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.



















Herodotus’s hometown. Pedasa was inhabited by the Leleges, a non-Greek people of whom little is known today. One striking detail is the legend that in times of trouble, the priestess of Athena in Pedasa grew a beard, perhaps a symbol of even the women’s willingness to fight for the defense of their land. Tough, warlike, and dug into their well-fortified cities, the Pedasians held out against Persia’s initial conquest in 546 B.C. and fought fiercely when they joined the Ionian Revolt in 499 B.C.

crossed the Hellespont, the Great King finally rode into Athens. The Persians no doubt planned their usual penalty for rebels and recalcitrants. Athenian men would be put to the sword, women would be raped, children rounded up. Human dragnets would be launched; long lines of men would scour the countryside and haul in prisoners. Then tens of thousands of Athenian survivors of Persia’s vengeance would be marched or rowed off eastward, far from the Aegean, to places on the Persian Gulf or in the

trapped, unable to defend their homeland. Perhaps they griped about how a fast-talking Athenian had pulled the wool over the eyes of a stalwart but simpleminded Spartan. Finally, the discontent broke out in public. Itching to join the stand at the Isthmus, “the men who were wasting their time in Salamis with all the ships were so terror-stricken that they no longer obeyed the commanders,” as a later historian put it. Eurybiades had lost control of his fleet. Perhaps another man might have done

had little interest in continuing a struggle past the point where they might collect their reward. Compare the Spartan willingness to fight to the last man at Thermopylae with the Phoenicians’ decision to turn and leave the line at Salamis after they realized that they could not defeat the Athenians. The Spartan king Leonidas served a transcendent cause, while the Phoenician king Tetramnestus merely calculated the odds. Freedom was worth dying for, but there was no percentage in giving one’s life

triremes were both too fragile and too uncomfortable for a long stay at sea, trireme fleets did not mount blockades in the modern sense of the word. Rather, they moored in a harbor near the enemy and ventured out to challenge him. In order to be ready, they used scouts both on land and sea to follow enemy movements and to signal information. From Artemisium the Greeks could challenge the Persian fleet’s southward advance in either of two directions. The rocky east coast of the island of Euboea

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