Battle of Salamis: Greeks Defeat the Persians & Save Greek Civilization
Greeks Defeat the Persians and Save Greek Civilization in This Epic Battle

Greeks Defeat the Persians and Save Greek Civilization in This Epic Battle

Patrick Lynch - February 5, 2018

Greeks Defeat the Persians and Save Greek Civilization in This Epic Battle
Overview of the Battle of Salamis – YouTube

Sailing Into History & Oblivion

The night before the battle, the Persian fleet entered the Straits of Salamis; they were either trying to block the Straits (and thus a Greek retreat), or else they were simply getting ready to fight the next day. Xerxes also placed 400 troops at Psyttaleia island to kill any Greek survivors. If the Persians thought the Greeks were getting ready to flee, they were very much mistaken. Themistocles apparently gave a speech to his men getting them ready for the fight of their lives.

When Xerxes analyzed the sea the following morning, he would have seen a Greek navy getting ready to defend, and the Persians soon ran into difficulty as they advanced into the narrow strait. Instead of moving forward to meet the enemy, the Greeks wisely held firm and allowed the Persians to sail into disaster. By the time the ships faced off, they were almost beside one another, and the Greek hoplites were able to jump on board the Persian ships and engage in hand-to-hand combat. The combination of ships pressed against one another, soldiers fighting up close, and archers firing projectiles meant the whole scene must have been chaotic.

This suited the Greeks perfectly, and it is likely that many of the Persians couldn’t swim, so those who fell into the water were doomed. Soon enough, the Persian vessels were packed too closely to retreat, and the Greeks had enough space to pick off the enemy oarsmen. By the end of the naval portion of the battle, the Greeks lost around 40 ships compared to over 300 Persian vessels. The Greek hoplites were transferred to land, and they easily defeated the Persian force they encountered. Xerxes blamed the Phoenicians for the defeat and beheaded their captains. He also threatened to kill the rest of the Phoenicians, so they sailed to Asia as soon as possible after the battle had ended.

Greeks Defeat the Persians and Save Greek Civilization in This Epic Battle
Model of a Greek Trireme – Dusek Ship Kits

Aftermath

The Greeks had expected the Persians to return the following day but were shocked to learn that their enemy had fled. Xerxes decided to return to Persia and left a general named Mardonius in charge of the invasion. In truth, while the loss at Salamis was a disaster, it wasn’t the end for the Persians. After all, they still had a huge land army, and they controlled most of Greece. Even so, Salamis seemed to sap all confidence from the Persians, and they tried to negotiate a peace treaty with the Greeks. When it failed, they launched one final assault.

At the Battle of Plataea in August 479 BC, the Greeks mustered their biggest ever army which consisted of 80,000 – 100,000 men. They were still probably outnumbered by the Persians who had an army of 70,000 – 120,000. Ultimately, the Persians were routed and lost at least 50,000 troops while Mardonius died on the battlefield. It is believed that the Greeks also enjoyed victory at the naval Battle of Mycale on the same day. The Persians lost all 300 ships and most of its 60,000 soldiers. This marked the end of Greek defense as they began to launch a counter-offensive. Eventually, the Greco-Persian Wars concluded in 449 BC with the Peace of Callias between Athens and Persia.

 

Sources

Salamis – Ancient History Encyclopedia by Mark Cartwright

A Short History of the Greeks: From the Earliest Times to BC 146 – Evelyn S. Shuckburgh

Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise of Western Power – Victor Davis Hanson

The Histories – Herodotus

Persian Fire – Tom Holland

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