). One of the two extraordinary public services to which
wealthy Athenian citizens were liable (the other was the προεισφορά
): it was classed among the liturgies
), but the requirement of
it was as circumstances necessitated, and therefore it was not an ordinary
or periodically recurrent (ἐγκύκλιος
) liturgy. The object of it was to
provide for the maintenance (and in some degree for the original equipment)
of the ships of war belonging to the state. The person on whom this duty
fell was called a Trierarch (τριήραρχος
and it would appear that in early times he was captain of the ship which he
The office of the trierarchy passed through four distinct forms or stages;
and though in the remarks which follow it will be impossible to treat of
them separately in all respects, the historical sequence will on the whole
be preserved. The first stage was from the era of Themistocles to the
Sicilian Expedition: during this period each ship was provided for by a
single trierarch; the state was wealthy, and no difficulties seem to have
been felt in the satisfactory discharge of the office. The second stage was
from the Sicilian Expedition to [p. 2.889]
B.C. 358; two
trierarchs to a ship were now the rule; a diminution in the wealth both of
the state and of individuals was clearly the reason of this; the trierarchs
found that practically more was thrown on them (though we have no reason to
suppose an alteration in the nominal duties). From B.C. 358 to B.C. 340, the
system of symmories was introduced into the trierarchy, whereby the number
of trierarchs to a single ship was still further increased; and lastly, from
B.C. 340 to the close of Athenian independence, the double trierarchy again
became the rule, through a law carried by Demosthenes, though with what
modifications from the old form we do not exactly know; the symmories,
probably, were not altogether abolished.
I. Initial Form of Trierarchy
The beginning of the trierarchy in the full and proper sense of the word
dates from that large increase of the Athenian fleet which Themistocles
persuaded the Athenians to make with the produce of the Laurian silver
mines, very shortly before the invasion of Xerxes (Hdt. 7.144
). Before that time the naucraries
] had furnished a ship apiece to the commonwealth (i. e.
48 altogether in Solon's time, 50 after the reform of Cleisthenes); the
naucrarus, or head of the naucrary, would no doubt have a certain
responsibility for the ship's maintenance, and would thus be in a
position partly analogous to that of the trierarch afterwards; but the
measure of Themistocles, through its enlargement of the fleet, gave an
occasion for a large development of the individual services of rich men,
in which services the Trierarchy proper consisted. So great indeed was
the public enthusiasm at that era, that we find Cleinias, at the battle
of Artemisium, providing not only the entire equipment of the ship, and
the payment of the sailors, but even the ship itself of which he was the
captain (Hdt. 8.17
). But this was no part of
the ordinary duty of a trierarch; though individual donations of
triremes to the state are mentioned afterwards (Dem. c.
p. 566.161; c. Steph.
p. 1127.85); and the
passage in the Meidias
implies that such donations were
sometimes expected from the rich. (It has, however, been doubted whether
the donation of a ship, even in these cases, may not mean the donation
of the equipment merely.) Generally speaking, the state provided the
ship itself; the Council of Five Hundred (Βουλὴ
had the general duty of building ships (Dem.
p. 599.18); but Aeschines (c.
§ 19) speaks of the tribes being ordered
to build them.
In Herodotus (l.c.;
also 8.46, 93) the name trierarch
first occurs; in Thucydides (6.31
) there is the first statement of their
duties, as far as these are indicated by what was done in the Sicilian
Expedition. Unfortunately, there are in this passage two considerable
ambiguities. Thucydides says that the state furnished the “empty
vessel” (ναῦν κενήν
we then to understand that the state did not
furnish sail, ropes, and oars, but that these are included among the
) which the
trierarchs provided? It must appear very strange if this was so;
considering that in the Knights
of Aristophanes, written
only nine years before, it is spoken of as customary for the state to
give the sail (ἱστίον,
5.918): and in
the speech of Demosthenes de Cor. Trierarch.,
fifty-four years afterwards, it is said to be incumbent on the state to
provide the apparatus (τὰ σκεύη
) of a
ship (p. 1229), i. e. the “sailcloth, tow, and ropes”
(ὀθόνια καὶ στυππεῖα καὶ
Dem. c. Euerg. et Mnesib.
