When it comes to sea power during the classical era, the ship that took on the role that the aircraft carrier takes today would be the trireme. The trireme was a large warship that consisted of three rows of oars underneath the deck and a sail on top. Like many other classic ships, the design enabled the trireme to sail even in periods of no wind, a flaw possessed by the faster sailing ships used during the Age of Exploration. Because no ancient sailing manuals have survived from the Classical era, exactly how the triremes would be crewed was the guesswork of archaeologists. The oldest known example of a trireme was a Carthaginian wreck found in Northwestern Sicily.
Until the invention of the aircraft carrier in the twentieth century, naval combat consisted largely of vessels going alongside each other and exchanging fire. Ramming the opposing ship and piercing a hole in the hole below the waterline of an opposing vessel were common tactics. The Greeks designed their version of trireme so that the vessel would have the speed and stability necessary to ram an enemy vessel.
The large size of the trireme enabled the Athenians to bring in more of the wheat they preferred from the Ukraine and to halt piracy in the Mediterranean. The Greeks were not the only classical power to use triremes. Both the Phonecians and the Romans were known for using this class of warship. The original design of the trireme was one man per oar and three rows of oars manned by 170 rowers. In the later Roman Empire a version with less armor and fewer rowers resulted in a more maneuverable version of the trireme that would develop into the medieval dromon.
The exact origin of the trireme is not known. The earliest historical mention of the ship occurs in the 5th Century BCE and is found in the passages of Herodutus. Herodotus mentions an Egyptian pharoh constructing triremes for his navy, but it is likely at the time the Greek historian was writing the term had been applied to many types of warships.
As boarding tactics were an essential part of naval during the classical period, the trireme would carry a complement of marines. Archaeologists estimate that the number of a marines a trireme carried often numbered somewhere from ten two twenty marines. Variants of the trireme would remain popular until the Renaissance when sailing ships that did not require oars as a method of propulsion were developed.