Battle of Salamis
Overview
 
The Battle of Salamis was fought between an Alliance of Greek
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

 city-state
City-state
A city-state is an independent or autonomous entity whose territory consists of a city which is not administered as a part of another local government.-Historical city-states:...

s and the Persian Empire in September 480 BCE, in the strait
Strait
A strait or straits is a narrow, typically navigable channel of water that connects two larger, navigable bodies of water. It most commonly refers to a channel of water that lies between two land masses, but it may also refer to a navigable channel through a body of water that is otherwise not...

s between the mainland and Salamis
Salamis Island
Salamis , is the largest Greek island in the Saronic Gulf, about 1 nautical mile off-coast from Piraeus and about 16 km west of Athens. The chief city, Salamina , lies in the west-facing core of the crescent on Salamis Bay, which opens into the Saronic Gulf...

, an island in the Saronic Gulf
Saronic Gulf
The Saronic Gulf or Gulf of Aegina in Greece forms part of the Aegean Sea and defines the eastern side of the isthmus of Corinth. It is the eastern terminus of the Corinth Canal, which cuts across the isthmus.-Geography:The gulf includes the islands of; Aegina, Salamis, and Poros along with...

 near Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

. It marked the high-point of the second Persian invasion of Greece
Second Persian invasion of Greece
The second Persian invasion of Greece occurred during the Greco-Persian Wars, as King Xerxes I of Persia sought to conquer all of Greece. The invasion was a direct, if delayed, response to the defeat of the first Persian invasion of Greece at the Battle of Marathon which ended Darius I's attempts...

 which had begun in 480 BCE.

To block the Persian advance, a small force of Greeks blocked the pass of Thermopylae
Thermopylae
Thermopylae is a location in Greece where a narrow coastal passage existed in antiquity. It derives its name from its hot sulphur springs. "Hot gates" is also "the place of hot springs and cavernous entrances to Hades"....

, while an Athenian-dominated Allied navy engaged the Persian fleet in the nearby straits of Artemisium
Artemisium
Artemisium is a cape north of Euboea, Greece. The legendary hollow cast bronze statue of a debatable Zeus or Poseidon was found off this cape in a sunken ship.-See also:* Temple of Artemis...

.
Encyclopedia
The Battle of Salamis was fought between an Alliance of Greek
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

 city-state
City-state
A city-state is an independent or autonomous entity whose territory consists of a city which is not administered as a part of another local government.-Historical city-states:...

s and the Persian Empire in September 480 BCE, in the strait
Strait
A strait or straits is a narrow, typically navigable channel of water that connects two larger, navigable bodies of water. It most commonly refers to a channel of water that lies between two land masses, but it may also refer to a navigable channel through a body of water that is otherwise not...

s between the mainland and Salamis
Salamis Island
Salamis , is the largest Greek island in the Saronic Gulf, about 1 nautical mile off-coast from Piraeus and about 16 km west of Athens. The chief city, Salamina , lies in the west-facing core of the crescent on Salamis Bay, which opens into the Saronic Gulf...

, an island in the Saronic Gulf
Saronic Gulf
The Saronic Gulf or Gulf of Aegina in Greece forms part of the Aegean Sea and defines the eastern side of the isthmus of Corinth. It is the eastern terminus of the Corinth Canal, which cuts across the isthmus.-Geography:The gulf includes the islands of; Aegina, Salamis, and Poros along with...

 near Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

. It marked the high-point of the second Persian invasion of Greece
Second Persian invasion of Greece
The second Persian invasion of Greece occurred during the Greco-Persian Wars, as King Xerxes I of Persia sought to conquer all of Greece. The invasion was a direct, if delayed, response to the defeat of the first Persian invasion of Greece at the Battle of Marathon which ended Darius I's attempts...

 which had begun in 480 BCE.

To block the Persian advance, a small force of Greeks blocked the pass of Thermopylae
Thermopylae
Thermopylae is a location in Greece where a narrow coastal passage existed in antiquity. It derives its name from its hot sulphur springs. "Hot gates" is also "the place of hot springs and cavernous entrances to Hades"....

, while an Athenian-dominated Allied navy engaged the Persian fleet in the nearby straits of Artemisium
Artemisium
Artemisium is a cape north of Euboea, Greece. The legendary hollow cast bronze statue of a debatable Zeus or Poseidon was found off this cape in a sunken ship.-See also:* Temple of Artemis...

. In the resulting Battle of Thermopylae
Battle of Thermopylae
The Battle of Thermopylae was fought between an alliance of Greek city-states, led by King Leonidas of Sparta, and the Persian Empire of Xerxes I over the course of three days, during the second Persian invasion of Greece. It took place simultaneously with the naval battle at Artemisium, in August...

, the rearguard of the Greek force was annihilated, whilst in the Battle of Artemisium
Battle of Artemisium
The Battle of Artemisium was a series of naval engagements over three days during the second Persian invasion of Greece. The battle took place simultaneously with the more famous land battle at Thermopylae, in August or September 480 BC, off the coast of Euboea and was fought between an alliance of...

 the Greeks had heavy losses and retreated after the loss at Thermopylae. This allowed the Persians to conquer Boeotia
Boeotia
Boeotia, also spelled Beotia and Bœotia , is one of the regional units of Greece. It is part of the region of Central Greece. It was also a region of ancient Greece. Its capital is Livadeia, the second largest city being Thebes.-Geography:...

 and Attica
Attica
Attica is a historical region of Greece, containing Athens, the current capital of Greece. The historical region is centered on the Attic peninsula, which projects into the Aegean Sea...

. The Allies prepared to defend the Isthmus of Corinth
Isthmus of Corinth
The Isthmus of Corinth is the narrow land bridge which connects the Peloponnese peninsula with the rest of the mainland of Greece, near the city of Corinth. The word "isthmus" comes from the Ancient Greek word for "neck" and refers to the narrowness of the land. The Isthmus was known in the ancient...

 whilst the fleet was withdrawn to nearby Salamis Island.

Although heavily outnumbered, the Greek Allies were persuaded by the Athenian general Themistocles
Themistocles
Themistocles ; c. 524–459 BC, was an Athenian politician and a general. He was one of a new breed of politicians who rose to prominence in the early years of the Athenian democracy, along with his great rival Aristides...

 to bring the Persian fleet to battle again, in the hope that a victory would prevent naval operations against the Peloponessus. The Persian king Xerxes was also anxious for a decisive battle. As a result of subterfuge on the part of Themistocles, the Persian navy sailed into the Straits of Salamis and tried to block both entrances. In the cramped conditions of the Straits the great Persian numbers were an active hindrance, as ships struggled to maneuver and became disorganised. Seizing the opportunity, the Greek fleet formed in line and scored a decisive victory, sinking or capturing at least 300 Persian ships.

As a result Xerxes retreated to Asia with much of his army, leaving Mardonius
Mardonius
Mardonius was a leading Persian military commander during the Persian Wars with Greece in the early 5th century BC.-Early years:Mardonius was the son of Gobryas, a Persian nobleman who had assisted the Achaemenid prince Darius when he claimed the throne...

 to complete the conquest of Greece. However, the following year, the remainder of the Persian army was decisively beaten at the Battle of Plataea
Battle of Plataea
The Battle of Plataea was the final land battle during the second Persian invasion of Greece. It took place in 479 BC near the city of Plataea in Boeotia, and was fought between an alliance of the Greek city-states, including Sparta, Athens, Corinth and Megara, and the Persian Empire of Xerxes...

 and the Persian navy at the Battle of Mycale
Battle of Mycale
The Battle of Mycale was one of the two major battles that ended the second Persian invasion of Greece during the Greco-Persian Wars. It took place on or about August 27, 479 BC on the slopes of Mount Mycale, on the coast of Ionia, opposite the island of Samos...