1145.20). Can the state possibly have omitted to provide these things in
the most splendidly-furnished expedition that ever issued from the
Piraeus? Or, if all these were left to the trierarch, would Thucydides
have thought it worth while to intimate specially that the trierarchs
provided so small a matter as the figure-heads (σημεῖα
)? Hardly; and we must therefore conclude that the
“empty ship” includes the largest points of the
equipment, while the trierarchs introduced such ornaments and
improvements as were not of absolute necessity. (In Thuc. 6.8
also, the παρασκευὴ
seems to be mentioned as something furnished by
Again, while Thucydides tells us clearly that the state paid the rowers,
and that the trierarchs gave ad ditional
merely to the rowers on the upper bench (θρανῖται
), who had the hardest work; it is not quite clear
whether the state or the trierarchs paid the wages of the ὑπηρεσία
(i. e. the servants and petty
officers on board). A difference of reading complicates the question;
but as Thucydides distinctly says that the trierarchs gave ad ditional
) to the ὑπηρεσία,
it seems implied that the state was the principal
paymaster; and it is natural to suppose this to have been so (and it is
confirmed by Thuc. 3.17
). So far then the
work of the trierarch was simply that of extending, for the sake of
greater efficiency, the work done by the state; and this part of a
trierarch's work was more or less voluntary. But to launch the ship from
the harbour, to maintain it in full efficiency and restore it
unimpaired, was a trierarch's absolute duty; an obligation expressed in
the inscriptions quoted by Boeckh (See-Urkunden,
by the phrase, δεῖ τὴν ναῦν δόκιμον καὶ
This obligation as a rule ceased
when a trierarch had held his office for a year; after which time, if
his ship was still wanted for foreign service, so that he could not
bring it back to the Piraeus, a successor would be sent out to him; and
such an arrival was eagerly expected by the sailors, for a new trierarch
brought fresh donations (Dem. c. Polycl.
p. 1211.15). A
trierarchy also was held to be terminated if the general furnished no
pay to the sailors, or if the ship put into the Piraeus (it being then
impossible to keep the sailors together); but the practice was not
always consistent on these points (Dem. c. Polycl.
1209, 1210, § § 11-13; Isocr. c.
§ 60). On the other hand, a trierarch who
through any accident was obliged to serve more than his year could
charge the extra expense (ἐπιτριηράρχημα
) on his successor, and bring an action to
recover it if necessary (Dem. c. Polycl.
The maximum number of ships of war was reached during the first form of
the trierarchy, and the trierarchs (each bound to maintain an entire
ship) numbered then 400, according to the treatise on the Athenian
Republic ascribed to Xenophon (which probably was written in the first
part of the Peloponnesian war). The [p. 2.890]Anabasis
(7.1, 27) confirms this number; and the
calculation in Thucydides bears this out pretty nearly (comparing 2.24
with 3.17). Strabo (ix. p.395
says that there were originally 400 places for triremes in the
II. The second form of trierarchy.
The second form
of the trierarchy, in which two
persons, called Syntrierarchs (συντριήραρχοι
), shared the office, probably began after the
failure of the Sicilian Expedition; but the first actual mention of it
) is directly after the battle of
Aegospotami. The syntrierarchy mentioned in Lysias, c.
§ 24, took place some time during the eight
years which began B.C. 409. but at what exact date is uncertain. From
this period onwards we have frequent mention of the trierarchy in the
Attic orators; whose testimony, though valuable, is always liable to
deduction on personal grounds. Thus, when the speaker in Isocrates (l.c.
) boasts that he and his brother paid the
wages of the rowers in the ship of which they were joint trierarchs, the
statement, though perfectly probable, has not the same certainty as if
given to us by an impartial historian. Much more definitely can the
statement in Dem. c. Meid.
p. 564.154, be challenged;
where it is alleged that in the times of the syntrierarchy, “we,
the trierarchs, had ourselves to provide crews for our
vessels” (τὰς ναῦς ἐπληρούμεθ᾽
). No doubt this sometimes happened; but the whole
course of the speech against Polycles by the same orator (pp. 1208 sqq.
) shows that, according to law, the state
provided and paid the crews; and the same is implied in the passage of
Isocrates just referred to. A careful examination will also show that in
the second, as in the first, form of the trierarchy, the state was
supposed to pay the ὑπηρεσία
and petty officers). It is true that Apollodorus (Dem. de Cor.
p. 1229.6) says that he paid money to these
himself; but whether as their full wages or as extra pay is not stated:
whereas of his rivals he says, “They have not hired any ὑπηρεσία,
though they claim to have had
more than I;” from which the inference is plain that the
state gave the hire. In affirming, however, the legal obligation of the
state at this period (as in the first period) to pay the wages of crew
and servants, it must be remembered that this obligation was by no means
always properly discharged. (Cf. the orations of Demosthenes
against Polycles, de Coronâ Trierarchiae,
and against Euergus and Mnesibulus
--the last of which was
delivered at the beginning of the third
The syntrierarchy, during the period in which it prevailed, did not
entirely supersede the older and single form. Numerous instances of
single trierarchies occur between 411 and 358 B.C.; and in two passages of Isaeus (Dicaeog.
