This could indeed be possible with heiresses and orphans, however if their property was big enough they were liable to pay the eisphora, though men past military age were also still liable to trierarchies. But this does not cover the exemption of klerouchika (properties in a cleruchy, not the cleruchs themselves, as Amit interpreted it, if they held property in Athens that was liable for the trierarchy) and koinonika, as the hekatoste inscriptions show that in the second half of the fourth century ownership of such property was liable for the eisphora (also, one such body, the Paraloi, held a permanent obligation to furnish the commander of the sacred ship the Paralos). Gabrielsen also feels the argument that these peoples had the legal status of "undivided" wealth carries little more conviction.

He proposes that a possible explanation could be that exemption was a special privilege attached to these properties to make them more attractive (it would appear that investment in mines was a reason for exemption from liturgies in 320's B.C.). This is an interesting theory and one which runs against the view of Jordan (1972, 67), that these exemptions were a measure used to protect certain citizens from financial ruin.

The eponymous archon supervised the leasing of estates of orphans and heiresses, receiving land as surety and taking to court cases of mismanagement. This was not compulsory, but the leasing was undertaken to ensure the preservation of a patrimony and the maintenance of orphans. They were leased in entirety and real security had to be furnished of a value equal to the estates worth as well as the rent. Therefore larger estates were only accessible to the wealthy (most likely of the liturgical class themselves). To more apparent economic advantages, the lessee could expect in such transactions to gain an added bonus. When providing security in land, a citizen could put on their own property a horos (a marker which showed that the land was encumbered), which meant that they were not liable on the leased property of the orphan, and their own encumbered estate did not count if they were proposed for any liturgy or antidosis challenge (Gabrielsen 1994, 86-91).

The absence of rules about physical disability and old age etcetera are highlighted by the procedure concerning relative economic debility. It seems to underline that personal service came second to the monetary contribution. A wealthy Athenian citizen could attempt to discharge the liturgy by pointing out someone richer did not currently discharge the duty. Before he was free to go he had to provide a proposed replacement by making use of the procedure of antidosis. His success would end in exemption from the liturgy, his failure meant that he had to discharge the service. The process had two stages, firstly the antidosis challenge which was an attempt to settle the matter in private, and secondly the diadikasia trial which was a legal hearing where it was necessary to convince a jury that the proposed replacement was in fact wealthier than the proposer (Gabrielsen 1994, 91).

The refusal to discharge a liturgy resulted in persecution, unless the refuser resorted to supplication or sought sanctuary in sanctuary of Artemis in Mounichia. The social cost paid by a man challenged, who refused both options showing lack of enthusiasm for a philotimos (public spirited man), would have been great in a society where showing munificence was so strongly encouraged.

"Now there are some forms of expenditure definitely entitled honourable, for instance expenditure on the service of the gods, votive offerings, public buildings, sacrifices and the offices of religion generally; and those public benefactions which are favourite objects of ambition, for instance the duty, as it is esteemed in certain states, of equipping a chorus splendidly or fitting out a ship of war, or even of giving a banquet to the public." (Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 1122b, 1)

According to Gabrielsen (1994, 94) the antidosis had two main purposes, to relieve temporarily those less wealthy, and to maintain relative stability in the number of men needed annually, by the obligation to find their own replacement. The system supported notions of democracy. It was a self policing, self-regulating group of citizens working for the benefit of each other and the state.

Finally, the exemption from liturgies was among the honours bestowed upon benefactors. This was enjoyed by recipient and in some cases his descendents, for life. Infrequently this was a privilege borne nominally and honorarily, with the citizen continuing to perform liturgies. Also to be said at this point there were some men who abstained from using legal exemption, performing more liturgies than necessary. Leptines in 354 B.C. proposed and carried a law abolishing the grant of atelia. The law was attacked for being unconstitutional and it is clear that the grant of honorary exemption had never included eisphora and trierarchy with exception of the nine archons no-one was exempt. Rhodes (1982, n.13) suggests members of the cavalry may have been formally exempt but had the option to volunteer for trierarchic service if they were not needed in the cavalry.

3.3 What difficulties did they face?

A trierarch faced many difficulties, not least of which was the amount of money he had to expend to fulfill his trierarchy. Problems frequently arose regarding the transfer of equipment. It appears that quite often the equipment that was supposed to be provided from the stores was either not there, or in poor condition. Demosthenes (47) discusses at length the problems arising from the lack of equipment.
"Now there was not in the dockyards equipment for the ships, but those from whom it was due, who had in their possession such equipment, had failed to return it; and furthermore there was not available for purchase in the Piraeus either an adequate supply of sail cloth and tow and cordage, which serve for the equipment of a trireme." (Demosthenes 47.20)

In some extraordinary cases, people wishing to avoid these problems supplied and fitted out a trieres privately,

"His father, Cleinias, fitted out a trireme at his own cost and fought it gloriously at Artemisium." (Plutarch (Lives) Alcibiades 1.1),
or to avoid the struggle in the stores provided their own equipment,
"He told him, too, about the ship's equipment, that it was wholly my own, and that I had nothing from the public stores." (Demosthenes 51.26).
It has been argued that only the hull was given by the city and that the trierarch provided the tackle (see Chapter Five for evidence regarding ship's equipment). The evidence does not prove this, it is simply that unlucky trierarchs had to replace damaged gear delivered to them as in good condition. The passage in Thucydides implies that ships were supplied without sailors, not without gear. Inscriptions prove to be conclusive evidence that the gear was provided by the state (Amit 1965, 113).

If a ship or any part of it were damaged the trierarch had to prove that it had not happened through his negligence, or he was bound to pay for repairs (IG II2 1604, 1612 and 1629). The state would sometimes claim entire ships from trierarchs found guilty of loss (IG II2 1631; see Chapter Five). All suits were tried before one of the strategoi. If the trierarch was unable to fulfill the charge he could put a wreath on the altar in the Assembly as a suppliant, or seek asylum in the Temple of Artemis in Mounichia. (Aristotle, Athenian Constitution 43.6; Demosthenes 18.107). Probably one of the most arduous of the trierarchs tasks would be that of filling the rowing benches. Demosthenes attests to the realities of desertion (see Chapter Four);

"Then, when we came to the Hellespont, and the term of my trierarchy had expired, and no pay had been given to the soldiers except for two months when another general, Timomachus, had come though even he brought to the fleet no new trierarchs to relieve those in service, many of my crew became discouraged and went off, deserting the ship, some to the mainland to take military service, and some to the fleet of the Thasians, and Maronites, won over by the promise of high pay and receiving substantial sums in advance." (50.14-16)

If still at sea at the time of the expiry of their term the trierarch could be asked, or even forced, to serve until their successor arrived, and legal ambiguities might lead to a further prolonging of the term. There were no clear cut regulations about who should bear the extra costs accruing, it was assumed that the predecessor and successor might come to some kind of understanding.

