The Battle of Salamis: The Naval Encounter that Saved Greece -- and Western Civilization

The Battle of Salamis: The Naval Encounter that Saved Greece -- and Western Civilization

Barry Strauss

Language: English

Pages: 294

ISBN: 0743244516

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

On a late September day in 480 B.C., Greek warships faced an invading Persian armada in the narrow Salamis Straits in the most important naval battle of the ancient world. Overwhelmingly outnumbered by the enemy, the Greeks triumphed through a combination of strategy and deception. More than two millennia after it occurred, the clash between the Greeks and Persians at Salamis remains one of the most tactically brilliant battles ever fought. The Greek victory changed the course of western history -- halting the advance of the Persian Empire and setting the stage for the Golden Age of Athens.
In this dramatic new narrative account, historian and classicist Barry Strauss brings this landmark battle to life. He introduces us to the unforgettable characters whose decisions altered history: Themistocles, Athens' great leader (and admiral of its fleet), who devised the ingenious strategy that effectively destroyed the Persian navy in one day; Xerxes, the Persian king who fought bravely but who ultimately did not understand the sea; Aeschylus, the playwright who served in the battle and later wrote about it; and Artemisia, the only woman commander known from antiquity, who turned defeat into personal triumph. Filled with the sights, sounds, and scent of battle, The Battle of Salamis is a stirring work of history.



















Josiah Ober, Political Dissent in Democratic Athens: Intellectual Critics of Popular Rule (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998). On the topography of Salamis, see Yannos G. Lolos, “Notes on Salaminian Harbors,” in Tropis III: 3rd International Symposium on Ship Construction in Antiquity, proceedings ed. Harry Tzalas (Delphi: Hellenic Institute for the Preservation of Nautical Tradition, 1995), 291–297. See also Martha C. Taylor, Salamis and the Salaminioi: The History of an Unofficial

Persian forces could defeat the rest of the Greeks. Demaratus had a plan all ready: send three hundred triremes—almost half of the remaining Persian fleet—to Cythera, an island off the south coast of the Peloponnese. Using Cythera as a base, the Persians could raid Spartan territory and perhaps raise a revolt of Sparta’s enserfed agricultural laborers, the Helots. These workers, always eager to rebel against the lords who mistreated them, represented Sparta’s Achilles’ heel. “If you spring from

to Artabanus, who was the Great King’s uncle, his regent, and the arch-dove of the preexpedition debates. Xerxes had reason to welcome the congratulations that his men now surely showered upon him. Hermotimus was no doubt among them. Back in Persia, in the Palace of Darius at Persepolis, carved into a doorjamb, stands a sculpture in relief of a beardless attendant. Well-dressed, carefully groomed, and good-looking, he is usually thought to be a eunuch. In his right hand, he carries a perfume

imagine him as fit and tough, as farmers often are, and we know that he had guts. A captain as courageous as Aminias surely had men loyal enough to follow him anywhere. But it no doubt helped that most of his rowers probably came from Pallene and many would have known each other their entire lives. Trust came easily to such a crew. It had to, because ramming was a group effort. When Aminias decided to break out of the line and ram an enemy ship, he had to pass the order on to his helmsman, and

with bores and augers to treat skull wounds. Yet the survival rates for most of these procedures were poor. “A healer is worth many men in his ability to cut out arrows and smear soothing medicaments on wounds,” says Homer. But it is doubtful that there were enough doctors available at Phaleron Bay for all the wounded after Salamis. So, as ineffective as most ancient doctors were by our standards, some men had to settle for even worse: fumbling medical help from their comrades or attempts at

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