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Fitness has fallen since the days of Ancient Greece

a trireme to carry out this command. The next day, the assembly relented and sent a second trireme to halt the massacre. According to the records of Thucydides, this second trireme would have made the journey in about 24 hours, rowing in shifts and eating while they rowed, so the ship could travel non-stop.

Says Dr Rossiter: "From these details we can estimate the average sustainable ship speeds. Then, using the reconstruction we measured the metabolic demands of the human engine required to sustain these speeds. If the historians are correct, we would struggle to find enough people at that level of fitness today to power the ships at those speeds."

Triremes were a huge technological advance, allowing Athens to dominate the seas. They had a strong keel, taken forward into a huge spike covered in bronze plates, which meant they could ram and hole enemy ships -- a new technique in naval warfare. To ensure sufficient impact to cause damage, the triremes had to reach great speeds -- so were designed with more than three times more rowers than earlier warships. By placing the rowers on three tiers, the ship could remain a manoeuvrable length and weight.

The trireme used in Dr Rossiter's research, Olympias, was built in the 1980s and was used to carry the Olympic flame to Piraeus, the port near Athens, at the start of the last Olympic Games. It is now housed in a museum in Piraeus.
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Source:University of Leeds


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