Ancient Greek merchant ship

Ancient Greek merchant ship

Ancient Greeks became the ‘carters of the sea’ thanks to their advanced sailing ships.



freight transport, trade, sailboat, commercial, maritime trade, Greek, antiquity, watercraft, Greece, Hellas, city-state, square sail, hull, rudder, hold, amphora, storage, mast

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Greek merchant ship

  • mast
  • square sail
  • hull
  • steering oars

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  • square sail
  • hull
  • steering oars
  • hold
  • amphoras


  • square sail
  • hull
  • steering oars
  • amphoras


The geographical location of Ancient Greece provided its inhabitants with excellent opportunities for shipping. With the decline of the Phoenician city-states, the Greeks took over sea trade in the Mediterranean and became ‘the carters of the sea.’

Even before this, the Greeks had used ships for travelling along the coast and between the islands, so they had a great deal of experience in navigation. They became masters of shipbuilding; they constructed merchant ships both large and small using the finest materials and sophisticated techniques.

The most important factors in shipbuilding were safety and load capacity: they had to carry large amounts of cargo safely to the designated destination. The hull was therefore wide and deep.

This animation shows a relatively small merchant ship with one mast and a square sail, steered by steering oars instead of a rudder. Its cargo deck was full of amphorae, large ceramic vessels which contained the goods being transported.

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