"But, since Phrasierides did not arrive to join the ship, Mnesilochus went to Thasos and took over the trireme from Hagnias, and paid to Hagnias what the latter convinced him was due for the expenses he had incurred on their behalf while serving as trierarch beyond his time, and hired from Hagnias the ship's equipment, and assumed himself the duties of trierarch." (Demosthenes 50,41)

For the takeover to work smoothly the successor needed to be assured of the vessels seaworthiness and its being fully manned, it spelt financial loss otherwise. The changeover was done in front of witnesses, the successor declares his resolution to take charge, if he does not the old trierarch was under the obligation to continue, and could be imprisoned for failure to do so - for desertion! The old trierarch was compelled to stay for two further reasons, the first of which being that in a normal takeover, officials made both trierarchs responsible for the ship, without the successors acknowledgement of taking charge, the predecessor alone was held financially responsible. Secondly if a trierarch abandoned his ship, he could be charged with desertion and indicted in a graphe lipotaxiou. The final thing to note in these situations is that the conflicts between trierarchs were considered private, which would explain why the strategos of Apollodoros and Polycles did not intervene to settle the situation (Demosthenes 50).

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Chapter Four
The Crews

4.1 Who were the crew?

It is clear that the Athenian naval operation dealt with very large numbers of men and it would appear that they came from four social classes, Athenian citizens, metics, slaves and mercenaries. According to Boeckh and Kolbe the crews were mainly made up of slaves, Clerc that they were manly metics, Bury felt that the bulk were mercenaries and Sargent, de Romilly, Cloche and Marsh stress the importance of citizens in the crews (
Amit 1965, 30). Basically it is "... not possible to assess accurately the proportion of the four classes of sailors in the Athenian Navy;" (Amit, 1965, 30). Citizens held a place of prime importance by numbers and all the specialized staff were citizens. It can certainly be said that the Paralos (Thucydides 8.73.5) was rare in its all citizen complement.

Amit (1965, 39) believed that, from 326 B.C. onwards the Assembly entrusted the boule and the demarchs to draw up lists of conscripts according to the demes (Demosthenes 50.6). The trierarchic symmories (see Appendix 3) were established in 357/356 B.C., and conscription was regularly employed. Isocrates 8.48 and Demosthenes 4.36 appear to take it for granted. Conscription was intended for permanent, free residents not for mercenaries or slaves. The number of oarsmen, usually drawn from the thetic class, was one hundred and seventy, with one man per oar. The hyperesiai included the helmsman (kybernetes), the boatswain (keleustes), the purser (pentekontarchos), the bow officer (prorates), the shipwright (naupegos), the piper (auletes) and ten deck hands (Gabrielsen 1994, 106; Morrison and Williams 1968, 257). The marines (epibatai) were soldiers who fought from the deck, in different formations depending on the type of campaign. Plutarch quotes there as being 18 at Salamis, 4 bowmen and 14 hoplites; Thucydides states that in the Peloponnesian War there were 4 bowmen, 10 hoplites; towards the end of the fifth century B.C. there were only 2 or 3 bowmen and ten hoplites (IG II2 1951). Bakers appear in the lists for the Sicily expedition of 415 B.C. (Amit 1965, 30). Jordan (1972, 243-59) believed that the hyperesiai were oarsmen who were state owned slaves, though he agrees on the collection of the petty officers listed here. There does not seem to be anything in the sources which would support this view. Morrison (1984, 50-53, 56) states that the soldiers were included amongst the hyperesiai, but there is no proof in the evidence that shows this (see Thucydides 6.31.3; 8.12; and Demosthenes 51.5-6). It is clear in IGII2 1951 that the term epibatai refers, in its strictest sense, solely to the hoplites. The state always provided the fighting personnel, either by conscription (Thucydides 8.24.2) or by the recruitment of volunteers (IGI3 60).

When it came to the recruitment of the oarsmen and the hyperesia the state appears to have allocated the responsibility to the trierarchs. Throughout the fifth and fourth centuries conscription was the exception rather than the rule, whatever Amit may believe. In a decree of 362, a dispatch of ships to the northern Aegean was authorized, this decree also states "that the bouleutai and the demarchs make lists of the demesmen and return oarsmen" (Demosthenes 50.6). Though it is difficult to say if this in and of itself was unusual, Cawkwell (1984, 338) says that the resort to conscription itself was.

The state's levy was limited to oarsmen only. In Demosthenes (50), Apollodoros dismissed those who reported from the demes and hired skilled oarsmen and the best hyperesiai from the open market. Others were less lucky - Timotheos, in 373 B.C., failed to find crews and sailed around the islands to find manpower (Xenophon Hellenica 6.2.11-12)

Frequently the trierarch had to recruit all, or at least part, of his crew. Thucydides (6.31.3) states that the Sicilian expedition of 415 B.C. left with sixty empty ships of the rating "fast", forty troop carriers and the best hyperesiai to man them. It would seem that hypereseiai were not difficult to find (fifth century: Thucydides 1.143.1; 8.1.2. Fourth century: IGII2 212.59-63; Hell Oxy 2.1). Oarsmen on the other hand were a problem, both to recruit and to keep. Kenas means without oarsmen, therefore the "empty" ships (kenas) in Thucydides (1.27.2; 2.90.6; 4.14.1; 8.19.3) have no crew as the sources are very clear that the state was always obliged to supply equipment (IGI3 127.25-32; 236; Demosthenes 51.5).

Tactically and logistically oared ships had to be closely linked to their bases. In summary, the radius of action of a trieres is limited by the ships inability to carry large amounts of provisions. It had to be within reach of a harbour, beach or friendly stretch of coastline so that the crew could bivouac there. IGII2 1631.404-9 lists six ships that carried cooking and drinking utensils and tools for hewing wood. The water supply was critical. Thucydides says that the Sicilian expedition was accompanied by a train of supplies and logistic personnel (6.42,44). Also, it was essential that they secure access to coastal markets en route. Trading ports could supply fresh crews. In many ways finding the cash needed to fulfill a trierarchy was not as difficult as selecting and keeping fit crews. Recruitment crises were sometimes solved by scraping together all the available labour including metics and slaves (IGII2 1951). Though the Athenian demos must have been known for its nautical abilities (Thucydides 1.143.1-2; Athenaion Politeia 1.2; Aristotle Politics 1291b24; 1304a22), they were not always keen to go on board the ships (Isocrates 7.54).

