Grecian Maritime Power
Ancient coastal communities along the mainland and on the numerous islands of ancient Greece grew into major port strongholds that operated independently of one another, becoming what are commonly referred to as
The Menace of Safe Sailing
Seafaring navigation for trade vessels in the ancient Mediterranean world was generally limited to sailing along the coastlines in calm weather, keeping land in clear view. To avoid losing their way in the dark, ships usually anchored close to land or even beached on the shore at nightfall, resuming their journey at daybreak. The coastlines that merchant ships followed were dotted with bays and inlets that presented perfect hideouts and camouflage from which pirates would sprint, in their light and highly maneuverable warships, to attack a potential victim.
Monoreme Pirate Galleys
Some of the earliest boats used by Grecian pirates were variations of war galleys known as
By around 1000 B.C., war galleys of the city-state navies of Greece were outfitted with fortified bows and battering rams, devices that would quickly change the nature of battle on the open seas. These ships were essentially turned into huge seagoing weapons capable of ramming and debilitating enemy vessels during combat. Often the damage was enough to sink both craft and crew. Because the goal of a pirate is to capture his prey intact, ramming and destroying hapless merchant vessels was pointless. On the other hand, the threat of this new development to pirate fleets was very real, as pirate-hunting naval vessels from opposing city-states utilized the rams against them, destroying their ships.
Stacking the Decks
The monoreme was eventually updated to the
The bireme and trireme designs of the ancient Greek shipbuilders were eventually adopted by subsequent seafaring nations that came into power around the Mediterranean Sea. Centuries later, the Romans, led by Pompey the Great, adapted the bireme model for the naval fleets that would prove to be the undoing of Mediterranean pirates.
The trireme eventually became the classic Greek battle galley, with as many as 150 rowers handling oars up to 15 feet long. With an additional sailing crew of two dozen sailors and another two dozen armed warriors, the trireme proved to be a formidable weapon of war. Often used as escort ships for merchant convoys, only the most foolhardy pirates would dare challenge the size and speed of a trireme battle galley.