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Travel and Transportation in Ancient Greece

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Travel and Transportation in Ancient Greece

Index


Travel and Transportation in Ancient Greece

In the Iliad Homer describes the army that attacked Troy in terms of the ships that they arrived in. The warriors from Boetia came 120 to a ship. The archer Philoctetes led a group of seven ships with 50 warriors each.

In book I, line 307 a trip by ship is begun: "but the son of Atreus launched a swift ship on the sea, and chose for it twenty rowers,"

When the ship reaches its destination then, (line 431)"When they had arrived within the deep harbour, they furled the sail, and stowed it in the black ship, and the mast they lowered by the forestays and brought it to the crutch with speed, and rowed her with oars to the place of anchorage. Then they cast out the mooring-stones and made fast the stern cables, and themselves went forth upon the shore of the sea. ."

The return trip is as follows (line 474): "...But when the sun set and darkness came on, they lay down to rest by the stern cables of the ship, and as soon as early rosy-fingered Dawn appeared, then they set sail for the wide camp of the Achaeans. And Apollo, who works from afar, sent them a favouring wind, and they set up the mast and spread the white sail. So the wind filled the belly of the sail, and the dark wave sang loudly about the stem of the ship, as she went, and she sped over the wave, accomplishing her way. But when they came to the wide camp of the Achaeans, they drew the black ship up on the shore, high upon the sands, and set in line the long props beneath, and themselves scattered among the tents and ships. ." (Book I of the Iliad)

In book XIII, line 332, of the Illiad there is a quote that seems to relate to the state of roads at the time of HOmer: "And as gusts come thick and fast when shrill winds are blowing, on a day when dust lies thickest on the roads, and the winds raise up confusedly a great cloud of dust." When the rains came such a road would be a sea of mud.

Telemachus sails

At the end of Book II of the Odyssey, Homer describes the trip by ship that Telemachus takes to Pylos, "So all night long and through the dawn the ship cleft her way." The trip took all night or about 11 hours for a distance of about 110 miles. This means that the ship traveled at about 10 miles an hour. This speed was possible because "Athene sent them a favorable gale." It is significant that the trip is a night because it could then be guided by the stars. The two passengers and twenty oarsman probably slept while the helmsman navigated the ship.

In book III of the Odyssey Nestor describes the return trip of Diomedes from Troy to Argos. The stops included Troy, Tenedos, Lesbos, Geraestus, and then Argos. This was accomplished in four days. The trip was about 295 miles and took approximately 48 hours. This works out to about 6 miles per hour. The ship could have sailed faster to make up for overnight stops but the trip across the Aegean sea, from Lesbos to Geraestus, probably occurred at night so the helmsman could use the stars for navigation. Homer states "In the night they reached Geraestus".

At the end of Book III of Odyssey Telemachus is described as traveling from Pylos to Sparta in a chariot drawn by horses. The first day the chariot travels from Pylos to Pherae all day for a distance of 41 kilometers. This relults in a speed of 41/12 = 3.42 km/hr. The second leg of this trip from Pherae to Sparta was a distance of 29 km and took 12 hours. This results in a speed of 29/12 = 2.42 km/hour. This is well below the recognized speed of horses of about 17 km/hr for distances up to 160 km. In fact the men could almost walk that fast. This route is marked out as an ancient route in a map titled "Route in Lakonia and Messenia" page 186 in Sparta and Lakonia by Paul Cartledge. On page 339 he states that "There is ... nothing to disprove the suggestion that the alleged chariot-route over Taygetos taken ... by Odysseus' son Telemachos when he came to visit Meneleos at Sparte (is fictional). This is in spite of Homers description of Sparta as "lying low among the caverened hills, and drave to the dwelling of renowned Meneleus. Carteledge is mainly concerned that the remains of the palace of Meneleus has not been found.