Desertion was a big problem in all ancient fleets, not just those of Athens. Therefore the strategoi were forced to resort to measures to entice them to remain

"First of all, to all who row long ships I will give their full pay (misthon entele) when they come into port." (Aristophanes, Knights 1366-67)
and Iphikrates always kept on hand a quarter of his army's monthly pay as security against desertion (Hell. Oxy.15.1; Polyaenus 3.9.51). In a passage in Xenophon's Hellenica (1.5.4), Lysander asks Kyros to raise the oarsmens pay to one Attic drachma per day as the Athenians would be encouraged to desert for the higher pay offered in the Peloponnesian fleet, his request was not granted. But later (1.5.6-7) when he is asked what favour he would most like, Lysander requests that the pay of his oarsmen be raised an extra obol
"And from this time onward the pay (misthos) was four obols, whereas previously it had been three. Kyros also settles the arrears of pay and gave them a month's pay in advance besides, so that the troops were much more zealous."
Demosthenes (51.11), remarked upon the fact that though trierarchs, who received thirty minas to perform their duty but did not sail in person, were allowed to go unpunished deserting oarsmen (even though only in possession of thirty drachmas) were imprisoned and punished. This evidence implies that mid fourth century oarsmen could receive one months pay in advance at the rate of one drachma per day, rather than three months rations at two obols per day (Kirchhoff 1865, 92 cited in Gabrielsen 1994, 113). A question often asked, is were they always manned with a full complement? Wallinga (1982, 463-82) challenges this view, but the above evidence shows that those dispatched without being fully manned, filled the gaps as soon as possible. IGI3 153 (Figure 7) probably details the minimum men needed to perform sea trials. Demosthenes (50) shows that trierarchs concerns regarding having a full complement were to ensure performance and to surrender their ships with a full complement to their successor.

[Figure 10]
IG I3 153.

4.2 How were they paid and at what rate?

When it comes to the subject of pay and provisioning the meaning of the words in the sources must be determined. Griffith (1935, 265 cited in
Gabrielsen 1994, 110) states
"Rations, or money for rations, are something without which a soldier cannot begin to fight, and they must consequently be paid in advance; pay (misthos) is something which a soldier receives in return for having done some work, and consequently, like any other wages or salary, it is paid at the end."
The sources, or so it would appear, refute this view. It is best to consider pay and provisioning as complementary and not differentiated terms.

Markle (1985, 295) states that daily payments of three obols or one drachma (both labelled as trophe) would normally have paid for four to eight days wheat ration. If the wheat had to be bought at inflated prices then this would demand the entire daily pay. At Potidaia in 431-428, each man received misthos at one drachma per day (Thucydides 3.17.3-4). These passages highlight the huge logistic burden of the operation of fleets using human energy for propulsion. There was a need for a constant flow of resources in order to keep the fleet active.

Tales such as those found in Plutarch (Cimon 9.2-4; Perikles 11.4) and Artemision in 480, where Themistokles fed his fleet by slaughtering the Euboian flocks (Herodotos 8.19), highlight the ingenuity of the trierarchs when attempting to provision their crews. This above all shows that the state treasury often suffered an inability to fund such operations. The sources about naval pay would appear to point to the same conclusion.

Evidence relating to naval pay relates to the period after the start of the Peloponnesian war. Some argue that one drachma per day was the normal rate in the first years, but that after 413 this rate was reduced to three obols and then to two obols in the fourth century (Jordan 1972, 111-16). Others feel that one drachma was the full pay and that crews received three obols when in service and the balance was paid upon their return (Amit 1965, 51-52; Pritchett 1971-91, 1.17; Morrison and Williams 1968, 258-59). These views should not be rejected, but they may show that the rates relate solely to pay from the state. This was often not all the crews received. Thucydides (3.17.3-4) clearly reports the expenditure borne by the state, and he also notes that all the ships got the same amount.

In the spring of 415, Athenian envoys, together with Egestean representatives returned from Sicily bringing sixty talents of silver for one months pay (misthos) to sixty Athenian ships (Thucydides 6.8.1). The amount of one talent per month works out to a rate of one drachma a day (note that pay at that rate was furnished from the Egestean Treasury for one month only. The rate for the remaining period is unknown). In his account of the Sicilian expedition of 415, Thucydides (6.31.1-3) distinguishes between pay (misthos) at one drachma per day to each oarsmen and bonuses, epiphorai, paid by the trierarch to the thranitai.

Thucydides (8.29.1-2) discussion of Tissaphernes pay policy tells us many interesting things! Other than the fact that the Peloponnesian fleet was paid from Persian funds, Thucydides finds it significant to state that one months maintenance was given to all the ships, that the rate of pay could fluctuate throughout the duration of the same campaign and the the entele drachmen (or "full drachma") was the pay normally expected by the crew.

In regard to this, Tissaphernes is advised to bribe the trierarchs and strategoi of each city so they will comply with the change in payment policy (8.45.2-3). This implies that the latter would insist on adequate and regular pay, or that they would indulge their crews with extra payments from funds obtained elsewhere. The source does not say that Athenian crews only received three obols, but refers to the practice of withholding part of the crews pay until disembarkation in Piraeus, in order to avoid desertion. This was a serious and constant problem in both the fifth and fourth century. The causes were often lack of pay, inadequate pay or offers of better pay from the enemy fleet (Thucydides 1.31.1, 143.1, 7.13.2; Xenophon Hellenica 1.5.4; Demosthenes 50.14). As a countermeasure, part of the pay supplied by the state was withheld until disembarkation. This meant that often trierarchs were compelled to meet the demands for full pay from their own means. Foreign oarsmen were the most likely to desert, but though Athenian citizens and metics might stay with the fleet if in distant field of operations (Demosthenes 49.15) they often dispersed when they put into Piraeus, or in some cases refused to disembark until they were given more money! (Demosthenes 50.11). In Thucydides (7.13.1-2) Nikias gives the reasons why the crews in Sicily deteriorated (414 B.C.). He says the slaves deserted, in the case of the foreign oarsmen those who were forced to embark deserted to their respective home cities, and those attracted by higher pay and had thought that they would make money rather then fight either went over to the enemy as professed deserters, or got away as well as they could. Some also persuaded the trierarchs to take the enslaved persons of Hykkara as substitutions for themselves (other examples can be found in Thucydides 8.57.1, 8.78.1, 8.83.1-3; Demosthenes 50.11-12, 14-16, 23). The advantages of a well paid and talented complement was threatened by defection, as if the crews did not get what was due to them, or if they received a better offer, they often went.

"They saw also that my resources were by now exhausted, that the state was neglectful of them, that our allies were in need, and the generals not to be depended on, and that they had been deceived by the words of many of them; and they knew that the term of my trierarchy had expired and that their voyage was not to be homeward and that no successor had arrived to take command from whom they could expect any relief. For the more ambitious I had been to man my ship with good rowers, by so much was the desertion from me greater than from the other trierarchs. For the others had this advantage at any rate, that the sailors who had come to their ships drawn from the official lists, stayed with them in order to make sure of their return home when the general should discharge them; whereas mine, trusting in their skill as able rowers, went off wherever they were likely to be re-employed at the highest wages, thinking more of their gain for the immediate present than of the danger impending over them, if they should ever be caught by me." (Demosthenes 50.15-16)
According to Demosthenes (4.16.22-24), in 351 or 349, Demosthenes proposed a standing force, to be ready to take action against Phillip. When explaining how it was to be maintained he starts from an acknowledgment of the states limited finances. Expenses for the maintenance (trophe), the bare ration money (siteresion) for ten fast ships was set at four talents per ship per year (two obols per day). Demosthenes plan was not realised, but it is important to note that only the crews of the ten fast triereis were to get money from the state and even this was only two obols per day as ration money. Therefore trierarchs would have had to resort to other means for acquiring the funds to supply the men with misthon entele (4.29, 23).

