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Oar-powered warship. Light, fast, and maneuverable, it was the principal naval vessel with which Persia, Phoenicia, and the Greek city-states vied for mastery of the Mediterranean from the Battle of Salamis (480 BC) through the end of the Peloponnesian War (404). The Athenian trireme was about 120 ft (37 m) long, and was rowed by 170 oarsmen seated in three tiers along each side; it could reach speeds of more than 7 knots (8 mph, or 13 kph). Square-rigged sails were used when the ship was not engaged in battle. Armed with a bronze-clad ram, it carried spearmen and bowmen to attack enemy crews. By the late 4th century BC, armed deck soldiers had become so important in naval warfare that it was superseded by heavier ships. See alsogalley.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on trireme, visit Britannica.com.