In Book IV of Odyssey, line269 there is an example of celestial navigation, "Gladly then did goodly Odysseus spread his sail to the breeze; [270] and he sat and guided his raft skilfully with the steering-oar, nor did sleep fall upon his eyelids, as he watched the Pleiads, and late-setting Bootes, and the Bear, which men also call the Wain, which ever circles where it is and watches Orion, [275] and alone has no part in the baths of Ocean. For this star Calypso, the beautiful goddess, had bidden him to keep on the left hand as he sailed over the sea. For seventeen days then he sailed over the sea, and on the eighteenth appeared the shadowy mountains [280] of the land of the Phaeacians". It seems unlikely that Odysseus sailed 18 days without sleeping day and night. There is really no space in the Mediterranean big enough anyway. At least we can interpret the direction as East.

Some indication of trade is also given in Homer (Book VII): "Many ships had come with wine from Lemnos, sent by Euneus the son of Jason, born to him by Hypsipyle. The son of Jason freighted them with ten thousand measures of wine, which he sent specially to the sons of Atreus, Agamemnon and Menelaus. From this supply the Achaeans bought their wine, some with bronze, some with iron, some with hides, some with whole heifers, and some again with captives."

In Book I of the Odyssey, Homer states "sailing over the wine-dark sea, unto men of strange speech, even to Temesa, in quest of copper, and my cargo is shining iron."

Paul Cartledge in his book "Sparta and Lakonia" discusses land transportation in Lakonia. It should be noted that land transportation was considerably more important to the Spartans than the other Greeks because of the nature of their political control. He gives a number of references to cite how difficult it was to get into Lakonia from the outside. But "...it was of paramount importance to the Spartans to be able to communicate both within Lakonia and with Messenia. The importance can be gauged from the fact that it was the responsibility of the kings, presumably qua generals, to 'give judgement in all matters concerning public highways'" (pp.187)

On page 189 Cartledge indicates that "ancient wheel-ruts have been detected between Goritsa and Geraki" in Lakonia. On page 208 he states "...because this was the easiest way out of Laconia for an army traveling with waggons."

Rodney Castleden, in his book "Mycenaens" refers to the litter or palanquin as a form of transportation in Mycenaean times. (pp. 34) He says the Minoan use of litters inspired the Mycenaeans. The advantage of the litter is that no more than a path is required and in many cases in Greece that is all there was. The litter is essentially a frame on a pole so that two persons can carry a third person.

Rodney Castleden, in his book "Minoans, Life in the Bronze Age" describes the "Palanquin Fresco" as showing a dignified female clothed in a white robe being conveyed through a crowd at some public festival. He also reports "a terracotta model of a palanquin with a seated female in ritual context..." found at the Minoan Labyrinth. (pp.177)

Trade: Man carrying an Amphora.html. Donkey with a load: Click here.

A trip is described in the drama by Euripides, The Cyclops, line 11, "I,...,sailed in quest of thee (Dionysus) with my children; and taking the helm myself, I stood on the end of the stern and steered our trim craft; and my sons, sitting at the oars, made the grey billows froth and foam as they sought thee, my liege. But just as we had come nigh Malea in our course, an east wind blew upon the ship and drove us hither to the rock of Aetna, where in lonely caverns dwell the one-eyed children of the ocean's god, the murdering Cyclopes. Captured by one of them we are slaves in his house;..."

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Wagons and Carts of Ancient Greece

The carts had heavy carrying capacity as the following indicate: "And here perhaps the reader will pardon the record of a somewhat ingenious device on the part of the city engineer, who, aware of the enemy's intention to advance his batteries along the racecourse, which slopes from the Lyceum, had all the carts and waggons which were to be found laden with blocks of stone, each one a cartload in itself, and so sent them to deposit their freights "pele-mele" on the course in question. The annoyance created by these separate blocks of stone was enormous, and quite out of proportion to the simplicity of the contrivance." Xenephon "Hellenica" Book 4.

Xenephon mentions a number of roads along which armies proceed but there is little indication that they are even suitable for carts.

cart pictured on ancient pottery:

Carts had both spoked wheels and solid wheels.

The difference between a cart and a chariot is subtle. Both are two wheeled conveyences. The chariot was light and built for speed. The cart would have been heavy and strong.

