After climbing the medieval steps that ascend from the entrance to the archaeological site at Lindos, it is worth stopping at the first level where the magnificent carving of a Rhodian warship bears witness to the island’s maritime heritage. Although more recent than the Trojan Wars – dated around 180 BC – this relief of the stern of a trireme is believed to be the work of the sculptor Pythokritos and formed part of the base to a statue, which an inscription on the ship’s side tells us was of Admiral Agesander, son of Mikion.
Staring at the graceful, swanlike neck of the aft quarters of this galley it is easy to be transported back to the Peloponnesian War of the 5th Century BC where, as members of the Delian Confederation, Rhodes supplied ships for the Athenian fleet, before swapping allegiances to the victorious Spartans not long before their victory. Three tiers of oarsmen numbering some 160 could propel such ships more than 60 miles a day. They were used for ramming the enemy or transporting troops and supplies for land battle. In the true spirit of Athenian democracy of the time, they were not crewed by slaves, but by an assortment of free men either fulfilling their military service or paid hands. The ships would only travel by day and were of light enough construction to be beached by the crew overnight.