The state pay was irregular, paid at a reduced rate or sometimes not at all. It is clear that all ships did not receive the same rate, nor was the same rate to be guaranteed for the duration of the campaign. This points to the fact that the total financial demands for the operation of the fleets outweighed the amounts spent by the state. Fifth century imperial tribute was a solid contribution to naval funds. The lack of it in the fourth century meant there was a need to exploit private wealth. The trierarchs share became larger, and the eisphora often proved to be inadequate. Demosthenes (50.8-9) felt that the tax was to provide money for the crews, but it was unlikely that it was enough for the whole enterprise. Unwillingness of the Athenians to pay the eisphora could mean that they did not pay in full, or at all (Demosthenes 8.21-23; 2.24,27,31; 3.20). Fourteen talents built up in arrears from eisphorai totalling some three hundred talents, not easily reconciled with the application of the proeisphora system (Demosthenes 22.44). Apollodoros (Demosthenes 50.15) only received siteresion periodically from the strategoi during his seventeen month service. Possibly an effect due to the unpaid eisphorai from the levy of 362 "The state was neglectful, our allies without resources, and the strategoi faithless."

A somewhat simplified breakdown of the evidence for the payment of crews is laid out in Figure 11. But, was this just what the crews would have received from the state? Did the trierarchs supplement the wages? This would seem very likely, given that they paid bonuses epiphorai to the upper bank of rowers. The trierarch, it is assumed would have been left to look after himself.

Crew members expected pay and provisioning
no. Expected wages changes in rate paid by provisions paid by
oarsmen 170 1 drachma per day 3/4 obols state 2 obols state
thranitai bonuses
spearsmen 10 1 drachma per day 3/4 obols state 2 obols state
archers41 drachma per day3/4 obolsstate2 obolsstate
carpenter11 drachma per day3/4 obolsstate2 obolsstate
deckhands231 drachma per day3/4 obolsstate2 obolsstate
auletes11 drachma per day3/4 obolsstate2 obolsstate
kybernetes11 drachma per day3/4 obolsstate2 obolsstate
keleustes11 drachma per day3/4 obolsstate2 obolsstate
pentecontarchos11 drachma per day3/4 obolsstate2 obolsstate
proreus11 drachma per day3/4 obolsstate2 obolsstate

Figure 11
Table showing attested pay and provisioning rates
(based on information from:
Demosthenes 4.28, 51.11; Thucydides 1.5.6-7, 6.31.1-3, O.5.5, 8.28.2; Xenophon 1.5.607)

There is strong evidence that esteemed helmsmen were in high demand. In order to get them on to their ships trierarchs had to offer them a higher wage than the rest of the crew (Thucydides 7.39.2, 62.1; Aristophanes Knights 541-44; Xenophon Hellenica 1.5.11). Poseidippos (Demosthenes 50.48-50), chose to obey the orders of his trierarch, as that was from whom he received his pay. It seems unlikely to believe in a concept of the uniformity of rates of pay, as this would not reflect reality. Good hyperesiai may well have required higher pay than that offered by the state, especially as there is evidence to testify that due to the greater levels of technical and physical skill of the upper level of oarsmen, trierarchs could offer them extra pay (Thucydides 6.31.3). Isocrates (18.60) says that

"after persuading my brother to be syntrierarch with me, we gave pay (misthos) to the oarsmen out of our own means and proceeded to harass the enemy."

In the light of such evidence it would appear that Apollodoros' bonuses and advance payments were not really that unusual. The unusual thing was that he made his ship the fastest in the squadron, so that it was used in special missions and was chosen by the strategos to be his flagship (Demosthenes 50.13)

Much of the pressure on state resources came from the expense of maintaining the crews. As we have seen, this pressure was transmitted to the trierarchs, but was felt by the strategoi in the interim. The Spartan Teleutias in 388 is reported to have said the following,

"I have come without money; yet if God be willing and you perform your part zealously, I shall endeavour to supply you with provisions in the greatest abundance...I am more desirous of your being supplied than of being supplied myself; indeed by the gods, I should prefer to go without food myself for two days than to have you go without for one." (Xenophon Hellenica 5.1.14).
Teleutias was aware of the need to keep the crew properly fed, but did not have the funds.

But what about in the fifth century? The requirements for funds were equally great, but Athenian resources were abundant and therefore the demands on the trierarchs and strategoi were less. IGI3 363 is the record for the campaign against Samos in 440. It lists over one thousand, two hundred and seventy-six talents were paid by the tamiai of Athena to the strategoi leading the nine month siege with over sixty ships (Thucydides 1.117.2-3). Therefore the cost per ship was equal to approximately 2.3 talents. Aid to Korkyra (433/2) is listed in IGI3 364. Twenty-six talents were paid in the first prytany to the strategoi of the ten ship initially dispatched (lines 10-12; Thucydides 1.45) and a further fifty talents was paid in the same prytany to a squadron of twenty ships (lines 21-23; Thucydides 1.50-51). These sums are substantial, especially considering that the first squadron left in perhaps mid July and the second in early August, and that they were both expected to return in October at the latest. Thucydides (2.70.2) states that two thousand talents were spent on the two and a half year siege of Potidaia in 431-428, in contrast Isocrates (15.133) gives a figure of two thousand, four hundred. But whichever figure is correct it shows how quickly large sums of money were swallowed up by naval operations.

The element of unpredictability means that it is likely that there were no annual naval budgets, despite modern attempts to attribute them (see ff21, Gabrielsen 1994, 250 for details). Sources also tell us that large amounts of funds were borrowed from the Treasuries of Athena, this reveals the diversity of the resources upon which Athens could rely. IGI3 369 shows that from 433 to 422, around five thousand, five hundred and ninety-nine talents were borrowed from sacred treasuries (mainly from those of Athena Nike and Athena Polias).

In contrast the Peloponnesians could only hope for loans from funds stored at Delphi and Olympia to finance their navies (Thucydides 1.121.4; 143.1). Perikles emphasized the financial options open to Athens just before the Peloponnesian war, in order to reassure Athenians of their financial superiority (Thucydides 2.13.3-5);

  • Six hundred talents came in as annual tribute;
  • six thousand talents were left in the Acropolis (including one thousand talents later set aside as a reserve, 2.24.2), from a previous maximum of nine thousand seven hundred talents;
  • they had uncoined gold and silver worth five hundred talents;
  • a wealth of temples;
  • and the gold plates on the statue of Athena, weighing forty talents of pure gold.

