The Public Boats of Olbia: Warships or State Merchantmen?

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The "public boats", mentioned in the inscription IosPE I2, 32, found in Olbia, have been identified variously as warships or as state merchantmen. This statement is all the more important since it would imply that cities may have owned merchantmen. Nevertheless, it seemed to many scholars that ancient cities were unable to maintain commercial ships. Therefore, it was suggested at first that these could have been triereis, as the word, although used most often for merchantmen, is occasionally applied to fighting ships. However, Xenophon's recommendation to create a fleet of public merchantmen reveals that the existence of such boats was not an extravagant idea. Moreover, a close reading of the inscription IosPE I2, 32 shows that these were probably used to carry stones for the repair of the rampart. Yet triereis were not suitable to convey ashlars, as their hull was too narrow. Last but not least, the existence of is very well evidenced in 4th-century-CE Egypt. Thus, it was quite feasible for ancient maintain public boats.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-161
Number of pages13
JournalScripta Classica Israelica
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Israel Society for the Promotion of Classical Studies. All rights reserved.


  • Ancient maritime trade
  • Black sea
  • Ship
  • Stone conveyance
  • Trieres

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Classics
  • History
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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