Battle of Salamis
Posted on 25th December 2020
Following the defeats at Thermopylae and Artemisium, Greek forces retreated to the island of Salamis; the victorious Persian forces travelled to Athens to destroy the city.
While on the island of Salamis, Themistocles (Athenian politician and general) persuaded the Greeks to battle the Persians again. What ensued was the Battle of Salamis in 480BC; the first great naval battle recorded in history.
It was to be fought in the strait between the mainland and the small island of Salamis. The Persian ships greatly outnumbered the Greeks by about four to one, but this would not necessarily work in their favour.
A servant was sent to the Persian King Xerxes to tell him that Themistocles was on his side and that the Greeks were fighting amongst themselves and that some were planning to leave. This was just a ruse and King Xerxes fell for it. Instead of a battle in open sea, he sailed his navy into the straits of Salamis to block both entrances, stopping the Greeks from leaving; this was to prove an error.
The Persian fleet was great and looked impressive in numbers and depth; King Xerxes hoped for a quick decisive victory, however, the strait was narrow and so many ships struggled to manoeuvre in the narrow waters.
As the Greeks attacked, the Persian fleet were pushed back. One line of Persian ships became entangled with the next line of their own ships resulting in chaos. The narrow waters restricted their movement and they were unable to retreat.
The Persians were also affected by the death of Admiral Ariabignes (brother of King Xerxes) who died early on in the battle; this left many ships without their leader causing much disorganisation.
The Greek ships pushed through the Persian lines and split their fleet in two. As the ships rammed each other, the fighting ensued on the decks and started to look more like a land battle. The Persian soldiers were poorly armed and had little defence against the fully armed Greek hoplites. Many Persians fell into the water during battle and unable to swim, they drowned.
King Xerxes had been foolish to attempt a battle in the strait of Salamis, a battle in open sea would have suited him better, but he was looking for a quick victory. This foolishness caused many to lose their lives and assured victory for the Greeks.
King Xerxes and the remaining Persian ships, now defeated, retreated to Asia Minor, leaving Mardonius (military commander) to continue with the conquest of Greece.
Tagged as: Junior Ancient Greece
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