Paul Cartledge "Sparta and Lakonia" states that "Theophrastos ('Hist. Plant.' 3.16.3) mentions a type of oak used for carts in Lakonia." (pp. 187)

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Ships of Ancient Greece

Ancient illustrations of ships:

Hypermnestra inspects an ancient sailing ship being built by her father Danaus

It has been suggested that the first ships of Egypt were reed boats. In ancient China ships were modeled after swimming ducks and were even made to look like them. In northern Europe the first ships were modeled after skin boats. But none of these environments provided the motive for building ships that the Aegean did. In that sea were inviting crystal clear waters and green islands that could be seen from shore. Oared ships were described in many stories of ancient times. These seem to have been modeled after the dugout canoe. But a sailing ship was also developed along different lines. Danaus is given in one myth as the first to sail such a ship as he seemed to feel his daughters were unfit for oars. But the sailing ship seems to have been based on the first ships made of lumber boards. Early on these ships were literally sewn together while the later ships were mortised and tenoned. Joining wood edge to edge is quite old as the following passage suggests:

in the Odyssey, Book V, Homer describes how to build a ship: "So soon as early Dawn shone forth, the rosy-fingered, anon Odysseus put on him a mantle and doublet, and the nymph clad her in a great shining robe, light of woof and gracious, and about her waist she cast a fair golden girdle, and a veil withal upon her head. Then she considered of the sending of Odysseus, the great-hearted. She gave him a great axe, fitted to his grasp, an axe of bronze double-edged, and with a goodly handle of olive wood fastened well. Next she gave him a polished adze, and she led the way to the border of the isle where tall trees grew, alder and poplar, and pine that reacheth unto heaven, seasoned long since and sere, that might lightly float for him. Now after she had shown him where the tall trees grew, Calypso, the fair goddess, departed homeward. And he set to cutting timber, and his work went busily. Twenty trees in all he felled, and then trimmed them with the axe of bronze, and deftly smoothed them, and over them made straight the line. Meanwhile Calypso, the fair goddess, brought him augers, so he bored each piece and jointed them together, and then made all fast with trenails and dowels. Wide as is the floor of a broad ship of burden, which some man well skilled in carpentry may trace him out, of such beam did Odysseus fashion his broad raft. And thereat he wrought, and set up the deckings, fitting them to the close-set uprights, and finished them off with long gunwales, and there he set a mast, and a yard-arm fitted thereto, and moreover he made him a rudder to guide the craft. And he fenced it with wattled osier withies from stem to stern, to be a bulwark against the wave, and piled up wood to back them. Meanwhile Calypso, the fair goddess, brought him web of cloth to make him sails; and these too he fashioned very skilfully. And he made fast therein braces and halyards and sheets, and at last he pushed the raft with levers down to the fair salt sea.

A major innovations in transportation was the trireme ship. The trireme enabled the Greeks to become the naval power of the world and make the Mediterranean safe for their shipping. Pentekonters were 50-oared galleys with one row of oars. Biremes had two banks of oars on each side. Triremes had three banks of oars.

Sailing ships are rarely mentioned in ancient Greek literature but Archaeological finds of ships are commonly sailing ships. During the heroic period and later there were basically two kinds of ships: oared galleys and round ships with sails. The galleys were long and narrow while the round ships were much broader. It is interesting that the galley gunwale is straight while the round ship has a gunwale that is high at the bow and the stern and slops downward to the beam of the ship. This suggests that the galley is based on the dugout canoe while the round boat is based on a boat constructed of planks. Dugout canoes are very unstable to sail while flat side of the planks facilitate sailing. That a galley has sails at all is a testement to the efficiency of sails. Galleys can only be rowed for a short time and the rowers must then rest. This is OK for war but terrible for long-distance trade. There are ancient Pictures showing sailing ships being rowed, but this must have been a desperate act. Usually wars involved galleys. This also seems a preference of Swords over bows and arrows. The main strategy seems to have been maneauvering a boat to force its ram (or beak) into the opponent and then boarding over the front. The forecastle on the galley provided the advantage of height to the attacking ship. Round ship never were fitted with rams but galleys always were.

