If you are not an expert historian, you might start with a brief historical overview of ancient seafaring.
If you are interested in wind action on ships, in sailing rigs, in sailing the mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea, or in definitions of some ancient Greek marine terms, have a look at “Sailing techniques” hereafter.
If you are interested in ancient trade networks and intermodal hubs, have a look at “Maritime trade” hereafter.
We badly miss pictures of ancient ships and we have to rely solely on reliefs, mosaics and ceramics and on modern artwork based on what we think we understand about ancient ships. A number of wrecks of merchant ships have been found, but very few ancient texts to describe them (one noteworthy exception: the Isis, by Lucian of Samosate). The reverse is true for war ships as only one wreck was found so far (the Marsala Punic ship, found in 1969), and some bronze rams described by Murray, including the 465 kg Athlit ram found in 1980. An explanation may be that merchant ships sunk with their cargo so that at least the bottom of the ship was preserved, while war ships were destroyed and their wooden structure was scattered around, except the rams.
One of the best modern “images” is the reconstruction of an Athenian Trireme at scale one in the Olympias Project of J.S. Morrison, J.F. Coates et N.B. Rankov between 1987 and 1994. The project still survives on internet thanks to the “Trireme Trust“.
The Kyrenia II experiment (1986-87) reproducing a small 30 ton merchant freighter of 14.5 x 4.5 m showed that she could resist a Force 9-10 Bft storm, see the Kyrenia Restoration Program.
This page also provides 3 tables :
- known ancient maxi-ships
- other ancient ships
- pm: the Maltese galley