History

The improvised craft

The Homeric Odyssey takes some time to describe to us the construction of an improvised craft that will carry Odysseus on an eighteen-day journey from Ogygia. The story tells how Kalypsō selects the trees. Odysseus then cuts the trees and axes them smooth. He bores holes in them. He configures them into a raft that is as wide “as the beam of a large vessel.” We compare the description of… Read more

The Idealized Ship | Part 2: Huge, hollow and swallowing

In this section we will consider the ships that are described as megakētēs [μεγακήτης], usually translated as "huge", "hollow", and "gaping."The word is made up of two parts, mega [μέγα-, “great”], and an adjective form of kētos [κῆτος, “any sea-monster”]. A related word is kētōeis [κητώεις], which means “full of hollows”. Read more

Aegina and its enmity with Athens

"...this is the island that was once actually mistress of the sea and disputed with the Athenians for the prize of valor in the sea fight at Salamis at the time of the Persian War…" Aegina, an island off the coast of Attica, became an important trading center. Later, a rivalry developed between the island and Athens. In this post, we look at some of the texts that describe this… Read more

The Classic Ship | Part 3: The Battle of Salamis

"Each captain drove his ship straight against some other ship... When ... our ships had been crowded in the narrows, ... and each crashed its bronze prow against each of its own line, they splintered their whole bank of oars." In 480 BCE, King Xerxes proceeded to Athens, after his victory at Thermopylae, and his naval forces moved southward for the final stroke. Athens, a young but powerful democracy, and… Read more