Most navigation was in terms of landmarks on shore. But when the ship was out of sight of land the stars were used. Some crossings hand to be by night for this reason. There are a number of references in the literature to helmsmen who stood at the helm while other slept. This raises the issue of sleeping accomodations and helmsman visibility. Some illustrations show a tent like structure covering the center of the ship. Perhaps this structure contained sleeping accomodations? Would the captain have a tent cabin. And finally, would the helmsman have to be raised above all this to have good visibility. At least at night he would have to see the talking post, as the ancient Greeks called it, the bow post that would indicate the direction of the ship. Notice that in the ancient ships both the bow and stern posts are prominent.

In Ancient Greek times a ship would be beached when it reached its destination. In Iphigenia in Tauris by Euripides the launching of a beached ship is described, line 1346,

"The we behold the Grecian Bark with oars
Well furnish'd, wing'd fir flight; and at their seats
Grasping their oars, were fifty rowers; ...
Some from the Prow relieved the keep with poles;
Some weigh'd the anchors up; the climbing ropes
Some hastened, through their hands the cables drew,
Launched the light bark, and gave her to the main.
...
They gave a cheerful shout, and with their oars
Dash'ed the salt wave. The galley, while it rode
Within the harbour, work'd its easy way.

In Helen by Euripides the launching of a docked ship is described, line 1534,

"Now when we reached thy docks well walled, we began to launch the fastest of Sidonian ships, with her full complement of 50 rowers, and each task in due succession followed; some set up the mast, others ranged the oars with their blades ready, and stored the white sails within the hold, and the rudder was let down astern and fastened securely...the bull refused to go forward along the gangway...cast him into the hold... And Menelaus stroked the horse on the neck and brow coaxing it to go aboard. At length, when the ship was fully freighted, Helen climbed the ladder with graceful step and took her seat midway betwixt the rowers' benches... and the billows were soon echoing to the rowers' song, as we heard the botswains note. (a battle ensues on the boat) Then did the prince set himself to steer, and bade them make a straight course to Hellas. So they set up the mast, and favouring breezes blew; and they are clear away.

In Suppliant Women by Aeschylus the landing of a ship is described, line 715:

...the trimming of its sail, its side-guards, and the prow that with its eyes scans its onward course, obeying—all too well for those to whom it is unfriendly—the guiding rudder at the stern. The men on board are plainly seen, their black [720] limbs showing from their white attire. The rest of the ships and all the assisting fleet stand clear in view: but the leading ship herself has furled her sail and draws near the shore with full sweep of sounding oars.

I am currently constructing a model of an ancient sailing ship. I am using plank construction as was done in ancient Greece and sewing the planks together. Bending the planks results in a shape that conforms to the ancient pictures but to get a rounded hull the planks must be tapered. The ratio of width to length is 1/3 and this bends the planks in an extreme way. But you get a hull bottom that should sail well. The model is large but the scale is large so the actual ship would only be 16'and a beam of a little over 5'. This seems small but is quite consistent with the images on pots. I am thinking you might get 6-8 passengers and crew on such a ship. In those days it might not take that many amphora to make a trip of such a ship worth while.

My uncle Charles used to puzzle over why amphora were used so much in the shape they had. The hold of the ship would be layed with brush and the point of the amphora would be set in the brush. This would provide support for the cargo so it would not shift. But there is another possibility. Sailing ships were convenient because they had spars overhead. They could be used with a block and tackle to easily lift heavy loads from the dock to the hold. I am thinking that the amphora could be picked up easily by a rope around the point. I will have to experiment with this when the model is that far along.

