Ancient Greek Naval Bases Finally Found in Athens

ship shed drawing

Marine archaeologist Bjørn Lovén from the University of Copenhagen, along with a team of Greek colleagues, discovered the remains of an ancient Athens naval base estimated to be about 2,500 years old. The base, which was one of the Ancient World's largest structures, played a crucial role in the defense of Ancient Greece.

ancient Athens naval base
Ancient Athens naval base

 The team located the remains of six ship sheds, used to protect vessels from shipworm and from drying when they weren’t out at sea.

 With its massive harbour fortifications and ship-sheds designed to hold hundreds of war ships, the Piraeus Harbour naval base would have made for an impressive sight back in 480 BCE. Today, the remains of the naval base lie hidden under the water of the Mounichia fishing and yachting harbour, which is why it has taken archaeologist Bjørn Lovén and his team a long time to discover it.

On the University of Copenhagan’s website, Lovén said the team used pottery carbon-14 dating on a piece of wood and dates the sheds to around 520-480 B.C.

The sheds are thought to have housed ships that were used to fight Persian invaders during the Battle of Salamis, which took place in 480 B.C. between an alliance of Greek city-states under Themistocles, and King Xerxes' Persian Empire.

Although the Greeks were outnumbered, they won the battle, which took place in the straits between the Greek mainland and the island of Salamis.

Ancient naval base shed

"This means that these sheds probably housed the ships which were deployed to fight the Persian invasion forces during the famous Battle of Salamis 480 BCE. This naval battle was a pivotal event in Greek history; it is difficult to predict what would have happened if the Greek fleet had lost at Salamis, but it is clear that a Persian victory would have had immense consequences for subsequent cultural and social developments in Europe. The victory at Salamis rightly echoes through history and awakens awe and inspiration around the world today," he said.

  “The victory at Salamis rightly echoes through history and awakens awe and inspiration around the world today,” adds Lovén.

The discovery of the naval base was part of the Zea Harbour Project, a major excavation of the Athenian naval facilities in Piraeus carried out between 2001-2012.

*Images from the University of Copenhagen website-

GCT Team

This article was researched and written by a GCT team member.

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