. Afterwards the Persian made no more attempts to conquer the Greek mainland. These battles of Salamis and Plataea thus mark a turning point in the course of the Greco-Persian wars as a whole; from then onward, the Greek poleis would take the offensive. A number of historians believe that a Persian victory would have hamstrung the development of Ancient Greece, and by extension western civilization, and this has led them to claim that Salamis is one of the most significant battles in human history.

Sources

The main source for the Greco-Persian Wars is the Greek historian Herodotus
Herodotus
Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria and lived in the 5th century BC . He has been called the "Father of History", and was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent and arrange them in a...

. Herodotus, who has been called the 'Father of History', was born in 484 BC in Halicarnassus, Asia Minor (then under Persian overlordship). He wrote his 'Enquiries' (Greek—Historia; English—(The) Histories
Histories (Herodotus)
The Histories of Herodotus is considered one of the seminal works of history in Western literature. Written from the 450s to the 420s BC in the Ionic dialect of classical Greek, The Histories serves as a record of the ancient traditions, politics, geography, and clashes of various cultures that...

) around 440–430 BC, trying to trace the origins of the Greco-Persian Wars, which would still have been relatively recent history (the wars finally ending in 450 BC). Herodotus's approach was entirely novel, and at least in Western society, he does seem to have invented 'history' as we know it. As Holland has it: "For the first time, a chronicler set himself to trace the origins of a conflict not to a past so remote so as to be utterly fabulous, nor to the whims and wishes of some god, nor to a people's claim to manifest destiny, but rather explanations he could verify personally."

Some subsequent ancient historians, despite following in his footsteps, criticised Herodotus, starting with Thucydides
Thucydides
Thucydides was a Greek historian and author from Alimos. His History of the Peloponnesian War recounts the 5th century BC war between Sparta and Athens to the year 411 BC...

. Nevertheless, Thucydides chose to begin his history where Herodotus left off (at the Siege of Sestos), and therefore evidently felt that Herodotus's history was accurate enough not to need re-writing or correcting. Plutarch
Plutarch
Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

 criticised Herodotus in his essay "On The Malignity of Herodotus", describing Herodotus as "Philobarbaros" (barbarian-lover), for not being pro-Greek enough, which suggests that Herodotus might actually have done a reasonable job of being even-handed. A negative view of Herodotus was passed on to Renaissance Europe, though he remained well read. However, since the 19th century his reputation has been dramatically rehabilitated by archaeological finds which have repeatedly confirmed his version of events. The prevailing modern view is that Herodotus generally did a remarkable job in his Historia, but that some of his specific details (particularly troop numbers and dates) should be viewed with skepticism. Nevertheless, there are still some historians who believe Herodotus made up much of his story.

The Sicilian historian Diodorus Siculus
Diodorus Siculus
Diodorus Siculus was a Greek historian who flourished between 60 and 30 BC. According to Diodorus' own work, he was born at Agyrium in Sicily . With one exception, antiquity affords no further information about Diodorus' life and doings beyond what is to be found in his own work, Bibliotheca...

, writing in the 1st century BCE in his Bibliotheca Historica
Bibliotheca historica
Bibliotheca historica , is a work of universal history by Diodorus Siculus. It consisted of forty books, which were divided into three sections. The first six books are geographical in theme, and describe the history and culture of Egypt , of Mesopotamia, India, Scythia, and Arabia , of North...

, also provides an account of the Greco-Persian wars, partially derived from the earlier Greek historian Ephorus
Ephorus
Ephorus or Ephoros , of Cyme in Aeolia, in Asia Minor, was an ancient Greek historian. Information on his biography is limited; he was the father of Demophilus, who followed in his footsteps as a historian, and to Plutarch's claim that Ephorus declined Alexander the Great's offer to join him on his...

. This account is fairly consistent with Herodotus's. The Greco-Persian wars are also described in less detail by a number of other ancient historians including Plutarch, Ctesias of Cnidus, and are alluded by other authors, such as the playwright Aeschylus
Aeschylus
Aeschylus was the first of the three ancient Greek tragedians whose work has survived, the others being Sophocles and Euripides, and is often described as the father of tragedy. His name derives from the Greek word aiskhos , meaning "shame"...

. Archaeological evidence, such as the Serpent Column
Serpent Column
The Serpent Column — also known as the Serpentine Column, Delphi Tripod or Plataean Tripod — is an ancient bronze column at the Hippodrome of Constantinople in what is now Istanbul, Turkey...

, also supports some of Herodotus's specific claims.

Background

The Greek city-states of Athens and Eretria
Eretria
Erétria was a polis in Ancient Greece, located on the western coast of the island of Euboea, south of Chalcis, facing the coast of Attica across the narrow Euboean Gulf. Eretria was an important Greek polis in the 6th/5th century BC. However, it lost its importance already in antiquity...

 had supported the unsuccessful Ionian Revolt
Ionian Revolt
The Ionian Revolt, and associated revolts in Aeolis, Doris, Cyprus and Caria, were military rebellions by several regions of Asia Minor against Persian rule, lasting from 499 BC to 493 BC...

 against the Persian Empire of Darius I in 499-494 BC, led by the satrap of Miletus, Aristagoras. The Persian Empire was still relatively young, and prone to revolts amongst its subject peoples. Moreover, Darius was a usurper, and had spent considerable time extinguishing revolts against his rule. The Ionian revolt threatened the integrity of his empire, and Darius thus vowed to punish those involved (especially those not already part of the empire). Darius also saw the opportunity to expand his empire into the fractious world of Ancient Greece. A preliminary expedition under Mardonius, in 492 BCE, to secure the land approaches to Greece ended with the re-conquest of Thrace
Thrace
Thrace is a historical and geographic area in southeast Europe. As a geographical concept, Thrace designates a region bounded by the Balkan Mountains on the north, Rhodope Mountains and the Aegean Sea on the south, and by the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara on the east...

 and forced Macedon
Macedon
Macedonia or Macedon was an ancient kingdom, centered in the northeastern part of the Greek peninsula, bordered by Epirus to the west, Paeonia to the north, the region of Thrace to the east and Thessaly to the south....

 to become a client kingdom of Persia.

In 491 BC, Darius sent emissaries to all the Greek city-states, asking for a gift of 'earth and water' in token of their submission to him. Having had a demonstration of his power the previous year, the majority of Greek cities duly obliged. In Athens, however, the ambassadors were put on trial and then executed; in Sparta, they were simply thrown down a well. This meant that Sparta was also now effectively at war with Persia.

Darius thus put together an amphibious task force under Datis
Datis
For other uses of the word Dati, see Dati .Datis or Datus was a Median admiral who served the Persian Empire, under Darius the Great...

 and Artaphernes
Artaphernes (son of Artaphernes)
Artaphernes, son of Artaphernes, was the nephew of Darius the Great, and a general of the Achaemenid Empire.He was appointed, together with Datis, to take command of the expedition sent by Darius to punish Athens and Eretria for their support for the Ionian Revolt. Artaphernes and Datis besieged...

 in 490 BC, which attacked Naxos, before receiving the submission of the other Cycladic Islands
Cyclades
The Cyclades is a Greek island group in the Aegean Sea, south-east of the mainland of Greece; and a former administrative prefecture of Greece. They are one of the island groups which constitute the Aegean archipelago. The name refers to the islands around the sacred island of Delos...

. The task force then moved on Eretria, which it besieged and destroyed. Finally, it moved to attack Athens, landing at the bay of Marathon
Marathon, Greece
Marathon is a town in Greece, the site of the battle of Marathon in 490 BC, in which the heavily outnumbered Athenian army defeated the Persians. The tumulus or burial mound for the 192 Athenian dead that was erected near the battlefield remains a feature of the coastal plain...