Resources:

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Chariots

Chariot

Two-horse chariot

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Ancient Greek Travelers

  1. Aristeas of Proconnesus (ca. 690 BCE). - followed the north wind to the land of the Hyperborians(Mongolia?).
    Herodotus, The Histories, 4.13: "There is also a story related in a poem by Aristeas son of Caüstrobius, a man of Proconnesus. This Aristeas, possessed by Phoebus, visited the Issedones; beyond these (he said) live the one-eyed Arimaspians, beyond whom are the griffins that guard gold, and beyond these again the Hyperboreans, whose territory reaches to the sea. [2] Except for the Hyperboreans, all these nations (and first the Arimaspians) are always at war with their neighbors; the Issedones were pushed from their lands by the Arimaspians, and the Scythians by the Issedones, and the Cimmerians, living by the southern sea, were hard pressed by the Scythians and left their country. Thus Aristeas' story does not agree with the Scythian account about this country."
  2. Herodotus( b 484 BCE) - Talks about traveling to Scythia, Egypt, and Cyrene
  3. Xenophon(400 BCE) - Marched an Army through Persia.
  4. Alexander the Great (Megas Alexandros, July 356 BCE – June 11, 323 BCE), - Marched an Army to the Indus River.
  5. Pytheas of Massalia(330 BCE) - Sailed to the British Isles and almost to Greenland.
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Maps of Ancient Greece

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Resources for Travel

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Ask a Question about Travel


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Questions and Answers

Question: goddess transportation

Answer: Goddesses have chariots to carry them through the sky.

Question: how did the ancient greeks get transported.

Answer: Most transportation was walking. People who needed to travel long distances need to live near a port where a sailing ship was available to take them to distant ports. Some people had chariots. Others had donkey carts. Later horses were ridden with a saddle.

Question: Where would the people of ancient Greece travel to?

Answer: Land travel was very difficult and people who had to travel this way did not travel far. The ships of ancient Greece were quite sea worthy and could have taken the ancient Greeks anywhere in the world on the sea. But There is no evidence that they traveled far. For the most part they traveled in their own Aegean Sea, but sometimes they ventured out into the Mediteranean. They might have sailed to Britain for tin but their is some controversy about this. The passengers were not inclined to long trips over the open sea and preferred to pull up on a beach at night. Most trips were within sight of land.

Question: About what time did the people of Ancient Greece ride horses with saddles?

Answer: I find no saddles among the ancient Greek works of art. I believe the mosaic of Alexander the Great shows him with a sadle.

Question: Did the Ancinet Greeks have roads? If so, when were they created?

Answer: Yes the Ancient Greeks had roads but they were not important for transporation between cities. Almost all transportation was on the sea and any roads merely lead to the nearest seaport. What follows is a picture of the Lechaion Road. A paved road from port of Lechaion as it approaches the city center of Corinth. Click here. But most likely this road was built by the Romans and not by the Greeks.

Question: Jow do Greeks get around

Answer: The ancient Greeks traveled mostly by water in sailing and rowed vessels. On land they walked or rode chariots. Goods were carried on two-wheeled carts.

Question: I was wondering if you have any information or know where I can find any information regarding hospitality among travelers in Ancient Greece?

Answer: The Argonautica by Appolonius of Rhodes is about an ancient Travel. Herodotus is a famous traveler. Xenophon writes about Traveling in the Anabasis. Telemachus travels to Sparta in the Odyssey.

Question: How did ancient Greeks travel on land?

Answer: The ancient Greeks either walked, marched, or rode in a chariot. When they carried a lot of stuff with them they used a cart. An example of a cart follows: Click here. Carts could be much larger than that pictured with higher sides. Carts could be hauled by an ox, horse, mule, donkey, or dog, or a tem of any of these.

Question: What means did ancient Greeks use for transportation?

Answer: The vast majority of ancient Greek transportation was in sailing ships.

Question: hat did the Ancient Greeks live in? (shelter)

Answer: Click on the menu derectory below then click on architecture.

Question: what simalarities and differences where there in transportation then in greece and here now?

Answer: People still walk, and they use two-wheeled carts too. When you go to the airport you see a lot of people walking and moving their luggage on carts. In ancient Greece people travel almost entirely by water using sailing ships. They walked or rode chariots or carts to the port where they got on a sailing ship. Today we have more options. We still have ships but be also have buses, trains, and planes. We also drive and do not walk that much.