When a further four hundred talents were added to the tribute, the income comes to one thousand talents, spoken of in Xenophon (Anabasis 71.27). Therefore, it can be said that Athens was a very prosperous state in the first years of the Peloponnesian War. Thus the trierarchs were not unduly burdened. But the drain on the reserves had already begun by 433, and continued to grow. Thucydides states

"Now the Athenians, finding theemselves in need of additional funds for the siege (of Potidaia), having then for the first time resorted to an eisphora to the amount of two hundred talents, also sent to the allies twelve collect tribute." (3.19.1).

In the fourth century the strategoi were often sent out with insufficient funds, or none at all (Aristotle Rhetoric 1411a9-10; Demosthenes 4.23-24, 10.37, 3.20, 2.28, 8.24-26). Commanding officers had to find alternatives to pay and provision crews, (see Pritchett 1971-91, 2.59-116). These included plundering, exaction, lawfully or by force, of a contribution from the allies (syntaxeis) or from private loans (Demosthenes 8.26, 49.6-8,11-12,44; Xenophon Hellenica 6.2.11-12). It is difficult to understand to what extent that the strategoi and trierarchs had to expend in order to keep their crews provisioned and paid, but by looking at the amounts they borrowed we can possibly get an overall picture; Timotheos borrowed;

  • 1,351 drachmas from Pasion
  • 700 drachmas from each of his sixty trierarchs
Total 42,000 drachmas

He also borrowed one thousand drachmas from another man to pay the Boiotian trierarchs and crews who had joined his force

"for while our citizens endured their privation and remained at their posts, the Boiotians declared that they would not stay unless somebody should furnish them with their daily maintenance." (Demosthenes 49.15).
None of these methods of provision were guaranteed, therefore the trierarch was ultimately the guarantor of the state for the finance of naval operations.
"The extent to which the state supplied funds, as well as the ability of the strategoi to obtain supplementary resources..., determined the amount of trierarchic expenditure." (Gabrielsen 1994, 118)

4.3 What did they eat, and how much did it cost?

Efficient crews consumed large quantities of food and water. What was the consumption rate? Foxhall and Forbes (1982, 44 n10, 56,71,74) state that grain was the staple in the period and that a very large part of their diet would be made up of this. It would also have included fish, meat, oil and wine, Aristophanes (Achaeans 544-45) adds garlic, onions and olives.

Plut. Mor.349A (cited in Gabrielsen 1994, 120) states that trierarchs gave their oarsmen barley meal and a relish of onions and cheese. Thucydides (3.49.3) states that the crew on a voyage to Mytilene had supplies consisting of wine, barley and barleycakes made with wine and oil.

The average daily rate for "exceptionally active" adult males is 3,822 calories (Foxhall and Forbes, 1982, 48-49, 86-89). In the case of oarsmen, the requirements were quite possibly higher than this. Garnsey (1989, 39 cited in Gabrielsen 1994, 120) feels that 4,780 calories would be sufficient if active for six hours, or 4,070 calories if active for four hours. Therefore their "basket of goods" would weigh 1,500g or 1,325g (see Gabrielsen 1994, ff36, 251 for the calculation). A complement of two hundred would consume either 300 or 265 kilogrammes of food per day! In the case of water, if we take 2 and a quarter litres as the absolute minimum necessary per man per day (Engels, 1978, 18, 123-26), then approximately four hundred and fifty-five litres would be needed every day for the whole crew.

Grain was the costliest item, other foods were so cheap that they are not worth reckoning.

Using evidence from Athens and Delos, Markle (1985 279-81, 293-97) states that the price of wheat was six drachmas per medimnos. One choinix (one forty-eighth of a medimnos, or 893g) of harvested, (hulled) wheat was reckoned to be sufficient for an active soldier - this cost about three quarters of an obol. Therefore on average one to one and a half obols would cover most of the provisioning expenses of oarsmen, if wheat was purchased at an uninflated rate. This means that our siteresion of two obols per man per day would be sufficient for provisioning in normal circumstances.

In order to keep the ship in comission for one month, at a cost of one or two obols per day would mean an outlay of one to two thousand drachmas on food alone. If the trierarch was to bear this outlay for two months, his provisioning allowance would have been two to four thousand drachmas. Thus an estimate for the average running expenses, set at three thousand drachmas, may not be far off the mark, if anything it may be too low (Gabrielsen 1994, 121).

But we must remember that these are estimated daily rates, they should be used as an indicator only and not as the actual amounts of food and water actually consumed every day. Without adequate amounts of food and water the efficiency of a crew would suffer and also invite malnutrition and starvation. It was a trierarchs concern to obtain a good complement and to retain it until the dismissal by the strategos. In Demosthenes (50), we see Apollodoros giving large bonuses and advance payments, his outlays were motivated by;

  1. the need to secure the performance of the ship (especially to enhance tactical abilities in combat)
  2. to ensure the ship was brought back to Piraeus (or was delivered to his successor) in good, seaworthy condition (Demosthenes 18.107 shows that some trierarchs would abandon the ships abroad)
Thus, the outlays a trierarch made to his crew could save him from further expenditure arising from compensatory claims.

[Back to Contents]

Chapter Five
The Trieres

5.1 How were triereis built?

It is not possible to go into great depth on construction methods here, so what follows is a brief summary. In Aristophanes (
Knights 310), it is stated that pitch and timber were the main materials of which a trieres was built from. He also lists a number of items forbidden from export from Athens, including pitch, leather fittings and sail-cloth (Frogs 364). Theophrastus (Hist. Plant. 5.7.2-3, cited in Morrison and Williams 1968, 279) says that keels were made from oak and that the ribs were sometimes made of pine for lightness. Plato (Laws 705c) says that fir, pine, cypress, larch and plane were all used for the interior parts of the ships. However, in Morrison and Coates (1986, 180-182, 189) it is stressed that the first choice of timber for shipbuilding was fir (elate), in particular silver fir (abies alba). This, it is stated is due to its lightness, strength and lack of knots so is very suitable for oars and masts. The second choice was pine (peuke). Athens was forced to import her timber, as Attic trees were not plentiful, or of good quality, her main suppliers were the Macedonians (IG I3 89.117). The trieres was built, exploiting the structurally efficient, but labour intensive methods, of hull construction in the Ancient Mediterranean to its limits. The hull was as slender as the need for adequate stability could allow. It had a close spacing, mortice and tenon construction to enable the building of long hulls which were able to withstand bending and shearing forces. Long timbers were required to prevent the greatest of tensile hogging (raising the back, or rising in an arch in the centre) in the topwales of the hulls (due to bending in the waves), from being borne by scarfed joints in tension. Stresses were also reduced by the hypozomata - heavy ropes stretched from bow to stern, just under the hull beams, and kept tight.

The hulls were thirteen times as long as they were deep. The trieres may well have been amongst the first examples of the use of pre-stressed beams (Morrison, 1996, 279-281). Figure 12 shows the general plan of the vessel, according to the now widely accepted view, that the trieres was a ship with three banks of oars (see Chapter one).

[Figure 12]
Diagram showing general arrangement of the trieres
by J. F. Coates, taken from Morisson (
1996, 288)

The trials of the Olympias demonstrated a need for the rowers "room", or interscalmium length, to allow for the full length of stroke and therefore the power from the oarsmen on fixed seats to be developed in favourable sea conditions. The Olympias reconstruction used an interscalmium length of two cubits which was too short.

