Triremes in the Athenian Navy

In the fall of 480 BCE, Xerxes, the King of Persia, attacked Greece on land and at sea. While the land battle that ended with a Spartan stand to the last man at Thermopylae, has been burned into the collective memory of western civilization – think of the movie 300 – it was the Greek navy that repelled Xerxes’ assault and saved Athens from certain defeat. What saved Greece from the encroachment of an empire that had already consumed much of western Asia? The Athenian navy employed an innovative ship design called the Trireme. Built for speed and agility, and powered by the democratic principles at the heart of Athenian government, the trireme allowed the ancient Greeks to destroy most of the Persian fleet and stop the western advance of the imperial Persian king. This Inquiry Unit focuses on the technology of ancient naval warfare. Students will analyze the connections between naval technology and the principles of democracy.

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