Ancient Greek Oral Presentation Script

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Hello, YO5B. Today I will give a short presentation on Ancient Greek ships. There are many Ancient Greek ships, but today I will talk mainly about the main one - the trireme.

Triremes are powerful fighting ships that are the backbone of the navies of many city-states. Now, from this description, you may think that a trireme is a massive war machine with decks bristling with weaponry, a hull covered with thick iron and wood armor that battering rams bounce off, thousands of rowers and hundreds of heavily armed marines. Wrong! In reality, triremes were the complete opposite. Do you know that instead of thick iron armor, triremes only have a thin shell of wood, enough for arrows and spears but would give to a battering ram? Or that instead of being gigantic, triremes are actually small, sleek, frigates that could not go on long sea voyages because their sizes prohibit any provisions from being stored onboard? Or instead of having hundreds of heavily armed marines, a trireme only carries a few of them? In the next four to five minutes, you shall learn anything you need to know about Ancient Greek Ships and warfare.

First of all, I shall introduce you to the tactics ancient Greeks use while engaging in naval warfare. Because gunpowder is not available to Greek navies, Greeks have to make do with setting the enemy on fire, ramming and boarding. To achieve this, every trireme has a bronze covered ram at the front of the ship, making each ship a projectile. A trireme also carries 10 marines, whose job is to open fire with bows and board enemy vessels. However, as triremes become lighter and swifter, tactics quickly change. Instead of blindly ramming enemy vessels, triremes would row towards an enemy but change direction at the last second, gliding past the enemy. That action snaps the enemy’s oars, disabling it. When the enemy vessel is helpless, the crew of the trireme could easily ram and board it without chasing after it.

Second of all, I shall tell you how triremes are constructed and their architecture. Generally, triremes are costly to build and it takes about 6,000 man-days of labour to complete. Unlike modern practice, the Greeks would first build the outer hull before constructing the ribs. The hull is a thin shell of wooden planks that is stiffened by the keel and the light transverse ribs. The material that is used to construct the ship is mainly softwoods like pine and fir while interior parts are constructed out of larch and plane. A trireme has a beam of typically 5.5 meters and a general length of 37 metres.

Now, I will introduce to you the jobs of the crewmen on a trireme. Overall, there are 200 crewmen onboard, and 170, or 85%, are rowers. There are 62 thranites in the top row, 54 zygites in the second row and 54 thalamites in the bottom row. There is also a captain, usually a wealthy citizen, a deck crew headed by an experienced helmsman, a number of marines and archers, a quartermaster, a piper to give the rowers rhythm, two toicharchoi to command rowers on the two sides of the ship, the boatswain and the bow lookout.

Finally, I shall tell the story of a great sea battle, the Battle of Salamis. The Battle of Salamis occurred when the Persians launched an attack on Greece, defeating the Greek city-states. The Athenians had abandoned Athens, and the allied Greek fleet had retreated to Salamis. The Athenian commander, Themistocles, then pretended to be a traitor to trick the Persian king, Xerxes, into sending the Persian fleet into the straits. The Greeks, having only 366-378 triremes, were outnumbered, but they won using clever strategy. Because the Persian fleet found maneuvering in a narrow strait very hard, the Greek triremes could easily beat back the Persians. Furthermore, a wind whipped out and the lighter Persian ships were tossed about. Finally, the Persians were defeated, stopping a Persian conquest of Greece. The Battle of Salamis was an important battle in Western history because if the Greek forces had been defeated, the Persians would have taken over Greece and Western civilization would not have spread.

In conclusion, the sleek, fast, small trireme is the mainstay of many Greek navies. Its design suits it well for ancient naval warfare, ensuring that it is fast and highly maneuverable. If you were the designer, how would you enhance it?

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