Question: How was travel different for a rich greek than a poor greek?

Answer: A poor Greek could only travel where a rich Greek wanted him to go.

Question: how did a rich greek travel

Answer: Usually travel was done in groups for safety.

Question: what are vessels

Answer: Any kind of boat or ship used for water travel is considered a vessel.

Question: what kind of boats are there in ancient greece

Answer: Merchant vessels were essentially sailing vessels. Merchant galleys were rowed when speedy delivery was required. Warships were galleys that were primarily rowed but did carry sails. The galleys were rowed with oars. Pentekonters were 50-oared galleys with one row of oars. Biremes had two banks of oars on each side. Triremes had three banks of oars.

Question: what was the olympias used for

Answer: Olympia was a place in ancient Greece where the Olympics were held. The Olympics were a religious festival for Zeus involving athletic competitions.

Question: what was the main source of travel?

Answer: Sailing ships were the life blood of ancient Greece.

Question: Did the Romans attend the Olympics in Greece?

Answer: not during the Greek period. But they did during the Roman period.

Question: what did they ride in or on

Answer:

Question: How would I have gotten from Smyrna, Ionia to Athens

Answer: You would have booked passage on a sailing ship.

Question: How did kings travel?

Answer: Locally they might use a sedan chair. They used a chariot when they traveled with their army on land. On the sea they used an oared galley.

Question: where did the trveler that went to athens stayed?

Answer: You stayed at a private home as a guest or paying customer. Many businesses such as this worked out of private homes. Eating establishments operated the same way. Houses of prostitution operated this way as well. A blacksmith or a farmer might do the same, but they would also visit a market to sell their wares.

Question: tell me more for a feature i am writing about ancient greek transportation with speficis about ships, chariots, and carts or horse drawn carriages

Answer: Horses were not used to draw carriages in ancient Greece.

Question: running

Answer: There were professional runners in ancient Greece. For a fee they would deliver a message as fast as possible.

Question: did the ancient greeks go on long journeys

Answer: A few did. There ships were quite adequate and could sail a long distance. The main problem was that they were not adapted to staying on the open sea. They had to put into shore often to restock provisions and seek protection from the weather. But they could travel a long distance along the shore. Neither the Odyssesy or the Argonautica were that long. But Greek ships might have sailed to Brittain. They might even have circumnavigated Africa. Less likely is a voyage to China, though foot travelers might have gotten that far.

Question: How did the ancient greek men travel if by land?

Answer:

Question: why are boats and ships so important

Answer: Travel on the water was convenient and efficient. Other forms of transportation were poorly developed.

Question: Transport of slaves

Answer: Most slaves were transported by ship.

Question: What kind of stuff did the ancient Greeks trade?

Answer: The ancient Greeks were great traders, especially on the sea. They traded mainly wine, olives, olive oil and ceramics. They also traded some minerals especially silver. For these they received timber, metals, wheat, cotton, silk, and crafts.

Question: pictures of transportation in ancient greece

Answer: Here are some pictures of sedan chairs:

Question: how did slaves travel?

Answer: Slaves rarely traveled. Sometimes they were trasported, usually by ship. Sometimes slavers marched slaves in chains. If they transported them naked they might not escape so easily.

Question: what were dangers which warn the tourist of some dangers they might encounter

Answer: Fortunately there were some famous travelers who left reports:

Question: where can i find alot about tansportation in acient geece

Answer: Casson, Lionel, "Travel in the Ancient World", The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1994, ISBN 0-8018-4808-3.

Question: ancient greece dancing (dancing)

Answer: All we really know is that it was very important, especially at festivals, but though we know the names of some of the dances, we really know very little about them. Some of the pictures of ancient dances seem to resemble modern dances. The following images show Theseus on Crete with the other children dancing the Crane dance to celebrate his victory.

Question: How did the women travel in ancient greece?

