The Trireme is an Iron Age upgrade of the War Galley, and is one of the strongest naval vessels featured in Age of Empires. Instead of firing arrows like the War Galley, it fires a large spear similar to a Ballista.
Triremes are known for their fast speed and good rate of fire, making them a deadly force to be reckoned with. Under most circumstances, developing Triremes is a must when it comes to naval combat. Players and computers that have the ability to produce them can unleash powerful assaults on enemy fortresses in a matter of minutes. Whether a player possesses triremes can mean the difference between victory and defeat. Players who select civilizations with bonuses suited for these ships can construct a powerful navy that can tear down any fortified structure, giving them an edge in naval combat.
Ancient ship designers tried numerous tricks to get more power for warships, including putting more men on single oars. The most successful was a trireme, three tiers of single rowers per side. This ship provided resonable maneuverability and speed. It appeared around 600 B.C. and made up the bulk of Mediterranean navies for several hundred years after 500 B.C.
—Age of Empires manual
The first true warships were built to ram enemy ships. The first civilization to build these kinds of ships were thought to be the Greeks, who copied the overall design of the ship from the Phoenicians. This ship developed by the Greeks was known as the Trireme. The rams mounted at the front of the Trireme are usually made of iron and other metals. Once the enemy ship is rammed, a large gap would appear in its hull, causing it to sink within a matter of minutes. Early warships were almost oar-powered torpedoes, consisting of a light, floating hull manned by oarsmen. A sail, if present, was used only in transit, not in battle. As technology progressed, the development of flaming arrows gradually replaced the ram, as it was more effective and could eliminate enemy ships from a greater range and distance.