14. The warrior who won history’s most consequential battle
No other battle in history, had it gone the other way, would have resulted in as radically different a world as would have occurred if the Greeks had lost the Battle of Salamis. Western history is rooted in Greek civilization, especially Athens’ contribution to that civilization. The height of Athenian culture and civilization, featuring an explosion in the arts, literature, philosophy, and democracy, occurred in the decades following the victory at Salamis. If the Greeks had lost, Greece would have become a Persian satrapy. There would have been no independent Hellenic civilization to eventually seed that of the West.
Instead of drawing upon Greek civilization, Western history might have become an extension of Persian civilization and culture. The ripple effects might have included no Christianity as a major religion. Christianity only became a world religion after it escaped its Jewish roots, and fused the teachings of Jesus with the Hellenism of the Roman East. A knock-on effect of that would have been no Islam as a major religion. There had been a significant Christian presence in Arabia for centuries before Islam, exerting considerable influence upon the locals. Indeed, many viewed Islam in its earliest days as just another Christian heresy, because of the significant overlap between it and Christianity.