Sea Shanties of the Ancients

Interesting… And yes, I researched on sea shanties too. On French, especially…

Nicholas C. Rossis

When I was at school, we learned of Ri-Pa-Pe – the rhythmic chant of Athenian oarsmen pulling a trireme’s 180 oars. Contrary to what you might think, triremes were manned not by slaves but by some 200 free men from all social strata. Indeed, for a 5th-century BC Athenian, the ships were an extension of their democratic beliefs as rich and poor rowed alongside each other. This served the larger civic interest of acculturating thousands as they worked together in cramped conditions and under dire circumstances. In the few emergency cases where slaves were used to crew ships, these were deliberately set free, usually before being employed.

The trireme Olympias | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's book
Side view of Athenian Trireme “OLYMPIAS”, a modern replica of a trireme, moored at Marina Zeas in Piraeus, Greece

To get back to the steady ri-pa-pe rhythm, it allowed triremes to reach an impressive maximum speed of 8 knots. Modern replicas powered by…

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