, where it was met by a heavily outnumbered Athenian army. At the ensuing Battle of Marathon
Battle of Marathon
The Battle of Marathon took place in 490 BC, during the first Persian invasion of Greece. It was fought between the citizens of Athens, aided by Plataea, and a Persian force commanded by Datis and Artaphernes. It was the culmination of the first attempt by Persia, under King Darius I, to subjugate...

, the Athenians won a remarkable victory, which resulted in the withdrawal of the Persian army to Asia.

Darius therefore began raising a huge new army with which he meant to completely subjugate Greece; however, in 486 BCE, his Egyptian
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

 subjects revolted, indefinitely postponing any Greek expedition. Darius then died whilst preparing to march on Egypt, and the throne of Persia passed to his son Xerxes I. Xerxes crushed the Egyptian revolt, and very quickly re-started the preparations for the invasion of Greece. Since this was to be a full scale invasion, it required long-term planning, stock-piling and conscription. Xerxes decided that the Hellespont would be bridged to allow his army to cross to Europe, and that a canal should be dug across the isthmus of Mount Athos
Mount Athos
Mount Athos is a mountain and peninsula in Macedonia, Greece. A World Heritage Site, it is home to 20 Eastern Orthodox monasteries and forms a self-governed monastic state within the sovereignty of the Hellenic Republic. Spiritually, Mount Athos comes under the direct jurisdiction of the...

 (rounding which headland, a Persian fleet had been destroyed in 492 BCE). These were both feats of exceptional ambition, which would have been beyond any contemporary state. By early 480 BCE, the preparations were complete, and the army which Xerxes had mustered at Sardis
Sardis
Sardis or Sardes was an ancient city at the location of modern Sart in Turkey's Manisa Province...

 marched towards Europe, crossing the Hellespont on two pontoon bridge
Pontoon bridge
A pontoon bridge or floating bridge is a bridge that floats on water and in which barge- or boat-like pontoons support the bridge deck and its dynamic loads. While pontoon bridges are usually temporary structures, some are used for long periods of time...

s.

The Athenians had also been preparing for war with the Persians since the mid-480s BCE, and in 482 BCE the decision was taken, under the guidance of the Athenian politician Themistocles
Themistocles
Themistocles ; c. 524–459 BC, was an Athenian politician and a general. He was one of a new breed of politicians who rose to prominence in the early years of the Athenian democracy, along with his great rival Aristides...

, to build a massive fleet of trireme
Trireme
A trireme was a type of galley, a Hellenistic-era warship that was used by the ancient maritime civilizations of the Mediterranean, especially the Phoenicians, ancient Greeks and Romans.The trireme derives its name from its three rows of oars on each side, manned with one man per oar...

s that would be necessary for the Greeks to fight the Persians. However, the Athenians did not have the manpower to fight on land and sea; and therefore combatting the Persians would require an alliance of Greek city states. In 481 BCE, Xerxes sent ambassadors around Greece asking for earth and water, but made the very deliberate omission of Athens and Sparta. Support thus began to coalesce around these two leading states. A congress of city states met at Corinth
Ancient Corinth
Corinth, or Korinth was a city-state on the Isthmus of Corinth, the narrow stretch of land that joins the Peloponnesus to the mainland of Greece, roughly halfway between Athens and Sparta. The modern town of Corinth is located approximately northeast of the ancient ruins...

 in late autumn of 481 BCE, and a confederate alliance of Greek city-states
History of Greece
The history of Greece encompasses the history of the territory of the modern state of Greece, as well as that of the Greek people and the areas they ruled historically. The scope of Greek habitation and rule has varied much through the ages, and, as a result, the history of Greece is similarly...

 was formed. It had the power to send envoys asking for assistance and to dispatch troops from the member states to defensive points after joint consultation. This was remarkable for the disjointed Greek world, especially since many of the city-states in attendance were still technically at war with each other.
Initially the 'congress' agreed to defend the narrow Vale of Tempe
Vale of Tempe
The Vale of Tempe is a gorge in northern Thessaly, Greece, located between Olympus to the north and Ossa to the south. The valley is 10 kilometers long and as narrow as 25 meters in places, with cliffs nearly 500 meters high, and through it flows the Pineios River on its way to the Aegean Sea...

, on the borders of Thessaly, and thereby block Xerxes's advance. However, once there, they were warned by Alexander I of Macedon
Alexander I of Macedon
- Biography :Alexander was the son of Amyntas I and Queen Eurydice.According to Herodotus, he was unfriendly to Persia, and had the envoys of Darius I killed when they arrived at the court of his father during the Ionian Revolt...

 that the vale could be bypassed through the pass by the modern village of Sarantaporo
Sarantaporo
Sarantaporo is a village and a former municipality in the Larissa regional unit, Thessaly, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Elassona, of which it is a municipal unit. Population 3,588 . The town is near the mountain ranges of Kamvounio to the northwest...

, and that the army of Xerxes was overwhelming, the Greeks retreated. Shortly afterwards, they received the news that Xerxes had crossed the Hellespont. A second strategy was therefore adopted by the allies. The route to southern Greece (Boeotia, Attica and the Peloponnesus) would require the army of Xerxes to travel through the very narrow pass of Thermopylae
Thermopylae
Thermopylae is a location in Greece where a narrow coastal passage existed in antiquity. It derives its name from its hot sulphur springs. "Hot gates" is also "the place of hot springs and cavernous entrances to Hades"....

. This could easily be blocked by the Greek hoplites, despite the overwhelming numbers of Persians. Furthermore, to prevent the Persians bypassing Thermopylae by sea, the Athenian and allied navies could block the straits of Artemisium. This dual strategy was adopted by the congress. However, the Peloponnesian cities made fall-back plans to defend the Isthmus of Corinth should it come to it, whilst the women and children of Athens had been evacuated en masse to the Peloponnesian city of Troezen
Troezen
Troezen is a small town and a former municipality in the northeastern Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Troizinia, of which it is a municipal unit....

.

Famously, the much smaller Greek army held the pass of Thermopylae against the Persians for three days before being outflanked by a mountain path. Much of the Greek army retreated, before the Spartans and Thespians who had continued to block the pass were surrounded and killed. The simultaneous Battle of Artemisium was up to that point a stalemate; however, when news of Thermopylae reached them, the Allied fleet also retreated, since holding the straits of Artemisium was now a moot point.

Prelude

The Allied fleet now sailed from Artemisium to Salamis to assist with the final evacuation of Athens; en route Themistocles left inscriptions addressed to the Ionia
Ionia
Ionia is an ancient region of central coastal Anatolia in present-day Turkey, the region nearest İzmir, which was historically Smyrna. It consisted of the northernmost territories of the Ionian League of Greek settlements...

n Greek crews of the Persian fleet on all springs of water that they might stop at, asking them to defect to the Allied cause. Following Thermopylae, the Persian army proceeded to burn and sack the Boeotia
Boeotia
Boeotia, also spelled Beotia and Bœotia , is one of the regional units of Greece. It is part of the region of Central Greece. It was also a region of ancient Greece. Its capital is Livadeia, the second largest city being Thebes.-Geography:...

n cities which had not surrendered, Plataea
Plataea
Plataea or Plataeae was an ancient city, located in Greece in southeastern Boeotia, south of Thebes. It was the location of the Battle of Plataea in 479 BC, in which an alliance of Greek city-states defeated the Persians....

 and Thespiae
Thespiae
Thespiae was an ancient Greek city in Boeotia. It stood on level ground commanded by the low range of hills which runs eastward from the foot of Mount Helicon to Thebes, near modern Thespies.-History:...

; before marching on the now evacuated city of Athens. The Allies (mostly Peloponnesian) prepared to defend the Isthmus of Corinth
Isthmus of Corinth
The Isthmus of Corinth is the narrow land bridge which connects the Peloponnese peninsula with the rest of the mainland of Greece, near the city of Corinth. The word "isthmus" comes from the Ancient Greek word for "neck" and refers to the narrowness of the land. The Isthmus was known in the ancient...

