Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Role of the Physical Environment in Ancient Greek Seafaring...

...Is actually the name of a book I just finished by Jamie Morton. I'm not sure it was worth $80 (!) but I'm still happy I got it, as I know nothing about the workings of the Mediterranean and need to better understand the very LARGE role ships played in the lives of Ancient Greeks (I'm currently trying to write the Battle of Salamis). Despite being annoyingly repetitive and hard to follow at times (I'm not familiar with oceanography and meteorology ) I got some great information out of the book and hope to use it in my novel.

Here's a brief synopsis for anyone who's interested.

"In this study of the world of ancient Greek mariners, the relationship between the natural environment and the techniques and technology of seafaring is focused upon.
An initial description of the geology, oceanography and meteorology of Greece and the Mediterranean, is followed by discussion of the resulting sailing conditions, such as physical hazards, sea conditions, winds and availability of shelter, and environmental factors in sailing routes, sailing directions, and navigational techniques. Appendices discuss winter and night sailing, ship design, weather prediction, and related areas of socio-maritime life, such as settlement, religion, and warfare.
Wide-ranging sources and illustrations are used to demonstrate both how the environment shaped many of the problems and constraints of seafaring, and also that Greek mariners' understanding of the environment was instrumental in their development of a highly successful seafaring tradition."


Wynn Bexton said...

It's also important to 'be there'. To be in that area an visualize where the fleets were coming in from and how the battle went is quite fascinating. And the way the ships were built, handled etc. That sounds like quite an excellent book for a 'learning tool'. I went to the ship museum in Bodrum Turkey a couple of years ago. They have reconstructions there and also models set up of the various ships through the centuries. It was really very informative.

Meghan said...

I actually visited Piraeus while I was in Athens, but it was disappointing--dirty and unsafe. I walked around the harbor for a bit to get an idea of how things might have been in Themistokles' time (or just to get the lay of the land) but I was so scared I pretty much just ate a meal and left. :(

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moellernr1 said...

Hi! I realise that my comment is a somewhat late addition to your post. However, just want to inform you that the Piraeus in actual fact contains a wealth of information regarding the ancient battles and harbours, but also about the actual ships. I am a Danish Classical Archaeologist working in the Piraeus, and our project has been excavating the harbours for the last ten years (www.zeaharbourproject.dk). We always welcome everyone for a tour of the harbours, as well as provide lectures for professionals as well as people simply interested in the ancient world. There are two very nice museums (one archaeological and one naval) and several archaeological sites in the Piraeus where the ancient past can be viewed. Also, where the ancient Harbour of Phaleron once was (in all probability anyway), today you will find a third relevant museum containing, among other things, a famous/infamous reconstruction of the elusive, ancient trireme (called the Olympias), the main warship during the battle of salamis (and for many years after!). While Piraeus might not be as visibly pleasing as Athens, it is not a tourist trap either. If one knows where to go, the city has lots to offer. It is neither dirty or unsafe (in actual fact, the main centre of Piraeus is more safe than at Athens). The idea that one should be scared seems very odd to me, having given tours to hundreds of people, young and old, rich and poor, and no one ever complained or felt unsafe (or dirty!). Next time, drop by the Zea Harbour Project, and we will show you the real Piraeus! ;-)