How Were Ships Built in Ancient Greece?

Ships have been an integral part of human civilization since ancient times. From the Egyptians to the Greeks, every civilization had its unique way of building ships. In this article, we will delve into how ships were built in Ancient Greece.


The Greeks were among the first to develop a powerful navy, which was instrumental in spreading their culture and influence around the Mediterranean. From fishing boats to warships, the Greeks built various types of vessels, each with its unique design and purpose.

The Shipbuilding Process

The shipbuilding process in Ancient Greece was a complex and time-consuming task. It involved several stages, from selecting the right wood to launching the ship into the water.

Selection of Wood

The first step in building a ship was selecting the right wood. The Greeks preferred using timber from pine or cedar trees for their ships’ construction. The wood had to be strong yet flexible enough to withstand harsh weather conditions.

Cutting and Shaping

Once the wood was selected, it was cut into planks and shaped according to the ship’s design using axes, saws, chisels, and other hand tools.

Joining Planks

The planks were then joined together using wooden pegs or metal nails. The Greeks did not use any glue or caulking material between planks as they believed it would weaken the structure’s integrity.

Addition of Ribs and Frames

After joining all planks together, ribs and frames were added to provide additional support to the structure. These were made from oak or other hardwood trees that were stronger than pine or cedar.

Covering with Animal Hides

Once all frames were added, animal hides were used to cover gaps between planks as well as provide an additional layer of protection against water. This was particularly useful for warships as it prevented enemy soldiers from climbing the ship’s hull.

Finishing Touches

Finally, the ship was painted with tar or pitch to protect it from rotting and weathering. The mast, sails, and rigging were added to complete the ship’s design.


Shipbuilding was a complex and time-consuming process in Ancient Greece. However, the Greeks’ mastery in shipbuilding enabled them to create some of the most advanced vessels of their time. From fishing boats to warships, each vessel had its unique design and purpose and played an essential role in shaping Greek civilization.