, demolishing the single road that led through it, and building a wall across it. This strategy was flawed, however, unless the Allied fleet was able to prevent the Persian fleet from transporting troops across the Saronic Gulf. In a council-of-war called once the evacuation of Athens was complete, the Corinthian naval commander Adeimantus
Adeimantus of Corinth
Adeimantus of Corinth , son of Ocytus, was the Corinthian commander during the invasion of Greece by Xerxes. Before the Battle of Artemisium he threatened to sail away. He opposed Themistocles with great insolence in the council which the commanders held before the Battle of Salamis...

 argued that the fleet should assemble off the coast of the Isthmus in order to achieve such a blockade. However, Themistocles argued in favour of an offensive strategy, aimed at decisively destroying the Persians' naval superiority. He drew on the lessons of Artemisium, pointing out that "battle in close conditions works to our advantage". He eventually won through, and the Allied navy remained off the coast of Salamis.

The time-line for Salamis is difficult to establish with any certainty. Herodotus presents the battle as though it occurred directly after the capture of Athens, but nowhere explicitly states as much. If Thermopylae/Artemisium occurred in September, then this may be the case, but it is probably more likely that the Persians spent two or three weeks capturing Athens, refitting the fleet, and resupplying. Clearly though, at some point after capturing Athens, Xerxes held a council of war with the Persian fleet; Herodotus says this occurred at Phalerum
Faliro
Faliro is a seaside suburb 8 km southwest of downtown Athens. There are two communities sharing the name: Palaio and Neo Faliro. Palaio Faliro is a municipality, whereas Neo Faliro is part of the town of Piraeus...

. Artemisia
Artemisia I of Caria
Artemisia I of Caria became the ruler, after the death of her husband, as a client of the Persians – who in the 5th century BC ruled as the overlords of Ionia....

, queen of Halicarnassus
Halicarnassus
Halicarnassus was an ancient Greek city at the site of modern Bodrum in Turkey. It was located in southwest Caria on a picturesque, advantageous site on the Ceramic Gulf. The city was famous for the tomb of Mausolus, the origin of the word mausoleum, built between 353 BC and 350 BC, and...

 and commander of its naval squadron in Xerxes's fleet, tried to convince him to wait for the Allies to surrender believing that battle in the straits of Salamis was an unnecessary risk. Nevertheless, Xerxes and his chief advisor Mardonius
Mardonius
Mardonius was a leading Persian military commander during the Persian Wars with Greece in the early 5th century BC.-Early years:Mardonius was the son of Gobryas, a Persian nobleman who had assisted the Achaemenid prince Darius when he claimed the throne...

 pressed for an attack.

It is difficult to explain exactly what eventually brought about the battle, assuming that neither side simply attacked without forethought. Clearly though, at some point just before the battle, new information began to reach Xerxes of rifts in the allied command; the Peloponnesians wished to evacuate from Salamis while they still could. This alleged rift amongst the Allies may have simply been a ruse, in order to lure the Persians to battle. Alternatively, this change in attitude amongst the Allies (who had waited patiently off the coast of Salamis for at least a week while Athens was captured) may have been in response to Persian offensive maneuvers. Possibly, a Persian army had been sent to march against the Isthmus in order to test the nerve of the fleet.

Either way, when Xerxes received this news, he ordered his fleet to go out on patrol off the coast Salamis, blocking the southern exit. Then, at dusk, he ordered them to withdraw, possibly in order to tempt the Allies into a hasty evacuation. That evening Themistocles now attempted what appears to have been a spectacularly successful use of misinformation. He sent a servant, Sicinnus
Sicinnus
Sicinnus , a Persian according to Plutarch, was a slave of the Athenian leader Themistocles and pedagogue to his children. He is known for his actions as a negotiator between Themistocles and the Persian ruler Xerxes I during the Second Persian invasion of Greece...

, to Xerxes, with a message proclaiming that Themistocles was "on the king's side and prefers that your affairs prevail, not the Hellenes". Themistocles claimed that the Allied command was in-fighting, that the Peloponnesians were planning to evacuate that very night, and that to gain victory all the Persians need to do was to block the straits. In performing this subterfuge, Themistocles seems to have been trying to bring about exactly the opposite; to lure the Persian fleet into the Straits.
This was exactly the kind of news that Xerxes wanted to hear; that the Athenians might be willing to submit to him, and that he would be able to destroy the rest of the Allied fleet. Xerxes evidently took the bait, and the Persian fleet was sent out that evening to effect this block. Xerxes ordered a throne to be set up on the slopes of Mount Aigaleo (overlooking the straits), in order to watch the battle from a clear vantage point, and so as to record the names of commanders who performed particularly well.

According to Herodotus, the Allies spent the evening heatedly debating their course of action. The Peloponnesians were in favour of evacuating, and it was at this point that Themistocles attempted his ruse with Xerxes. It was only when Aristides
Aristides
Aristides , 530 BC – 468 BC was an Athenian statesman, nicknamed "the Just".- Biography :Aristides was the son of Lysimachus, and a member of a family of moderate fortune. Of his early life, it is only told that he became a follower of the statesman Cleisthenes and sided with the aristocratic party...

, the exiled Athenian general arrived that night, followed by some deserters from the Persians, with news of the deployment of the Persian fleet, that the Peloponnesians accepted that they could not escape, and so would fight. However, it has been reasonably suggested that the Peloponnesians must have been party to Themistocles's stratagem, so serenely did they accept that they would now have to fight at Salamis. The Allied navy was thus able to prepare properly for battle the forthcoming day, whilst the Persians spent the night fruitlessly at sea, searching for the alleged Greek evacuation. The next morning, the Persians sailed in to the straits to attack the Greek fleet; it is not clear when, why or how this decision was made, but it is clear that they did in fact take the battle to the Allies.

The Greek fleet

Herodotus reports that there were 378 triremes in the Allied fleet, and then breaks the numbers down by city state (as indicated in the table). However, his numbers for the individual contingents only add up to 366. He does not explicitly say that all 378 fought at Salamis ("All of these came to the war providing triremes...The total number of ships...was three hundred and seventy-eight"), and he also says that the Aeginetans "had other manned ships, but they guarded their own land with these and fought at Salamis with the thirty most seaworthy". Thus it has been supposed that the difference between the numbers is accounted for a garrison
Garrison
Garrison is the collective term for a body of troops stationed in a particular location, originally to guard it, but now often simply using it as a home base....

 of 12 ships left at Aegina
Aegina
Aegina is one of the Saronic Islands of Greece in the Saronic Gulf, from Athens. Tradition derives the name from Aegina, the mother of Aeacus, who was born in and ruled the island. During ancient times, Aegina was a rival to Athens, the great sea power of the era.-Municipality:The municipality...

. According to Herodotus, two more ships defected from the Persians to the Greeks, one before Artemisium and one before Salamis, so the total complement at Salamis would have been 368 (or 380).

According to the Athenian playwright Aeschylus
Aeschylus
Aeschylus was the first of the three ancient Greek tragedians whose work has survived, the others being Sophocles and Euripides, and is often described as the father of tragedy. His name derives from the Greek word aiskhos , meaning "shame"...

, who actually fought at Salamis, the Greek fleet numbered 310 triremes (the difference being the number of Athenian ships). Ctesias
Ctesias
Ctesias of Cnidus was a Greek physician and historian from Cnidus in Caria. Ctesias, who lived in the 5th century BC, was physician to Artaxerxes Mnemon, whom he accompanied in 401 BC on his expedition against his brother Cyrus the Younger....

 claims that the Athenian fleet numbered only 110 triremes, which ties in with Aeschylus's numbers. According to Hyperides
Hypereides
Hypereides or Hyperides was a logographer in Ancient Greece...