§ 54; Apollod.
§ 67) referring to this
period, the single and double trierarchy are mentioned as
contemporaneous. Apollodorus was sole trierarch (Dem. c.
) so late as B.C. 361. In the case of a syntrierarchy,
the two trierarchs commanded their vessel in turn, six months each (Id.
p. 1219), according as they agreed between themselves. Sometimes,
however, a trierarch, or pair of syntrierarchs, would let out the whole
duties of the office to a contractor. This (μισθῶσαι τὴν τριηρατχίαν
) was a manifest and great
abuse; the work was done inefficiently, and (what was worse) the
contractors at times made use of their position, and reimbursed
themselves against losses, by privateering on their own account, which
led to reprisals on the part of the injured against Athens herself (SYLAE; Dem. de Cor. Trierarch.
p. 1231.13). Such misdoings seem to have been imperfectly reported at
Athens, and popular indignation was but little aroused by them; but when
a defeat of the Athenian navy took place on one occasion, the trierarchs
who had let their office out in this way were tried for their lives, as
having deserted their post (Dem. ib. p. 1230). The capital sentence,
however, was not inflicted, and it is even doubtful if they were
punished at all. (See also notices of the practice of letting out the
trierarchy in Dem. c. Meid.
pp. 540, 564; the latter case
falling under the system of symmories.)
III. Third form of trierarchy.
In B.C. 358, the third form of the trierarchy
began. The attempt of the Thebans upon Euboea in that year occasioned a
great need of ships, which were at first supplied by voluntary effort
under the urgent persuasion of Timotheus (Dem. de
p. 108.30); but as a consequence of this, Periander
(Dem. c. Euerg. et Mnesib.
p. 1145.20) introduced in the
same year a law, whereby the symmories, already in use for the war-tax,
were adapted under altered form to the trierarchy. These trierarchical
symmories were the famous 1200, arranged in twenty symmories of 60
persons each (for further information as to whom, and as to their exact
connexion with the war-tax symmories, see SYMMORIA
). We find them already working in the
archonship of Agathocles, 357 B.C. (Dem. c. Euerg. et
p. 1152.44); though the syntrierarchy (as appears from
this very speech) had not then been wholly disused, and may have
continued some time longer.
of the law of Periander was
doubtless to increase the efficiency of the navy, by increasing the
amount of property applicable to the purposes of the trierarchy (for it
has been said above that there were only 400 trierarchs in the first
form of the office, and doubtless there were not many more during the
syntrierarchy). But the system was not properly managed; and the rich
men soon found means to use it, not for the regulation of public
burdens, but as a means of escaping from them. What was clearly
necessary for its satisfactory working was that, when any number of
joint trierarchs had the management of a ship, there should be a due
admixture of rich and poor among them; and that the poor should not be
too frequently and too largely called upon. But both these evils
happened; and Demosthenes in his speech de Symmoriis
(delivered, or perhaps only written, B.C. 354) in vain tried to
introduce a better principle. He would have allowed, on occasions, a
body of twelve to join in the office; but only under proper restrictions
pp. 182, 183, § § 16-21).
Hyperides (ap. Harpocrat. συμμορία
complained that five or six wealthy men used to join in a trierarchy
(the inscriptions quoted by Boeckh in the See-Urkunden
mention three, five, six, and seven joint trierarchs); and lastly a law
was passed allowing sixteen persons to join together for the purpose
(Dem. de Cor.
pp. 260, 261, §
§ 102-105). [p. 2.891]
It has indeed been
supposed, and is possible, that this was the very law of Periander; yet
we can hardly think that the Athenians deliberately contemplated sixteen
trierarchs to a ship as an ordinary arrangement; and the number sixteen
does not specially fit in with symmories of sixty persons each, and was
probably introduced on some subsequent occasion. Besides, the evidence
is rather that the evil was an increasing one. Demosthenes (de Cor.
l.c.) describes the final result in
these terms: “I saw your navy going to ruin, and the rich earning
immunity from other liturgies on the score of trifling expenditure
in this, and persons of moderate income losing their property, and
the city missing the opportunities of action,” &c.
