Bireme (ancient oared warship)

Bireme (ancient oared warship)

A bireme is a type of ancient warship, with a characteristic pointed bow and two decks of oars, used by many armies.

Technology

Keywords

Bireme, ancient warship, watercraft, battleship, antiquity, shipping, pointed bow, square sail, row of oars, rowing benches, oars, steering oars, keel, mast, technology, transportation

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Scenes

Bireme

Bireme

A bireme is an ancient warship with two decks of oars. It was used in Ancient times by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Etruscans, Carthagians and Romans. The first Greek bireme was probably made in the 9th century BC, due to Phoenician influence. The ship’s main weapon was the ram, a pointed, metal-covered projection at the foot of the bow, which could render an enemy ship useless by puncturing its hull. This is why it was important for biremes to be fast and easily manoeuvrable. In sea battles only the oars were used, not the sails.
The bireme was later substituted by the trireme, which had three rows of oars and was therefore larger and faster.

Top view

Deck

On the deck

Most of the space on the deck was taken up by the rowing benches: there were 12 pairs of oars on each side. There were 50–150 rowers on a bireme. In sea battles, when higher speed and faster turning was necessary, more rowers were working. The proper rhythm of rowing was kept by drums, pipes and singing.

Due to the lack of space, rowers outnumbered soldiers on biremes. This was the greatest disadvantage of this type of fighting ships, and this is why larger ships were built later. The handlers of the steering oars played a very important role. These large oars were placed in the rear of the ship and were used for manoeuvring it.

Construction

  • ram
  • sail
  • rowing benches
  • steering oars
  • keel
  • mast

Shape and construction of a bireme

The hull was slender, with a somewhat rounded and continuously curving central part, a thin stern and a slightly wider bow. The keel was bent upwards, while the bow was decorated with a painted (bird’s) eye or head and a protruding ‘ram’.

The mast was erected on the centre of the stern, it held a large rectangular sail. The rigging was attached to the stern, the bow and piles fixed to the back of the deck. On some biremes there were crow’s nests.
The Greeks did not have anchors on their ships, they used large stones attached to ropes instead.

Animation

  • ram
  • sail
  • rowing benches
  • steering oars
  • keel
  • mast

Narration

A bireme is an ancient warship with two decks of oars. It was used in Ancient times by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Etruscans, Carthaginians and Romans. The first Greek bireme was probably made in the 9th century BC, due to Phoenician influence.

The hull was slender, with a somewhat rounded and continuously curving central part, a thin stern and a slightly wider bow. The keel was bent upwards, while the bow was decorated with a painted bird’s eye or head and a protruding ‘ram’.
Most of the space on the deck was taken up by the rowing benches: there were 12 pairs of oars on each side and a total of 50–150 rowers. In sea battles, when higher speed and faster turning were necessary, more rowers worked the oars.

Due to the lack of space, rowers outnumbered soldiers on biremes. This was the greatest disadvantage of this type, and this is why larger ships were built later. The handlers of the steering oars played a very important role. These large oars were placed in the rear of the ship and were used for manoeuvring.

The ship’s main weapon was the ram, a pointed, metal-covered projection at the foot of the bow, which could render an enemy ship useless by puncturing its hull. This is why it was important for biremes to be fast and easily manoeuvrable. In sea battles, only the oars were used; the sails were not. The bireme was later superseded by the trireme, which had three rows of oars and was therefore larger and faster.

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