, the Greek fleet numbered only 220. The fleet was effectively under the command of Themistocles, but nominally led by the Spartan nobleman Eurybiades
Eurybiades
Eurybiades was the Spartan commander in charge of the Greek navy during the Persian Wars.He was the son of Eurycleides, and was chosen as commander in 480 BC because the Peloponnesian city-states led by Sparta, worried about the growing power of Athens, did not want to serve under an Athenian,...

, as had been agreed at the congress in 481 BC Although Themistocles had tried to claim leadership of the fleet, the other city states with navies objected, and so Sparta (which had no naval tradition) was given command of the fleet as a compromise.
of ships>| of ships>|
CityCityCityNumber
of ships
Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

 
180 Corinth
Ancient Corinth
Corinth, or Korinth was a city-state on the Isthmus of Corinth, the narrow stretch of land that joins the Peloponnesus to the mainland of Greece, roughly halfway between Athens and Sparta. The modern town of Corinth is located approximately northeast of the ancient ruins...

 
40 Aegina
Aegina
Aegina is one of the Saronic Islands of Greece in the Saronic Gulf, from Athens. Tradition derives the name from Aegina, the mother of Aeacus, who was born in and ruled the island. During ancient times, Aegina was a rival to Athens, the great sea power of the era.-Municipality:The municipality...

 
30
Chalcis
Chalcis
Chalcis or Chalkida , the chief town of the island of Euboea in Greece, is situated on the strait of the Evripos at its narrowest point. The name is preserved from antiquity and is derived from the Greek χαλκός , though there is no trace of any mines in the area...

 
20 Megara
Megara
Megara is an ancient city in Attica, Greece. It lies in the northern section of the Isthmus of Corinth opposite the island of Salamis, which belonged to Megara in archaic times, before being taken by Athens. Megara was one of the four districts of Attica, embodied in the four mythic sons of King...

 
20 Sparta
Sparta
Sparta or Lacedaemon, was a prominent city-state in ancient Greece, situated on the banks of the River Eurotas in Laconia, in south-eastern Peloponnese. It emerged as a political entity around the 10th century BC, when the invading Dorians subjugated the local, non-Dorian population. From c...

 
16
Sicyon
Sicyon
Sikyon was an ancient Greek city situated in the northern Peloponnesus between Corinth and Achaea on the territory of the present-day prefecture of Corinthia...

 
15 Epidaurus
Epidaurus
Epidaurus was a small city in ancient Greece, at the Saronic Gulf. Two modern towns bear the name Epidavros : Palaia Epidavros and Nea Epidavros. Since 2010 they belong to the new municipality of Epidavros, part of the peripheral unit of Argolis...

 
10 Eretria
Eretria
Erétria was a polis in Ancient Greece, located on the western coast of the island of Euboea, south of Chalcis, facing the coast of Attica across the narrow Euboean Gulf. Eretria was an important Greek polis in the 6th/5th century BC. However, it lost its importance already in antiquity...

 
7
Ambracia
Ambracia
Ambracia, occasionally Ampracia , was an ancient Corinthian colony, situated about 7 miles from the Ambracian Gulf in Greece, on a bend of the navigable river Arachthos , in the midst of a fertile wooded plain.-History:...

 
7 Troezen
Troezen
Troezen is a small town and a former municipality in the northeastern Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Troizinia, of which it is a municipal unit....

 
5 Naxos  4
Leucas  3 Hermione
Ermioni
Ermioni is a small town and a former municipality in Argolis, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Ermionida, of which it is a municipal unit. It is a popular tourist resort. It is on a very small out-cropping of the land facing the island of...

 
3 Styra
Styra
Styra is a village and a former municipality on the island Euboea, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Karystos, of which it is a municipal unit. It is located in the southern part of Euboea, facing the eastern shore of Attica across the South Euboean Gulf...

 
2
Cythnus  1 (1) Ceos  2 Melos
Milos
Milos , is a volcanic Greek island in the Aegean Sea, just north of the Sea of Crete...

 
(2)
Siphnus  (1) Serifos
Serifos
Serifos is a Greek island municipality in the Aegean Sea, located in the western Cyclades, south of Kythnos and northwest of Sifnos. It is part of the Milos peripheral unit. The area is 75.207 km² and the population was 1,414 at the 2001 census. It is located about ESE of Piraeus...

 
(1) Croton
Crotone
Crotone is a city and comune in Calabria, southern Italy, on the Ionian Sea. Founded circa 710 BC as the Achaean colony of Croton , it was known as Cotrone from the Middle Ages until 1928, when its name was changed to the current one. In 1994 it became the capital of the newly established...

 
1
Total 366 or 378 (5)

Plain numbers represent triremes; those indicated in parentheses are penteconters (fifty-oared galleys)

The Persian fleet

According to Herodotus, the Persian fleet initially numbered 1,207 triremes. However, by his reckoning they lost approximately a third of these ships in a storm off the coast of Magnesia
Magnesia Prefecture
Magnesia Prefecture was one of the prefectures of Greece. Its capital was Volos. It was established in 1899 from the Larissa Prefecture. The prefecture was disbanded on 1 January 2011 by the Kallikratis programme, and split into the peripheral units of Magnesia and the Sporades.The toponym is...

, 200 more in a storm off the coast of Euboea, and at least 50 ships to Allied action at the Battle of Artemisium. Herodotus claims that these losses were replaced in full, but only mentions 120 ships from the Greeks of Thrace and nearby islands as reinforcements. Aeschylus
Aeschylus
Aeschylus was the first of the three ancient Greek tragedians whose work has survived, the others being Sophocles and Euripides, and is often described as the father of tragedy. His name derives from the Greek word aiskhos , meaning "shame"...

, who fought at Salamis, also claims that he faced there 1,207 warships, of which 207 were "fast ships". Diodorus
Diodorus Siculus
Diodorus Siculus was a Greek historian who flourished between 60 and 30 BC. According to Diodorus' own work, he was born at Agyrium in Sicily . With one exception, antiquity affords no further information about Diodorus' life and doings beyond what is to be found in his own work, Bibliotheca...

  and Lysias
Lysias
Lysias was a logographer in Ancient Greece. He was one of the ten Attic orators included in the "Alexandrian Canon" compiled by Aristophanes of Byzantium and Aristarchus of Samothrace in the third century BC.-Life:According to Dionysius of Halicarnassus and the author of the life ascribed to...

 independently claim there were 1,200 ships in the Persian fleet assembled at Doriskos in the spring of 480 BCE. The number of 1,207 (for the outset only) is also given by Ephorus
Ephorus
Ephorus or Ephoros , of Cyme in Aeolia, in Asia Minor, was an ancient Greek historian. Information on his biography is limited; he was the father of Demophilus, who followed in his footsteps as a historian, and to Plutarch's claim that Ephorus declined Alexander the Great's offer to join him on his...

, while his teacher Isocrates
Isocrates
Isocrates , an ancient Greek rhetorician, was one of the ten Attic orators. In his time, he was probably the most influential rhetorician in Greece and made many contributions to rhetoric and education through his teaching and written works....

 claims there were 1,300 at Doriskos and 1,200 at Salamis. Ctesias gives another number, 1,000 ships, while Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

, speaking in general terms refers to 1,000 ships and more.

The number 1,207 appears very early in the historical record (472 BC), and the Greeks appear to have genuinely believed they faced that many ships. Because of the consistency in the ancient sources, some modern historians are inclined to accept 1,207 as the size of the initial Persian fleet; others reject this number, with 1,207 being seen as more of a reference to the combined Greek fleet in the Iliad
Iliad
The Iliad is an epic poem in dactylic hexameters, traditionally attributed to Homer. Set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles...

