Resource Roundup: Footage of Triremes!August 17, 2010
A friend who is a historian of 20th century technology, but teaches “Western Civ,” recently asked an assembled group of experts his Facebook friends if any movie buff among them could recommend films with footage of ancient naval battles, preferably Greek and involving triremes. (I’m betting he’s teaching Salamis). A couple of people mentioned Cleopatra and Ben Hur, but of course neither of those are Greek. I don’t know of any trireme-featuring films myself, not being much of a movie buff – does 300 involve naval battles at all? Or is there anything in the new Clash of the Titans?
I do know about triremes, though. I’ve been to see the H. N. Olympias, the replica trireme built by the Trireme Trust and the Greek Navy, launched in 1987. The Olympias is planning to make its first visit to the United States in 2012 – any New York based rowers (who are on the shorter side – it’s apparently a bit cramped inside) should consider volunteering!
The BBC documentary about the Olympias trials was titled “The Trireme Quest” (and was released on VHS) and the Trireme Trust site mentions that other sea trials were filmed by “Channel 4 and Greek film crews.” Probably some tourists whipped out their video cameras during the sea trials as well! Youtube has some footage of the Olympias and clips about triremes, unfortunately usually unsourced and probably under somebody’s copyright (in several clips the History Channel “H” logo is visible). A decent clip including the Olympias under oar and interviews with Ioannis Koliniatis is here; it looks like the entirety of the History Channel’s “History’s Turning Points – (480 BC) The Battle of Salamis” is online, too. Then there’s this History Channel parody – geeky-classicist humor for the win!
There are tons of images of triremes – drawings, plans, and photos of Olympias – available in Google Image search and also at Flickr (including Creative Commons-licensed images like the one below, taken by Kenny Murray off of Poros in 1987!).
A fine starting place for scholarly and popular bibliography about ancient Greek ships in general, and the Olympias in particular, is available at the Trireme Trust.