Ancient Greek Ships

Greek ships were long ships that were usually around the same size and they were used to make deliveries and to carry cargo.

Many of the ships were used to carry trade goods.

Greek Ship

What Did They Look Like?

Most of the Greek ships were around 100 feet to 115 feet long.

Some of them were covered in brass so that they would be strong in case there was a war.

The ships were made of wood and were usually about the same size.

If you compared the ships to something today, they would probably be about as long as about three buses in a row.

How Did They Go?

Ships today are run on motors but in Ancient Greek times, the ships were usually running by sails or by people called oarsmen.

Oarsmen would hold the oars and they would power the boat.

They would use the oars to move the boat and to make the boat turn left or right depending on which direction they wanted to go.

Since the ships were ran in the Mediterranean Sea, they would move fast along with the current of the water, so the oarsmen had to be strong to handle the ship in the water.

Triple Decker Warship

During Ancient Greek times, there was a warship called the Trireme.

This was a triple decker warship and it could hold more than 200 men.  There had to be over 150 people just to row the oars of the Trireme.

The trireme was faster than other ships and only had one sail.

They sailors would leave items on the shore that were not needed because the ship was so heavy and extra cargo would keep the ship from moving fast.

Model of a Greek Trireme

Why Did They Need Ships?

People in Ancient Greece were farmers, artists, painters, pottery makers and more.

Many of the people in Ancient Greece depended on their merchandise to be traded with other countries so that they could make a living for their families.

The ships would be used to make sure that people in the Ancient Greek cities were able to trade and to move cargo from one area to the other.

Since the ships were large, the Greeks could make trips to other countries and they could bargain and trade items.


The ships were also needed during times of war.

Many of the war ships had a different design and were made of different materials so that they would be strong and powerful.

When the Greeks had to go to war, they would use the ships to fight their enemies in the sea.

The beset navy of all times was in Athens during the Ancient Greek times.

This navy war and the warships that they had were what allowed them to be able to win the victory during the war with Persia.

God of the Sea

Before people of Ancient Greece would go into any ship and before the ship was even allowed to leave the harbor, they sailors would pray to the god Poseidon to keep them safe while they were in the water.


Poseidon was an important god during Ancient Greek times, and he was important because he helped to keep the Greeks safe when they would travel by sea.

Poseidon was the brother of Zeus and Hades and he did not want to have power over big things and was happy to be the god of the sea.

When people would travel by sea, they were afraid of Poseidon and they built temples close to the shore so that he would keep them safe when they traveled during times of trade or during times of war.

The people wanted to make sure that he was a happy god.


Facts About Ancient Greek Ships:

  • The Ancient Greeks would leave Poseidon gifts so he would keep them safe.
  • The warship called a Triremes was called this because it had a triple layer.
  • During times of war, the Greek ships would ram into other ships to defeat them.
  • The sails were used when the boat travelled but the sail would come down when they were not traveling and then the people would use oars.
  • When the ship had 3 rows of oars like the Triremes, it could travel up to 10 miles an hour just with the oars.
  • The eye of the ship was considered good luck to the Ancient Greeks.
  • When a citizen wanted to use the boat, he would be called a trierarch and he would pay to run the ship from his seat.
  • The larger oars were used to steer the ship, there was one on each side of the ship.


What Did You Learn?

  1. What is a Greek ship?  A Greek ship was a way that the Ancient Greek people were able to move and go places along the sea.
  2. Why were the Ancient Greek ships important? The Ancient Greeks used the ships for trade, which was a big way of life and for war.
  3. Were the warships different than regular ships?   The warships were made of different materials than the regular ships so that they could be strong and powerful.
  4. How did the ships move along the water? The ships moved along the water by oars and by sails.
  5. Who was the god of the sea? The god of the sea was Poseidon.
  6. Why did the people build a temple to the god Poseidon? The people built a temple and left him gifts so that he would keep them safe while they were on the water.