Hēraklēs and the Sea

Heracles’ tenth labor Figure 1: Hēraklēs sails across the sea in the cup-boat of the sun-god Helios. The hero wears a lion-skin cape and holds a club and bow in his hands.[1] During his numerous and formidable adventures Hēraklēs had to face the sea and to brave storms. In this post we are exploring some of Hēraklēs’ maritime journeys. He assembled large fleets for distant expeditions. While on one of… Read more

The improvised craft

The travelogue of the Homeric Odyssey can be split into four distinctive parts which may be envisaged as follows: the passage through the Aegean Sea; the Cyclopeia, which takes place in the Mare Lybicum off the northern coast of Africa; the blockages to his return by the Sirens, Scylla, Charybdis, Hēlios Hyperíōn and Kalypsō; and finally the period on Scheria and the return to Ithaca. During this time Odysseus is… Read more

The Idealized Ship | Part 2: Huge, hollow and swallowing

In this section we will consider the ships that are described as megakētēs [μεγακήτης], usually translated as huge, hollow, and gaping. The word is made up of two parts, mega [μέγα-, “great”], and an adjective form of kētos [κῆτος, “any sea-monster”]. A related word is kētōeis [κητώεις], which means “full of hollows”. In a ship’s geometry the epithet describes the threatening form of the forefoot [steira] of the ancient Greek… Read more

The Idealized Ship | Part 1: Curved, crowned, and garlanded

Both the Iliad and the Odyssey play a key role in our understanding of the ancient Greek ship, in her physical and her metonymic appearance. In this section we will consider the epithet korōnis [κορωνίς] that describes the form of the ancient Greek ship. The word in Greek that we translate as ‘form’ is ideā [ἰδέα]. There is also the word eidos [εἶδος]. In Plato there is no real difference… Read more

The Classic Ship | Part 3: The Battle of Salamis

In the last days of September of the year 480 BCE, King Xerxes proceeded to Athens, after having had his victory at Thermopylae. Also his naval forces moved southward for the final stroke. Among the Persian naval contingent were 120 triremes from Thrace, 100 ships from Ionia, 60 ships from Aeolia including Lesbos and Samos, and an unspecified number of ships from the Greek islands, including the Cyclades, and lastly,… Read more