Were the Greeks good sailors?

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Greek boats and ships

sailing ship with sail furled and rowers
Sailing ship with rowers at the oars

Because Greece was so mountainous, and every place in Greece was so close to the sea, a lot of people in Greece used boats to get from one place to another, even starting as early as the Stone Age, when people sailed to the islands to get obsidian, and also went out in boats to catch tuna fish.

sailors pulling down the sail with ropes on a ship
Sailors setting sail on a Greek warship

Greek people used boats to fish, and to trade with other places, and also to sail to other cities and fight them and take their stuff. Greek sailors had different kinds of boats for all these things - small rowboats for fishing, and big trading ships, and fast warships. By the 600s BC, the Greeks were among the best sailors in the Mediterranean Sea (along with the Phoenicians).

Learn by doing: go out in a rowboat or sailboat
More about Greek warships

Bibliography and further reading about Greek ships and boats:

Ships and Seamanship in the Ancient World, by Lionel Casson (1971).

The Ancient Mariners, by Lionel Casson (2nd edition 1991).

More about Greek cargo ships
Go on to Roman sailing ships
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Copyright 2012-2015 Karen Carr, Portland State University. This page last updated September 2015.

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