The group of citizens who joined in maintaining a single trireme was
and the individual
are perfectly distinct terms, but the members
of a συντέλεια
were always members of
the same συμμορία.
If the arrangement
proposed in Dem. de Symm. p.
183.20, had been carried
out, which it never was, a συντέλεια
would have been a fraction of a συμμορία,
and the words of Demosthenes imply that it might
then have been called a small
Though the law of Periander practically diminished the burdens of the
wealthy, reasons have been given above for thinking that it did not
introduce that particular alleviation which is indicated in Dem.
p. 564.154; namely, by taking away the duty
of paying the crews from the trierarchs and putting it on the state. In
all times the theory was probably the same on this point,--namely, state
payment; but in practice the state was often behindhand; so that an
orator, by pressing the practice on one side, and the theory on the
other, might represent the matter pretty much as he chose.
IV. Fourth Form.
At last, in B.C. 340, Demosthenes was appointed superintendent of the
navy (ἐπιστάτης τοῦ ναυτικοῦ
carried a trenchant reform, which may be called the fourth form of the trierarchy.
What however this was, we do
not exactly know; for the law which is given in Dem. de Cor.
p. 262.106 (under the heading κατάλογος
), is no longer regarded as
genuine, and the references to it in the orators are not quite easy to
reconcile with each other. We must, however, conclude from Dem. de Cor.
p. 261.104, that it did to a certain
extent restore the syntrierarchy. Hyperides (ap. Harpocrat. συμμορία
) describes it simply in this way:
“When Demosthenes saw this, he proposed laws that the 300
should be trierarchs, and the trierarchies have become
burdensome” (νόμους ἔθηκε τοὺς
τριακοσίους τριηραρχεῖν, καὶ βαρεῖαι γεγόνασιν αἱ
). Aeschines (c. Ctesiph.
§ 222) tells us that the effect of the law was to reduce the
number of ships in the Athenian navy by 65 (apparently from 365 to 300):
this, of course, is the representation of an enemy. If 300 ships were
needed for service, and two trierarchs were appointed for each, there
would be 600 altogether, which is not consistent with what Hyperides
says. But we must conclude that as a general rule (in spite of Thuc. 2.24
) ships not actually employed in
service had no trierarchs; and we have no mention at this period of
Athenian history of any fleet numbering so many as 150 ships: thus the
statement of Hyperides may be practically true, or very nearly so.
Whatever the nature of the law, we have reason to believe that its
effect was successful; not perhaps so much from the praises which
Demosthenes bestows on it, as from the failure of his enemies
) and Deinarchus (c.
§ 7) to say any real harm of it. The words of
Demosthenes (de Cor.
p. 262) are, however,
worth referring to: he tells us that during the whole war carried on
after the law was in force, no trierarch implored the aid of the people
), or took
refuge in the temple of Artemis at Munychia, or was put into prison by
the persons whose duty it was to despatch the fleet (οἱ ἀποστολεῖς
), nor was any trireme lost
at sea, or lying idle in the docks for want of stores and tackle, as
under the old system, when the service (τὸ
) fell to the poor. It should be observed that
Demosthenes (de Cor.
p. 329.311) says that
Aeschines was bribed by the leaders of the symmories to nullify the law;
but these accusations of the orators against each other must not be
taken too seriously.
V. General observations.
The inconveniences to which a trierarch was liable in case of inefficient
performance of his duties will be seen from the last paragraph; but a
reward also (i. e. a crown) was sometimes given to the most efficient,
as appears from the speech on the Crown of the
The trierarchs were ὑπεύθυνοι
(Dem. c. Polycl.
or liable to give an account of the public property entrusted to them,
and the public money which on occasions they had to disburse (Dem.
de Cor. Trier.
p. 1231): though Aeschines, forgetful
of these facts, represents them as rendering account of their own
private funds (c. Ctesiph.
Triremes were assigned by lot to the different trierarchs, as we learn
from the epithet ἀνεπικλήρωτοι
attached to some of the ships in the Athenian navy list (see Boeckh,
). The sacred triremes, the Paralus and
the Salamis, had special treasurers (Tamias
) appointed to
them (Pollux, 8.116); and on the authority of Ulpian (ad
Dem. c. Meid.
p. 686) it has been
believed that the state acted as trierarch for each of them; but in the
inscriptions quoted by Boeckh no difference is made between the
trierarchs of the Paralus and of other vessels
p. 169). Some special expenses might no
doubt be paid by the state in these cases.