, and generally claim that the Persians could have launched no more than around 600 warships into the Aegean. However, very few appear to accept that there were this many ships at Salamis: most favour a number in the range 600-800. This is also the range given by adding the approximate number of Persian ships after Artemisium (~550) to the reinforcements (120) quantified by Herodotus.

Strategic and tactical considerations

The overall Persian strategy for the invasion of 480 BCE was to overwhelm the Greeks with a massive invasion force, and complete the conquest of Greece in a single campaigning season. Conversely, the Greeks sought to make the best use of their numbers by defending restricted locations and to keep the Persians in the field for as long as possible. Xerxes had obviously not anticipated such resistance, or he would have arrived earlier in the campaigning season (and not waited 4 days at Thermopylae for the Greeks to disperse). Time was now of the essence for the Persians - the huge invasion force could not be reasonably supported indefinitely, nor probably did Xerxes wish to be at the fringe of his empire for so long. Thermopylae had shown that a frontal assault against a well defended Greek position was useless; with the Allies now dug in across the Isthmus, there was little chance of conquering the rest of Greece by land. However, as equally demonstrated by Thermopylae, if the Greeks could be outflanked, their smaller numbers of troops could be destroyed. Such an outflanking of the Isthmus required the use of the Persian navy, and thus the destruction of the Allied navy. In summary, if Xerxes could destroy the Allied navy, he would be in a strong position to force a Greek surrender; this seemed the only hope of concluding the campaign in that season. Conversely by avoiding destruction, or as Themistocles hoped, by crippling the Persian fleet, the Greeks could prevent their conquest.

However, it was strategically not necessary for the Persians to actually fight this battle at Salamis. According to Herodotus, Queen Artemisia of Caria
Caria
Caria was a region of western Anatolia extending along the coast from mid-Ionia south to Lycia and east to Phrygia. The Ionian and Dorian Greeks colonized the west of it and joined the Carian population in forming Greek-dominated states there...

 pointed this out to Xerxes in the run-up to Salamis. Artemisia suggested that fighting at sea was an unnecessary risk, recommending instead:
If you do not hurry to fight at sea, but keep your ships here and stay near land, or even advance into the Peloponnese, then, my lord, you will easily accomplish what you had in mind on coming here. The Hellenes are not able to hold out against you for a long time, but you will scatter them, and they will each flee to their own cities.


The Persian fleet was still large enough to both bottle up the Allied navy in the straits of Salamis, and send ships to land troops in the Peloponnesus. However, in the final reckoning, both sides were prepared to stake everything on a naval battle, in the hope of decisively altering the course of the war.

The Persians were at a significant tactical advantage, outnumbering the Allies, but also having "better sailing" ships. The "better sailing" that Herodotus mentions was probably due to the superior seamanship of the crews; most of the Athenian ships (and therefore the majority of the fleet) were newly built, and had inexperienced crews. The most common naval tactics in the Mediterranean area at the time were ramming (triremes being equipped with a ram at the bows), or boarding by ship-borne marines (which essentially turned a sea battle into a land one). The Persians and Asiatic Greeks had by this time begun to use a manoeuver known as diekplous. It is not entirely clear what this was, but it probably involved sailing into gaps between enemy ships and then ramming them in the side. This maneuver would have required skilled sailing, and therefore the Persians would have been more likely to employ it; the Allies however, developed tactics specifically to counter this.

There has been much debate as to the nature of the Allied fleet compared to the Persian fleet. Much of this centres around the suggestion, from Herodotus, that the Allied ships were heavier, and by implication less maneuverable. The source of this heaviness is uncertain; possibly the Allied ships were bulkier in construction, or that the ships were water-logged since they had not been dried out in the winter (though there is no real evidence for either suggestion). Another suggestion is that the heaviness was caused by the weight of fully armored hoplite
Hoplite
A hoplite was a citizen-soldier of the Ancient Greek city-states. Hoplites were primarily armed as spearmen and fought in a phalanx formation. The word "hoplite" derives from "hoplon" , the type of the shield used by the soldiers, although, as a word, "hopla" could also denote weapons held or even...

 marines (20 fully armored hoplites would have weighed 2 tons). This 'heaviness', whatever its cause, would further reduce the likelihood of them employing the diekplous. It is therefore probable that the Allies had extra marines on board if their ships were less maneuverable, since boarding would then be the main tactic available to them (at the cost of making the ships even heavier). Indeed, Herodotus refers to the Greeks capturing ships at Artemisium, rather than sinking them. It has been suggested that the weight of the Allied ships may also have made them more stable in the winds off the coast of Salamis, and made them less susceptible to ramming (or rather, less liable to sustain damage when rammed).

Tactically speaking then, a battle in the open sea, where their superior seamanship and numbers could count was preferable for the Persians. For the Greeks, the only realistic hope of a decisive victory was to draw the Persians into a constricted area, where their numbers would count for little. The battle at Artemisium had seen attempts to negate the Persian advantage in numbers, but ultimately the Allies may have realised that they needed an even more constricted channel in order to defeat the Persians. Therefore, by sailing into the Straits of Salamis to attack the Greeks, the Persians were playing into the Allies' hands. It seems probable that the Persians would not have attempted this unless the Persians were confident of the collapse of the Allied navy, and thus Themistocles's subterfuge appears to have played a key role in tipping the balance in the favor of the Greeks. Salamis was, for the Persians, an unnecessary battle and a strategic mistake.

The battle

The actual battle of Salamis is not well described by the ancient sources, and it is unlikely that anyone (other than perhaps Xerxes) involved in the battle had a clear idea what was happening across the width of the straits. What follows is more of a discussion than a definitive account.

Dispositions

In the Allied fleet, the Athenians were on the left, and on the right were probably the Spartans (although Diodorus says it was the Megareans and Aeginetians); the other contingents were in the center. The Allied fleet probably formed into two ranks, since the straits would have been too narrow for a single line of ships. Herodotus has the Allied fleet in a line running north-south, probably with the northern flank off the coast of modern-day Saint George's Islet (Ayios Georgis), and the southern flank off the coast of Cape Vavari (part of Salamis). Diodorus suggests the Allied fleet was aligned east-west, spanning the straits between Salamis and Mount Aigaleos; however, it was perhaps unlikely that the Allies would have rested one of their flanks against Persian occupied territory.

It seems relatively certain that the Persian fleet was sent out to block the exit from the Straits the evening before the battle. Herodotus clearly believed that the Persian fleet actually entered the Straits at nightfall, planning to catch the Allies as they fled. However, modern historians have greatly debated this point, with some pointing out the difficulties of maneuvering in this confined space by night, and others accepting Herodotus's version. There are thus two possibilities; that during the night the Persians simply blocked the exit to the Straits, and then entered the straits in daylight; or that they entered the straits and positioned themselves for battle during the night. Regardless of when they attempted it, it seems likely that the Persians pivoted their fleet off the tip of Cape Vavari, so that from an initial east-west alignment (blocking the exit), they came round to a north-south alignment (see diagram). The Persian fleet seems to have been formed into three ranks of ships (according to Aeschylus); with the powerful Phoenician fleet on the right flank next to Mount Aigaleos
Egaleo (mountain)
Aegaleo , also Aigaleo and Egaleo, is a mountain in Greece. It is situated west of Athens, southeast of Eleusis, east of the island of Salamis and northwest of Piraeus. Most of the mountain is rocky. It is shorter than Hymettus...

, the Ionian contingent on the left flank and the other contingents in the centre.

Diodorus says that the Egyptian fleet was sent to circumnavigate Salamis, and block the northern exit from the Straits. If Xerxes wanted to trap the Allies completely, this maneuver would have made sense (especially if he was not expecting the Allies to fight). However, Herodotus does not mention this (and possibly alludes to the Egyptian presence in the main battle), leading some modern historians to dismiss it; though again, others accept it as a possibility. Xerxes had also positioned around 400 troops on the island known as Psyttaleia
Psyttaleia
Psyttaleia is an uninhabited island in the Saronic Gulf a few miles off the coast of Piraeus, Greece. It covers an area of 0.375 square kilometers. The island currently houses the largest sewage treatment plant in Europe, with a projected daily maximum drying capacity of 750 tons of sewage...