[Figure 13]
Diagram showing the mid section of a trieres
by J.F. Coates, taken from Morrison (
1996, 289)

Recent finds show that a metrological cubit was in use in Piraeus and at Salamis in the fifth and fourth centuries B.C. This cubit was 0.490m, so an interscalmium length of 0.98 has now been adopted (Morrison 1996, 281/282).

As can be seen in Figures 13 and 14, there was little room on board a trieres. The trieres sat low in the water, its total height was under eight feet, with a draught of about three feet, so was shallow enough to be beached or portaged on rollers. Thalamites were not over a foot and an half above the waterline. They had a leather bag, which fitted around the oar and the opening to keep out the sea. In any kind of chop, the oars would be secured and the ports sealed with coverings. The oars are circa fourteen feet, and at the bow and stern they were a little over thirteen feet, where the sides curving inward left less room (Casson 1991, 85).

Pitch was presumably used for caulking and in the sources hypaloiphe is attested for in two varieties, "black" which is presumably pitch, and "white" which could be some kind of varnish - a wax or tallow rubbed over the ship (Morrison and Williams 1968, 280). The ram (embolos) was cast in bronze and attached to the prow of the ship (Diodorus 29; Plutarch Antony 67.3). The ram on the Olympias weighed two hundred pounds (Casson 1994, 73).

[Figure 14]
Inside the hull
(photograph authors own)

5.2 The cost of construction

In general, the construction of new ships and the upkeep of the existing fleet was the responsibility of the state, but in practice a large part of this responsibility was allocated to the trierarch (
Gabrielsen 1994, 127). The size of the fleet was often maintained, or augmented by the capture of enemy vessels (Thucydides 2.103.1, 3.50.1, 4.16.1-3, 8.19.3; IG II2 1606, 1607, 1610.23-24, 16.29.145). As we saw in Chapter four, well organized trierarchs would return, not only with their own ship in good condition, but bringing with them another vessel.

There is little evidence of ship-building after 482 to 480 and the evidence we have tells us little on the cost and mode of financing ship-building. Nor do they tell us much regarding the supply of materials and labour, or the places of construction. Gabrielsen (1994, 132) feels that evidence in support of large construction programmes can be questioned. Blackman (1969, 208) discusses a large programme dating from around 444/3, as the Parthenon building accounts for that year (IG I2 342.40-41), show the trieropoioi (see Appendix 3) are listed as paying back ninety thousand drachmas (this figure was restored). Blackman felt that this was the surplus of an amount provided to finance the ship-building operation. However in the most recent edition of this document (IG I3 493.77) the amount has been left unrestored and the name of the officials involved is unclear.

The maintenance of the fleet by replacement of ships lost, and the repair of those damaged meant huge demands for funds and materials. The state was obliged to supply hulls and equipment, though there were trierarchs who possessed their own equipment, and in some rare cases the hulls as well (see Chapter two). Once they were given a ship and the equipment to go with it, the trierarchs were listed in a register (diagramma), which was kept by the epimeletai (see Appendix 3) "the trierarchs are publicly registered [as debtors] on account of having received the triereis" (ML no. 94, cited in Gabrielsen 1994, ff28, 255). The registers have not survived, but the naval records, which draw on information from them, list ship name and rating, the naval architect, the equipment issued, and the monetary value (time) of the hull and equipment (the sums which were to be paid in the event of compensation being claimed by the state) (Gabrielsen 1994, 136).

By the process of being charged with the cost of naval property, the trierarch is technically, if not yet legally, becoming a public debtor. According to Demosthenes (47.36, 43) the handing over of this property became complete upon the delivery of a copy of this register to the trierarch, showing the items received.

The trierarch had to keep his vessel and its equipment in good condition. The dockyards provided an amount of flux (styppeion), pitch (pissa) for caulking, and hypaloiphe (a paint for coating the wetted surfaces of the trieres), in order that trierarchs could carry out current maintenance and repairs (Demosthenes 47.20; IG II2 1629.1151-2; 1631.336; 1627.313, 1622.715, 740). The Delian records (Meiggs 1982, 453 table 3, cited in Gabrielsen 1994, 137), show that pitch could be purchased at somewhere between fifteen and twenty-two drachmas per amphora. The amount needed for a whole ship would have been quite a number of amphorae. In the event of extensive repairs, trierarchs could be forced to hire extra help for the ships own naupegoi (Gabrielsen 1994, 137), though there is no evidence regarding the rates of pay the ship-wrights of the docks could charge for such work.

The damage or loss of the vessel itself, or the equipment raised the issue of compensation. In the fourth century, and probably in the fifth century as well, there were two procedures followed, in order to ascertain the liability for compensation. Both were based on the official recognition of two causes of damage: if the damage was brought about by enemy action, and upon the determination of the ships condition and the cause of the damage or loss. It is to be assumed that in the case of the former, the trierarch was absolved of the liability to pay compensation (Gabrielsen 1994, 138). In the latter case, if ships were judged to be useless, as in the case of three horse transports on their return to Athens, the trierarchs were not requested to pay compensation (IG II2 1627.241-48; plus similar cases, IG II2 1628.460-65; 1629.722-45; 1631.100-105). If the damage or loss was claimed to have been caused by storms, the trierarch had to face a diadikasia trial, where he would excuse the condition of his ship and equipment with the occurrence of storms (kata cheimona). If he was successful he was exonerated (IG II2 1629.746-49, 796-99, 1629.771-80). If he was unsuccessful, the trierarch was responsible for the replacement or repair of the ship and equipment, and if he were liable to replace the ship, he also had to demolish the old one (IG II2 1623.6-13).

The liability for paying compensation, however, did not automatically follow; acceptance of it was only legally valid upon the trierarch's personal consent. This was essential in order to avoid legal complications, especially in regard to vessels in commission under a number of successive trierarchs (IG II2 1623.14-34; 1631.524-30; 1620.32-55). Trierarchs, whether they were convicted or acquitted were obliged to return their ships ram to the dockyards, if the ship had been brought back to Piraeus (evidence for those acquitted: IG II2 1629.841.58; 1631.148-67, 199-211 and for those convicted: IG II2 1623.6-13; 1628.609-18; 1629.826-40, 1085-92; 1631.176-84, 184-99, 279-83).

5.3 The cost of the ship and its equipment

In the fourth century, though trierarchs paid a lump sum of five thousand drachmas as compensation for a hull, scholars have continually maintained that the actual cost of a hull would have been higher than this (Labarbe 44 n.2; Blackman 1969, 184). These arguments have been based on Boeckh's calculations (1840, 196-210) of one talent for the hull and a further talent to fully equip it. Basically the theory is that the payment of five thousand drachmas was to repair, or rebuild the old vessel, or to cover the costs of a new one (for further information, see Gabrielsen 1994, 142-145). This theory seems to be based upon the notion that ships were built at the same cost at all times. This is highly unlikely, and should be dismissed. There would have been many factors influencing the cost of building a vessel, which could make them cheaper to construct, or alternately push the price up.