Answer: Women traveled very little. When they traveled they usually went by boat. On a long sea journey the boat would sail during the day and then pull ashore or into a safe harbor at night. The travelers would sleep in an inn if it was available, or they would sleep on the beach. During the day travelers would stay on the deck. The hold was reserved for goods. During inclement weather the ship would find a safe harbor and weather the storm.

Question: What did people use to pay for travel in Ancient Greece?

Answer: Many of the Greek cities minted coins for this purpose. They might also pay a quantity of silver ofr gold. Some merchants also accepted barter, such as a quantity of grain or an animal.

Question: How many people fit in a chariot?

Answer: Normally two, but more can squeeze in.

Question: how did the greeks travel from city to city?

Answer: The ancient Greeks traveled normally by ship. The roads between the cities were not in good condition and could be difficult in bad weather. But messengers commonly moved between the cities by running.

Question: How long would it take to sail from Thera to Cyrene

Answer: As the crow flies Cyrene (now Shahhat, Libya) is only 330 miles southwest of Thera (Santorini). If a storm came up you could be blown there in two days and two nights. But ancient sailors did not sail over the open sea and preferred to hug the coast, stopping and spending the night in an inn or on the beach. The coastal route is about 1400 miles. By this means you might make only 50 - 100 miles a day. The safe trip might take 20 days.

Question: I am doing an assignment for a class and I have to have a map of greece that relates to the time of the goddesses in greece. I need a map of greece and a map of Mt. Olympus. Do you have any suggestions.

Answer:Map of ancient greece with Mt Olympus.

Photo of Mt. Olympus from space.

Question: how did Greece's geography affect their development?

Answer: Greece has a pleasant climate with green isles set in an azure sea. These islands stimulated boatbuilding and exploration. This stimulated trade and commerce with other nations and an exchange of information. The rocky nature and poor soils favored the gorwth of olives and grapes which could be easily preserved. The resulting products, olives and wines were easy exports as was wool that sheep produced on the rocky soil. The trade and commerce stimulated manufactured goods such as woven cloth and pottery. Finally minerals such as silver were discoved in the rocky soil which greatly enriched the inhabitants of Greece.

Question: Can you tell me approximately how long it would take for an ancient Greek merchant ship (5th century B.C. or earlier) to sail from Athens to Crete? A warship? What would be the likely route? Would the route back Crete to Athens be different than the route there?

Answer: First you must understand that such a trip would be very dependent upon the season and the weather. The distance is about 160 miles. A sailing ship speed might be 2-10 miles per hour. Under the same conditions an oared vessel would be able to add 2 - 3 miles per hour. Such a trip might take one, two or three or more days days. Most vessels would follow the coast of Greece and then travel to Crete from Kythera. In between Kythera and Crete is a small Island Antikythera. This island provides line of sight navigation on this route. Another route to Crete would involve a trip through the Cyclades to Karpathos and then to Crete and this trip is much longer. These ships would travel during the day and stop at night. The other option is to sail directly from Athens at night. On a clear night with a wind one could sail directly from Athens to Crete. In this case instead of using line of sight navigation, one could use the stars. This would take a lot more skill. Because such a trip would take longer that 12 hours the trip might go to an island like Milos and then to Crete. On Milos the ship would stop during the day instead of at night. Odysseus sailed during the day when he was sailing his own vessel but he traveled at night when he left from Phacia to Ithaca. It is unlikely that an oared vessel would undertake a journey of more than a few hours because rowing takes a lot of effort. So in the long run the sailing time would be used. The pictures on ancient pottery invariably show oared vessels. But this is just because they were more dramatic. Sailing vessels were more common and oars were rarely used on those that had them. Archaeologists have rarely found oared vessels, and the fact that sailing vessels have been found far out to sea suggests that night navigation was fairly common even at the time of the Trojan war.

Question: Why Did Greeks Travel??

Answer: Initially Greeks traveled to find new and better homes. But early on they found the advantages of trade. Later some Greeks moved to help with Trade. Greeks traveled to be mercenaries. Greeks traveled to participate in sports events. Greeks traveled to consult oracles. Greeks traveled to find out the truth of reports as Herodotus states "I, Herodotus of Helicarnassus, am here setting forth my history, that time may not draw the color from what man has brought into being, nor those great and wonderful deeds, manifested by both Greeks and Barbarians, fail of their report, and, together with all this, the reason why they fought one another." Greeks also traveled both to teach and to learn. Greeks traveled to fight in wars.