, in the middle of the exit from the straits, in order to kill or capture any Greeks who ended up there (as a result of shipwreck or grounding).

The opening phase

Regardless of what time they entered the straits, the Persians did not move to attack the Allies until daylight. Since they were not planning to flee after all, the Allies would have been able to spend the night preparing for battle, and after a speech by Themistocles, the marines boarded and the ships made ready to sail.
According to Herodotus, this was dawn, and as the Allies "were putting out to sea the barbarians immediately attacked them". If the Persians only entered the straits at dawn, then the Allies would have had the time to take up their station in a more orderly fashion.

Aeschylus claims that as the Persians approached (possibly implying that they were not already in the Straits at dawn), they heard the Greeks singing their battle hymn (paean
Paean
A paean is a song or lyric poem expressing triumph or thanksgiving. In classical antiquity, it is usually performed by a chorus, but some examples seem intended for an individual voice...

) before they saw the Allied fleet:

Forward, sons of the Greeks,
Liberate the fatherland,
Liberate your children, your women,
The altars of the gods of your fathers
And the graves of your forebears:
Now is the fight for everything.


Herodotus recounts that, according to the Athenians, as the battle began the Corinthians hoisted their sails and began sailing away from the battle, northwards up the straits. However, he also says that other Greeks denied this story. If this did in fact occur, one possible interpretation is that these ships had been sent to reconnoitre the northern exit from the straits, in case the arrival of the encircling Egyptian detachment was imminent (if indeed this also occurred). Another possibility (not exclusive with the former) is that the departure of the Corinthians triggered the final approach of the Persians, suggesting as it did that the Allied fleet was disintegrating. At any rate, if they indeed ever left, the Corinthians soon returned to the battle.

Approaching the Allied fleet in the crowded Straits, the Persians appear to have become disorganised and cramped in the narrow waters. Moreover, it would have become apparent that, far from disintegrating, the Greek fleet was lined up, ready to attack them. However, rather than attacking immediately, the Allies initially appeared to back their ships away as if in fear. According to Plutarch
Plutarch
Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

, this was to gain better position, and also in order to gain time until the early morning wind. Herodotus recounts the legend that as the fleet had backed away, they had seen an apparition of a woman, asking them "Madmen, how far will ye yet back your ships?" However, he more plausibly suggests that whilst the Allies were backing water, a single ship shot forward to ram the nearest Persian vessel. The Athenians would claim that this was the ship of the Athenian Ameinias of Pallene
Pallene, Chalcidice
Pallene is the ancient name of the westernmost of the three headlands of Chalcidice, which run out into the Aegean Sea. Its modern name is Kassandra Peninsula . It is said to have anciently borne the name of Phlegra and to have witnessed the conflict between the gods and the earthborn Gigantes...

; the Aeginetans would claim it as one of their ships. The whole Greek line then followed suit and made straight for the disordered Persian battle line.

The main battle

The details of the rest of the battle are generally sketchy, and no one involved would have had a view of the entire battlefield. Triremes were generally armed with a large ram at the front, with which it was possible to sink an enemy ship, or at least disable it by shearing off the banks of oars on one side. If the initial ramming was not successful, something similar to a land battle ensued. Both sides had marines on their ships for this eventuality; the Greeks with fully armed hoplite
Hoplite
A hoplite was a citizen-soldier of the Ancient Greek city-states. Hoplites were primarily armed as spearmen and fought in a phalanx formation. The word "hoplite" derives from "hoplon" , the type of the shield used by the soldiers, although, as a word, "hopla" could also denote weapons held or even...

s; the Persians probably with more lightly armed Iranian infantry.

Across the battlefield, as the first line of Persian ships was pushed back by the Greeks, they became fouled in the advancing second and third lines of their own ships. On the Greek left, the Persian admiral Ariabignes
Ariabignes
Ariabignes was one of the sons of the Persian king Darius I, and one of the commanders of the fleet of his brother Xerxes I. He was killed in the Battle of Salamis in 480 BC....

 (a brother of Xerxes) was killed early in the battle; left disorganised and leaderless, the Phoenician squadrons appear to have been pushed back against the coast, many vessels running aground. In the centre, a wedge of Greek ships pushed through the Persians lines, splitting the fleet in two.

A king sate on the rocky brow

Which looks o'er sea-born Salamis

And ships, by thousands, lay below,

And men in nations;—all were his!

He counted them at break of day—

And when the sun set where were they?
— the philhellene Lord Byron in Don Juan


Herodotus recounts that Artemisia the queen of Halicarnassus, and commander of the Carian contingent, found herself pursued by the ship of Ameinias of Pallene. In her desire to escape, she attacked and rammed another Persian vessel, thereby convincing the Athenian captain that the ship was an ally; Ameinias accordingly abandoned the chase. However, Xerxes, looking on, thought that she had successfully attacked an Allied ship, and seeing the poor performance of his other captains commented that "My men have become women, and my women men".

The Persian fleet began to retreat towards Phalerum, but according to Herodotus, the Aeginetans ambushed them as they tried to leave the Straits. The remaining Persian ships limped back to the harbour of Phalerum and the shelter of the Persian army. The Athenian general Aristides
Aristides
Aristides , 530 BC – 468 BC was an Athenian statesman, nicknamed "the Just".- Biography :Aristides was the son of Lysimachus, and a member of a family of moderate fortune. Of his early life, it is only told that he became a follower of the statesman Cleisthenes and sided with the aristocratic party...

 then took a detachment of men across to Psyttaleia to slaughter the garrison that Xerxes had left there. The exact Persian casualties are not mentioned by Herodotus. However, he claims that the next year, the Persian fleet numbered 300 triremes. The number of losses then depends on the number of ships the Persian had to begin with; something in the range of 200–300 seems likely, based on the above estimates for the size of the Persian fleet. According to Herodotus, the Persians suffered many more casualties than the Greeks because most Persians did not know how to swim. Xerxes, sitting on Mount Aigaleos on his throne, witnessed the carnage. Some ship-wrecked Phoenician captains tried to blame the Ionians for cowardice before the end of the battle. Xerxes, in a foul mood, and having just witnessed an Ionian ship capture an Aeginetan ship, had the Phoenicians beheaded for slandering "more noble men".

Aftermath

In the immediate aftermath of Salamis, Xerxes attempted to build a pontoon bridge or causeway across the straits, in order to use his army to attack the Athenians; however, with the Greek fleet now confidently patrolling the straits, this proved futile. Herodotus tells us that Xerxes held a council of war, at which the Persian general Mardonius tried to make light of the defeat:
Sire, be not grieved nor greatly distressed because of what has befallen us. It is not on things of wood that the issue hangs for us, but on men and horses...If then you so desire, let us straightway attack the Peloponnese, or if it pleases you to wait, that also we can do...It is best then that you should do as I have said, but if you have resolved to lead your army away, even then I have another plan. Do not, O king, make the Persians the laughing-stock of the Greeks, for if you have suffered harm, it is by no fault of the Persians. Nor can you say that we have anywhere done less than brave men should, and if Phoenicians and Egyptians and Cyprians and Cilicians have so done, it is not the Persians who have any part in this disaster. Therefore, since the Persians are in no way to blame, be guided by me; if you are resolved not to remain, march homewards with the greater part of your army. It is for me, however, to enslave and deliver Hellas to you with three hundred thousand of your host whom I will choose.