There were two types of equipment for a trieres, "wooden" and "hanging" (for a complete list of equipment see Appendix 1). Blackman (1968, in Morrison and Williams 181-92) states that the "wooden" gear of a trieres was stored together with the hulls, in the neosokai, (ship sheds). The "hanging" equipment was kept in separate store houses (skeuothekai). The earliest mention of these is one of Aeschylus' lost plays (Psychagogoi fr 274 [TrGF]; cf. Pollux 10.10, cited in Gabrielsen 1994, 148). The supervision of these storehouses was probably entrusted to the tamias kremaston (IG II2 1629.4644-66; see Appendix 3 for a list of dockyard officials). The monetary value (time) of the equipment from 345/4 was two thousand, two hundred and ninety-nine drachmas, or two thousand, one hundred and sixty-nine drachmas (IG II2 1623.368-7; 1629.667-73). The difference in cost was due to a difference in the type of sail, the higher being possessed of a "light" sail (histia lepta) and the lower a normal "heavy" sail (histia pachea). By 323/2 the value of a full set with a "light" sail had almost doubled, to around four thousand, one hundred drachmas (IG II2 1631.571ff). This is quite incredible, as it is almost as much as the compensation payable for the replacement of the hull. What were the reasons for this? Was it a need to turn to distant suppliers, or a deliberate policy to deter trierarchs and dockyard officials from misappropriation of equipment?

The most important factor in the price of construction was probably access to plentiful sources of materials; papyrus, hemp and flax for cordage; ruddle and resin (hypaloiphe) for coating the hull; copper and tin for the rams; and last, but by no means least, timber. In many cases these were not produce in the Attic territories in the quantity or of the quality necessary (Demosthenes 17.28). Hanging equipment, such as sails and papyrus for ropes, were imported from Egypt (Hermippos fr63; Theophrastus Hist. Plant. 4.84, cited in Gabrielsen 1994, 140). Athens secured a monopoly of ruddle from the Kean cities, in a year before 350 (perhaps following a break in the late 360's). The transport was fixed at one obol per talent (Tod no. 162, cited in Gabrielsen 1994, 140). Aristophanes mentions a ban on exports of pitch, askomata and sail-cloth (Ran 364, cited in Gabrielsen 1994, 140). As was mentioned earlier, timber was mainly imported from Macedonia. As well as interstate agreements, Athens was supplied courtesy of individuals, acting as intermediaries, by the exploitation of political connections (Herman 1987, 82-88; IG I3 182; Andocides 2.11, Demosthenes 49.34-36). There is much to suggest that the procurement of materials was dependant upon political alliances, existing contacts, diplomatic activity and in some cases force (Athenaion Politeia 2.11-12).

When this is put together, it would appear that the main difficulty Athens may have been subject to on occasion, is that of short-term lack of supplies (Demosthenes 47.20). The costs of shipbuilding were determined by the price at which she purchased timber, but also upon the costs for its transportation, the size of the labour force required (to transport it, prepare it, and finally to construct the ships), and the time period elapsed between felling and completion of a seaworthy vessel. Appendix 2 outlines the known costs involved in the construction of a trieres, but they refer to different years and are incomplete. As Gabrielsen (1994, 141) states, there may be no such thing as the "standard cost" of a trieres, at least not one that we can obtain from the available evidence.

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A trierarch was, at the very least, a nominal captain of a ship, though trierarchs were often highly experienced. They were drawn from amongst the financial elite of Athenian society, and in many ways this was the most important quality a trierarch needed to possess. They took their orders from the strategoi, who may have allotted the ships to the trierarchs. The appointment of trierarchs was done within the tribes, at the level of the deme. Trierarchs were not always citizens, but they were the majority. Performing the liturgy was a way of showing patriotism and preserving privilege. The trierarch was directly responsible for his ship's maintenance and the recruitment, welfare and training of his crew. It was possible to become exempt from the trierarchy, if you had performed a liturgy in the previous year, or if you were the tenant of land that was designated as exempt. Those who were less wealthy were able to pass on the honour, if they located someone proven to be wealthier than themselves in an antidosis challenge.

The trierarch's largest obstacle was the huge financial burden. A lack of suitable equipment, the dangers of desertion, and a system of fines and reparations payable for loss or damage often meant individual outlays could be substantial. All suits were tried before one of the strategoi and if the trierarch was unable to fulfill the charge laid against him, he could resort to becoming a suppliant, or seeking asylum.

The evidence discussed in this study, clearly points to the fact that what is known about pay rates is mainly concerned with that supplied from the public funds. These were dispersed direct from the home treasury, or indirectly from the treasury of another city state or foreign potentate acting as a paymaster. How much the trierarch spent on his crew was dictated by the ability of the state to fully subsidize naval operations, the ability of the strategoi to raise funds and the need to ensure that tactical capacity and safety of the ship by obtaining and keeping a skilled complement.

If one drachma was the average daily pay expected by and often given to the crews, a sum of thirty minas (or one talent) per journey given to the trierarchs, would cover advance payments for half a month (and one month) (Demosthenes 51.11, 21.155; IGII2 1635.34-35). It would appear that anything over and above these amounts was shouldered by the trierarch. Unfortunately for us, Demosthenes (50) does not state Apollodoros' total outlay, but we can obtain an inkling of the kind of sums involved when we look at the loans he was forced to take, in excess of five thousand, three hundred drachmas! (Demosthenes 50.7, 17-19, 23, 56).

Other such expenditure is testified to in Lysias (19.29, 42), where a character called Aristophanes spent eight thousand drachmas in three consecutive years (which works out to an annual average of two thousand, six hundred and sixty-six drachmas). Again in Lysias (32.26) Diogeiton's syntrierarchy was four thousand, eight hundred drachmas - an outlay of two thousand, four hundred drachmas per trierarch. Another trierarch attested by Lysias (21.2) was trierarch for seven years, between 411 and 404. He spent six talents, which works out to an annual average of five thousand, one hundred and forty-two drachmas.

In all of these cases we do not know the exact lengths of the service undertaken by the trierarchs, but it is very clear to see that they represent substantial outlays.

It is important to note, that in accordance with the evidence, variations in trierarchic expenditure depended upon when the fleet was commissioned and a host of other unknown elements encountered within the sphere of naval finances at that time. There is no basic difference between the fifth and fourth centuries in this, but the increasing privatization in the fourth century, due to the lack of imperial revenue, entailed a boost in the flow of private cash used for the maintenance of the fleet. The financial burdens were lightened by the introduction of the syntrierarchy and subsequent reforms, so that by the mid fourth century some men had outlays that were minimal when compared to others. But when looking at whole trierarchies the private expenditure in say 350 was a considerably larger share of the total cost of the campaign than one hundred years earlier.

