NEWS

Ancient replica ship on display

ELEFSINA – The replica of a 2,500-year-old Greek warship – one of the most feared vessels in the ancient world – has been unveiled after undergoing extensive repairs for the August 13-29 Olympics. The wooden trireme, with three levels of oars and a bronze ram used to sink rival ships, was put on display at the private Elefsina Shipyards, near Athens, this week after an eight-month project to restore the vessel built in 1987. The trireme, 37 meters (121 feet) long and powered by 170 oarsmen, will carry the Olympic Flame to Athens’s main port of Piraeus two days before the start of the Olympics at the end of a Greek relay. That relay will begin when the flame lit at Ancient Olympia on March 25 returns from an unprecedented worldwide journey before returning to Greece. The international relay begins on June 4 in Australia and ends July 8 in Cyprus. «It was a major undertaking. All the wood had to be replaced, but we remained true to the original design,» said the project’s coordinator, Dimitris Tavoularis, an executive at Elefsis which funded the renovation. Sea trials for the renovated ship, which was handmade, will start next month. «It’s been totally renovated… It required a team of shipbuilders, designers and specialized carpenters,» he told AP. The trireme’s deadly speed and maneuverability helped Athens defeat the far larger Persian fleet at the 480 BC Battle of Salamis. «The ship was feared by its enemies… At the time it was made, it was a revolution in design,» Tavoularis said. Deputy Defense Minister Yiannis Lambropoulos, who attended Monday’s ceremony at the shipyard, described the repaired ship as a «great symbol of our ancient heritage» which will provide a highlight of the Olympic torch relay. British scholar John Morrison, who died in 2000, led the design of the replica. No ancient remains of triremes exist, forcing Morrison to glean clues from ancient literature and paintings and designs on vases and coins. The Greek navy funded the original project.