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Wanted: 170 short galley slaves -- and a flutist

A retired professor of classics from Cambridge University intends to build a trireme, the elegant vessel used by Greece to defeat the Persian Navy in the battle of Salamis in 480 BC.

Prof. John Morrison's project, in which he will be joined by a former Ministry of Defense architect and the Greek National Maritime Museum, is intended to produce a ship 115 feet long that will be propelled by a crew of 170 oarsmen.

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He hopes it will be sailing the Aegean Sea two years from now.

Professor Morrison has written a standard classics textbook on the oared vessels of ancient Greece. He has developed his own ideas on what a trireme looked like.

A few ancient drawings exist, together with references in classical literature, but no actual design has been handed down from antiquity.

So Morrison had to create a mental picture of a trireme, based on fragmentary classical knowledge. The design he has come up with shows oarsmen ranged in three banks, with a steersman at the stern and a bronze ram on the bow.

The project will cost about (STR)250,000, ($425,000) and Morrison is hopeful that Greek ship owners with an interest in classical times will contribute.

There is much mystery about how triremes performed. They are said to have moved through the water quickly and were apparently highly maneuverable compared with other ships of the classical period.

By building one, Morrison and his associates hope to be able to determine the seagoing characteristics of the trireme.

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He faces one problem - finding 170 oarsmen small enough to fit into a trireme. The tall tales of antiquity were not matched by the stature of the participants, most of whom were of only middling height by modern standards.

But there is a star role for somebody to play when Morrison's trireme gets under way. Ancient oarsmen bent their backs to the tune of a flute, and Morrison wants somebody to provide the music.

He would also like people interested in classical times to provide funds to help make his dream come true.

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