For the most part it would be impossible to state with any accuracy exactly how much it would have cost to construct, equip, man and maintain a trieres for a period of one year. However, using the figures from Appendix 2, it has been possible to speculate on the overall outlay involved in such a case. By assuming that the ship was in commission for a whole year (365 days - a very long campaign!) we can project a minimum and maximum outlay, using known figures of expenditure. In order to retain some continuity I have used the figures relating to sets of equipment containing "light" sails. Figure 15 shows the minimum expenditure which can be achieved using known data, and the maximum. These figures are not to be taken as fact for any time during the classical period. They are merely a guide to show the variation in costs which could possibly occur, given the data which survives. It is impossible to estimate how much an individual trierarchs share of these expenses might have been, but Figures 16 and 17 show a theoretical outlay of one third for the trierarch and two thirds for the state, using the figures taken from the minimum outlay and the maximum outlay (see Appendix 4 for spreadsheet data). These figures are obviously heavily weighted by the addition of the outlay for the hull and the equipment which would not be a regular outlay, if hull and equipment were returned safely to Piraeus. The figures show staggering outlays. The minimum outlay is equal to almost twelve talents and the maximum outlay is almost 22 talents.

[Figure 15]
Table showing maximum and minimum yearly expenditure, using evidence cited in this study.

[Figure 16]
Theoretical division of expenses, based on the trierarch assuming a 1/3 share of all costs (except the hull) using the figures based on minimum outlay.

[Figure 17]
Theoretical division of expenses, based on the trierarch assuming a 1/3 share of all costs (except the hull) using the figures based on maximum outlay.

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Appendix 1: List of standard trieres equipment

The standard set of equipment is listed in two types:

IG2 /2.1624 (of a year after 336/5) shows a change after the mid fourth century, the wooden equipment was reduced to six items - taros pedalia, klimakides, kontoi, histos and keraiai. These changes coincided with the introduction of the tetrereis, which did not carry hypoblema. This omission could possible be due to a mistake by the stonecutter IG 2/2.1629.1068-84 the topeia of the tetrereis is missing, though it is present in IG2/2.1631.276; or that the items were no longer issued by the dock officials. Since the obsolete items were never used on tetrereis it implies that the wooden equipment of the trieres was possibly brought into concord with that of the tetrereis. (For further explanation of terms, see Morrison and Williams 1968, 289-307; table based on Gabrielsen 1994, Appendix, 227-8)

Appendix 2: Table of costs relating to the construction and fittings of a trieres

Analysis of Expenditure over a one year period
hull 5000 6000
equipment 2299 4100
pay 36500 73000
provisioning 24090 24090
total 67889 107190

Division of expenditure, based on minimum figures
hull 5000 0
equipment 766 1533
pay 12166 24334
provisioning 8030 16060
total 20962 46927

Division of expenditure, based on maximum figures
hull 6000 0
equipment 1366 2734
pay 24333 70567
provisioning 8030 16060
total 33729 95361

Appendix 3: Who were the officials of the on-shore administration of the Athenian navy?

(For further information regarding the officials of the naval establishment at Athens, see
Jordan 1972, 21-61 - this is merely a brief summary) The general direction and supervision of the naval establishment was the responsibility of the council of Five Hundred (the boule). Subordinate boards and officials carried out the day to day administration, but their activities were under surveillance by the council, who were in turn accountable to the Assembly.

The epimeletai ton neorion were the foremost among the officials. They were the curators of the dockyards and were a duly elected board. Inventories refer to them as arche, hoi ton neorin archontes, hoi archontes en tois neoriois. There were ten of them, each chosen from one of the tribes, Boeckh (1840) suggests that they were elected by lot from volunteers.

The trieropoioi were elected by the Council of Five Hundred from among their own members. In other words, the ship builders constituted a standing commission and not a regular arche. They held office for one year and were reponsible for the immediate planning and supervision of all naval construction.

The apodektai were the officials at Athens who received all the state revenues and distributed the collected monies to the individual archai. They had to follow the instructions of the peoples decrees.

The naupegoi came in two categories, those who were sea-going (ships carpenters) and those working on land (the ship wrights).

The architektones were the naval architects, and were elected to office according to Aristotle (Athenian Constitution 46.1). Sources are very unclear as to their role.

The apostoleis was an arche consisting of ten men who oversaw the timely and orderly departure of warships and of whole expeditions.

The dokimastes was the official who examined the vessels with a view to classifying them, or to pass on the quality of construction and repair work done.

The tamias trieropoiikon administererd a fund from which the trieropoioi paid for expenses incurred in the construction of ships. They were elected by the Assembly.

The tamias eis ta neoria there is little evidence regarding these officials, and what exists is confusing.

The tamias kremaston could be a storekeeper, but again the evidence is ambigous.

The secretary of the curators of the yard, official title grammateus epimeleton neorion.

The demosios were assistants, but to whom is unknown. Quite likely to have been slaves.

The phrouroi neorion were the dockyard guards.

Appendix 4: What were the symmories?

Following the Euboian expedition of 358/357, there was a lack of those wealthy enough to pay the increasing costs of the trierarchy (Demosthenes 18.99 and 21.160-166). It was also clear that abuses (in particular performance of the liturgy by deputy) was threatening the fighting power of the fleet. Periandros devised and introduced legislation where groups of contributors became collectively responsible for the performance of the liturgy (Demosthenes 21.154-155; 47.2). Demosthenes, On the Symmories, the speech was delivered in 354. He made several unsuccessful proposals to improve the symmories. He tells us that there were twenty trierarchic symmories and that each had sixty members. Therefore there were one thousand, two hundred Athenians enrolled on the roster (Demosthenes 14.16; 21.154-55). Small symmories were made up of fifteen people, a division of the large symmories above (Harpokration, cited in Jordan 1922, 76). The hegemon was usually a member of the college of the three hundred richest Athenians (those liable to pay proeisphora) and was the leader of each group of fifteen persons and paid one sixteenth of the total cost. It would appear that the hegemones were over and above the one thousand, two hundred, that they were distributed among the small symmories as supernumarys. It is often supposed that the one thousand, two hundred were the wealthiest Athenian citizens. They were more likely to be middle class (Demosthenes 18.102, 103, 107, 108 calls them "citizens of small means", "the poor" and "indigent".

Demosthenes (14.17) proposes that each of the five groups of twelve men should be, in the future, made up of the richest and the poorest of the one thousand, two hundred, therefore creating a mixed group of men with varying income. Demosthenes (18), says that due to his reform legislation, a hegemon of a symmory is no longer able to perform the liturgy as a member of a group of sixteen. Previous laws had allowed the hegemones to be one of sixteen contributors (synteleis) towards financing a ship. Therefore, as a result, the hegemones came to call themselves "contributors" (synteleis), rather than trierarchs. His law forced a contributor of one sixteenth of the expense for a single ship, to become the trierarch of two.

(For further information regarding the symmories, see Jordan 1972, 74-78; Gabrielsen 1994, 22, 183-90, 194).

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