The expenses of the trierarchy seem to have varied from about 40 minae
(Dem. c. Meid.
pp. 539, 540, § § 77-80)
to a talent (Dem. c. Meid.
p. 564.154). A syntrierarchy
would cost half this sum. Undoubtedly, therefore, the assertion of
Isaeus (de Dicaeog. hered.
§ 10). that men had
been trierarchs (or syntrierarchs) whose property was not more than 80
minae, was an exaggeration. Indeed, as a property of three talents was
the minimum which rendered a citizen liable to the performance of a
liturgy (Dem. c. Aphob.
sub fin.), it is absurd to suppose that the
trierarchy,. the most burdensome of all, would be undertaken for a less
sum. (Indeed, Boeckh says, “I am aware of no instance of liability
arising from a property of less value than 500 minae.” )
VI. On the exemptions from the Trierarchy.
By an ancient law, in force B.C. 355, no person, except the nine archons,
could claim exemption [p. 2.892]
from the trierarchy, who
was of sufficient wealth to perform it, not even the descendants of
Harmodius and Aristogeiton. [From Isaeus, de Apoll.
§ 67, it appears that in the time of the single
trierarchy no person could be compelled to serve a second
time within two years after a former service (δύο ἔτη διαλιπών
). The trierarchy was a
ground of exemption from the other liturgies, any of which indeed gave
an exemption from all the rest during the year next following that of
its service: Dem. c. Leptin.
pp. 459, 464, §
§ 8, 24.]
Yet from other passages it appears that exemptions from the duty of the
trierarchy were allowed in cases of which the above law takes no
cognisance. Demosthenes (de Symm
p. 182.14) tells us that
a person was exempt if ἀδύνατος,
incapable through sudden loss of wealth; so also were “wards,
heiresses, orphans, cleruchi, and partnerships (κοινωνικά
）” Of course, an heiress
could only claim exemption while unmarried. Wards were free from all
liturgies, during their minority, and for a year after their δοκιμασία
908). By κληροῦχοι
meant colonists, who, while absent by command of the state, could not
perform a trierarchy. The meaning of partnerships (κοινωνικὰ
) is doubtful, but probably it means the
property of joint tenants, as brothers or coheirs, which had not yet
been apportioned to them (Pollux, 8.184).
VII. On the legal proceedings connected with the Trierarchy.
These were either between individual trierarchs, or between trierarchs
and the state, and therefore in the form of a Diadicasia.
They generally arose from a trierarch not delivering up his ship and her
rigging in proper order, either to his successor or to the state. If he
alleged that the loss or damage of either happened from a storm, he was
said σκήψασθαι κατὰ χειμῶνα
Vessels or furniture on which a trial of this
kind had been held, were said to be διαδεδικασμένα.
The presidency of the courts which tried matters of this sort was vested
in the strategi, and sometimes in the superintendents of the dockyard,
in conjunction with the ἀποστολεῖς.
The senate also appears to have had a judicial power in these matters:
e. g. we meet in various inscriptions with the phrase οἵδε τῶν τριηράρχων, ὧν ἐδίπλωσεν ἡ βουλὴ
Boeckh conjectures that the trierarchs of
whom this is said had returned their ships in such a condition that the
state might have called upon them to put them in thorough repair, or to
rebuild them, at a cost for an ordinary trireme of 5,000 drachmae.
Supposing that they were not released from this liability by any decree
of a court of justice, and that the rebuilding was not completed, he
conceives that it must have been competent (in a clear and flagrant
case) for the senate to have inflicted upon them the penalty of twice
5,000 drachmae, the technical phrase for which was “doubling the
The phrase ὠμολόγησεν τριήρη καινὴν
which occurs in inscriptions, does not apply
to an undertaking for giving a new trireme, but merely for putting one
in a complete state of repair.
The phrase φαίνειν πλοῖον
p. 941.51), to lay an information against
a vessel, is used not of a public ship, but of a private vessel, engaged
perhaps in smuggling or privateering. [PHASIS
The articles LEITURGIA
numerous references to the subject of this article.
(Cf. Boeckh's Staatshaushaltung d. Athener
Gilbert's Griech. Staatsalt.;
Kennedy's translation of the orations of Demosthenes, Appendix.)