Fearing that the Greeks might attack the bridges across the Hellespont and trap his army in Europe, Xerxes resolved to do this, taking the greater part of the army with him. Mardonius handpicked the troops who were to remain with him in Greece, taking the elite infantry units and cavalry, to complete the conquest of Greece. All of the Persian forces abandoned Attica, however, with Mardonius over-wintering in Boeotia and Thessaly; the Athenians were thus able to return to their burnt city for the winter.

The following year, 479 BCE, Mardonius recaptured Athens (the Allied army still preferring to guard the Isthmus). However, the Allies, under Spartan leadership, eventually agreed to try to force Mardonius to battle, and marched on Attica. Mardonius retreated to Boeotia to lure the Greeks into open terrain and the two sides eventually met near the city of Plataea
Plataea
Plataea or Plataeae was an ancient city, located in Greece in southeastern Boeotia, south of Thebes. It was the location of the Battle of Plataea in 479 BC, in which an alliance of Greek city-states defeated the Persians....

 (which had been razed the previous year). There, at the Battle of Plataea
Battle of Plataea
The Battle of Plataea was the final land battle during the second Persian invasion of Greece. It took place in 479 BC near the city of Plataea in Boeotia, and was fought between an alliance of the Greek city-states, including Sparta, Athens, Corinth and Megara, and the Persian Empire of Xerxes...

, the Greek army won a decisive victory, destroying much of the Persian army and ending the invasion of Greece; whilst at the near-simultaneous Battle of Mycale
Battle of Mycale
The Battle of Mycale was one of the two major battles that ended the second Persian invasion of Greece during the Greco-Persian Wars. It took place on or about August 27, 479 BC on the slopes of Mount Mycale, on the coast of Ionia, opposite the island of Samos...

 the Allied fleet destroyed much of the remaining Persian fleet.

Significance

The Battle of Salamis marked the turning point in the Greco-Persian wars
Greco-Persian Wars
The Greco-Persian Wars were a series of conflicts between the Achaemenid Empire of Persia and city-states of the Hellenic world that started in 499 BC and lasted until 449 BC. The collision between the fractious political world of the Greeks and the enormous empire of the Persians began when Cyrus...

. After Salamis, the Peloponnesus, and by extension Greece as an entity, was safe from conquest; and the Persians suffered a major blow to their prestige and morale (as well as severe material losses). At the following battles of Plataea and Mycale, the threat of conquest was removed, and the Allies were able to go on the counter-offensive. The Greek victory allowed Macedon to revolt against Persian rule; and over the next 30 years, Thrace, the Aegean Islands
Aegean Islands
The Aegean Islands are the group of islands in the Aegean Sea, with mainland Greece to the west and north and Turkey to the east; the island of Crete delimits the sea to the south, those of Rhodes, Karpathos and Kasos to the southeast...

 and finally Ionia
Ionia
Ionia is an ancient region of central coastal Anatolia in present-day Turkey, the region nearest İzmir, which was historically Smyrna. It consisted of the northernmost territories of the Ionian League of Greek settlements...

 would be removed from Persian control by the Allies, or by the Athenian-dominated successor, the Delian League
Delian League
The Delian League, founded in circa 477 BC, was an association of Greek city-states, members numbering between 150 to 173, under the leadership of Athens, whose purpose was to continue fighting the Persian Empire after the Greek victory in the Battle of Plataea at the end of the Greco–Persian Wars...

. Salamis started a decisive swing in the balance of power toward the Greeks, which would culminate in an eventual Greek victory, severely reducing Persian power in the Aegean.

Like the Battles of Marathon and Thermopylae, Salamis has gained something of a 'legendary' status (unlike, for instance, the more decisive Battle of Plataea), perhaps because of the desperate circumstances and the unlikely odds. A significant number of historians have stated that Salamis is one of the most significant battles in human history (though the same is often stated of Marathon). In a more extreme form of this argument, some historians argue that if the Greeks had lost at Salamis, the ensuing conquest of Greece by the Persians would have effectively stilted the growth of 'western civilization' as we know it. This view is based on the premise that much of modern western society, such as philosophy, science, personal freedom and democracy are rooted in the legacy of Ancient Greece. Thus, this school of thought argues that, given the domination of much of modern history by 'western civilization', Persian domination of Greece might have changed the whole trajectory of human history. However, it is equally possible to argue that this would not have been the case; for instance the Ionians, despite Persian overlordship, had retained their own unique culture, though this culture was non-democratic and lacked many features (personal freedom, democracy) of what Athenian culture is celebrated for. It is also worth mentioning that the celebrated blossoming of hugely influential Athenian culture occurred only after the Persian wars were won.

Militarily, it is difficult to draw many lessons from Salamis, because of the uncertainty about what actually happened. Once again the Allies chose their ground well in order to negate Persian numbers, but this time (unlike Thermopylae) had to rely on the Persians launching an unnecessary attack for their position to count. Since it brought about that attack, perhaps the most important military lesson is to be found in the use of deception by Themistocles to bring about the desired response from the enemy.

Ancient sources

  • Herodotus, The Histories Perseus online version
  • Aeschylus
    Aeschylus
    Aeschylus was the first of the three ancient Greek tragedians whose work has survived, the others being Sophocles and Euripides, and is often described as the father of tragedy. His name derives from the Greek word aiskhos , meaning "shame"...

    , extract from The Persians
  • Ctesias, Persica (excerpt in Photius's epitome)
  • Diodorus Siculus, Biblioteca Historica.
  • Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War
  • Ephorus
    Ephorus
    Ephorus or Ephoros , of Cyme in Aeolia, in Asia Minor, was an ancient Greek historian. Information on his biography is limited; he was the father of Demophilus, who followed in his footsteps as a historian, and to Plutarch's claim that Ephorus declined Alexander the Great's offer to join him on his...

    , Universal History
  • Plutarch
    Plutarch
    Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

    , Themistocles
  • Cicero, On the Laws

Modern sources

  • Holland, Tom. Persian Fire. London: Abacus, 2005 (ISBN 978-0-349-11717-1)
  • Green, Peter. The Greco-Persian Wars. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1970; revised ed., 1996 (hardcover, ISBN 0-520-20573-1); 1998 (paperback, ISBN 0-520-20313-5).
  • Lazenby, JF. The Defence of Greece 490–479 BCE. Aris & Phillips Ltd., 1993 (ISBN 0-85668-591-7)
  • Fehling, D. Herodotus and His "Sources": Citation, Invention, and Narrative Art. Translated by J.G. Howie. Leeds: Francis Cairns, 1989.
  • Burn, A.R., "Persia and the Greeks" in The Cambridge History of Iran, Volume 2: The Median and Achaemenid Periods, Ilya Gershevitch, ed. (1985). Cambridge University Press.
  • Köster, A.J. Studien zur Geschichte des Antikes Seewesens. Klio Belheft 32 (1934).
  • Green, Peter. The Year of Salamis, 480–479 B.C. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1970 (ISBN 0-297-00146-9).
  • Hanson, Victor Davis. Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise of Western Power. New York: DoubleDay, 2001 (hardcover, ISBN 0-385-50052-1); New York: Anchor Books, 2001 (paperback, ISBN 0-385-72038-6).
  • Lee, Felicia R. A Layered Look Reveals Ancient Greek Texts The New York Times, 27 November 2006
  • Strauss, Barry. The Battle of Salamis: The Naval Encounter That Saved Greece—and Western Civilization. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2004 (hardcover, ISBN 0-7432-4450-8; paperback, ISBN 0-7432-4451-6).
  • Ιστορία του Ελληνικού Έθνους (History of the Greek nation) vol Β', Ekdotiki Athinon 1971
  • Garoufalis N. Demetrius, Η ναυμαχία της Σαλαμίνας, η σύγκρουση που άλλαξε τον ρού της ιστορίας (The battle of Salamis, the conflict that changed the flow of history), Στρατιωτική Ιστορία (Military History) magazine, issue 24, August 1998

External links


Greece°N conflict=yes°W
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
x
OK