Question: How long did it take to sail from Greece to Rome for trading? Which port cities were most often used between Greece and Italy?

One ancient sailing trip was taken by Telamachus and documented early in the Odyssey of Homer at the end of book III. His vessel sailed overnight from Ithaca to Pylos a distance of about 118 miles. If overnight is taken to be 11 hours then the rate of the vessel was 10.7 miles per hour.

Ancient Greek ships did not travel to Rome. Rather they went to Pithecusa (Ancient Ischia, near Naples) where their wares were unloaded and transferred to Etruscan vessels. The trip to Pithecusia would most likely begin at Corinth and proceed through the gulf of Corinth to the Ionian Sea up along the west coast of Greece. at Corcyra(Corfu) the ships would direct their prows to the open sea to the northwest. This trip over the open sea would be made a night so navigation could be made by the stars. A ship might have to wait a while for favorable winds and a clear night to make this journey. The ship then sailed around the heel of Italy to Tarentum or perhaps Croton. The vessel then headed for Rhegion on the toe of the boot of Italy. Finally the ship headed up the west coast of Italy toward Pithecusa. The total trip was about 870 miles involving some 87 hours of sailing time. Many stops were involved because the crew normally slept on the beach. Nine days might be a reasonable estimate for this journey at its best.

The speed of a sailing ship is a function of both the wind speed and its length. The speed of the vessel of Telemachus is about the top speed for a vessel of 50 feet. Since the ship had a crew of 20 this is a good estimate for its length. Warships could be larger and travel faster. Merchant ships could also be larger but probably would be slower. There is debate as to whether most ships were sailed or rowed. Rowing would increase the ships speed, but rowing could not be sustained for long. It seems most ships depended upon sails for long distances.

Question: How long did it take the Greeks to sail from Greece to Troy during the war?

Answer: The sailing distance from Argos to Troy is only about 210 miles. Under good conditions the sailing distance might be only be four days. One has to wonder why the Greek Army was so isolated at Troy if this were the case.

Question: When traveling by sea during a storm, would the sails be raised or lowered. If they would be lowered to help with stability, wouldn't the storms destroy the sails?

Answer: The customary practice is to lower sails partway during a storm. Typically a sail has reef strings so that it can be gathered at the spar to reduce the surface exposed to the wind. But in a storm running with the wind is dangerous and can bring the ship against a shore. A better practice is to head into the wind and tack. There is some question as to whether and ancient Greek ship could do this. Today this is done with triangular sails and the leading edge of the sail being the mast. An Arab dhow can do this but the leading edge is a spar. Some square sailed vessels during the time of Spanish exploration had special ropes that stabilized the leading edge of the sail and helped with this. The most likely situation in ancient Greece is that in the storm the sail would be stowed, the crew would be asked to row and the ship would be headed into the wind. The ancient Greeks knew that to be caught at sea in a storm was often a disaster. If the ship was within sight of land one option would be to pull up on shore. There was a sailing season with fewer storms. In spite of all this when the Greeks returned from Troy in their ships there was a fierce storm that drowned many of the warriors. And Menelaus was on one of the ships caught in the storm and his ship ran with the wind and was blown ashore in Egypt where he was stranded for 8 years.

Question: What sort of luggage was used by the Greeks? Baskets? Drawstring bags? some kind of sachel?

Answer: In ancient Greece leather and cloth bags are used. In the Odyssey Odysseus receives a bag from Aeolous, the god of the winds, this bag is translated as a wallet. Baskets were also used. But things were stored in an amphora when shipped over the water. The amphora is a jar made of clay with two handles and a pointed bottom. There are a number of other styles of jars that were used for other purposes. The hydra was used to carry water. Chests were also used. Danae was cast into the sea with her son Perseus in a wooden chest.

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