Aftermath of Salamis - 480 B.C., Sept

The Persian king now held a council on what to do next, how should the war continue? Their fleet disabled, moral low, the Athenians just across the straight, and still somewhere ahead the Pelopennese waiting to strike out against him. It was during this time that the thought of the Greek navy heading straight to the Hellespont and breaking up the bridge, in which case they would be blocked up in Europe and run the risk of perishing, began to cross their minds.

Xerxes continued to make warlike preperations, he bagan to fasten a number of ships together to make a bridge to cross over to Salamis, plus a mole was begining to be built towards the island. All grew fully persuaded that the king was bent on remaining. However, this was all a ruse, in reality, Xerxes was organising his army to return to the Hellspont, the threat from the Greek navy was too much to leave unguarded.

Consternation now for Mardonius, he now suspected that the blame would eventually fall on himself, being the one that pursuaded the king to attack Greece. He asked the king if he could be left behind with an army of 300,000 ((in reality probably about 70,000)). He himself would be able to subdue to Greeks into submission. Xerxes asked Artemisia, the woman commander who couciled him not to go into a sea battle in Salamis. Artemisia speaks to XerxesHer words were that as long as the king was safe, it was not important even if Mardonius failed, after all he was a slave, the king had done as he had wanted, he had burnt Athens to the ground, he had nothing more to prove by staying. Xerxes agreed. Allowing Mardonius his request, the following day orders were given to the remaining ships to proceed with all hast to the defence of the Hellespont. Xerxes with his remaining force pressed on back towards the bridge.

The Greeks now seeing the land force gone, thought that a sea battle was about to take place and went on the defence. Soon after news came that the Persian ships had abandoned their base. Orders were given to immediatey pursue them. They went as far as Andros before a council of war was taken. Themistocles advised that the Greeks should follow on through with the pusuit all the way to the Hellespont and there break down the bridges. Eurybiades, however, delivered a contrary opinion. If the Greeks should break down the bridges, it would be the worst thing that could possibly happen for Greece. The Persians, supposing that this retreat were cut off, and then compelled to remain in Europe, would be sure never to give them any peace. The other Peloponnesian captains agreed. Grudgingly, Themistocles agreed. Telling his contingent that "the barbarian is clean gone - we have driven him off - let each now repair his own house, and sow his land diligently. In the spring we will take ship and sail to the Hellespont and to Ionia!"

The ever cunning Themistocles, now sent a message to the king, the hearld saying that he has been sent by the leader of the Athenians 'who is anxious to render the king assistance. He has restrained the Greeks, who were impatient to pursue your ships, and to break up the bridges at the Hellespont. Now return home at your lesuire.'

The Peloponnesians returned, the king after waiting a few days after Salamis was now making way through Boeotia. Themistocles, realising that his city lay in ruins, but that their navy lay intaked, including being unmistakeable rulers of the sea, needed money, he knew also how to get it.

Map of the island of AndrosLaying seige to Andros intending to take the town by storm, the Athenians required money and sent word ahead that they needed it and that they bought two mighty gods with them - Persuasion and Necessity. To which the rulers of Andros replyed that Athens might be a glorious city, but the island of Andros had two gods of their own, Poverty and Helplessness, and to this end, they would not pay.

Word was now being sent to all neighouring islands, pay the Athenians or prepare for a vist from them. Many of the islands knowing that Andros was being attacked, decided to pay rather than face the Athenians.

Xerxes and the Persians all made their way to Thessaly, where Mardonius hand picked his force to stay in Greece. Winter was on the way and the ones that remained would stay in Thessaly ((advantageous for an army with superious calvalry)). Picked were the 'Immortals', less their leader Hydarnes, who refused to abandon the king. Any Perisans wearing breastplates or any kind of armour was next chosen plus all members of the calvalry, and anybody who had stood out during combat or had an appearance of being a dominant soldier.

It was at this time that the Lacedaemonians received an oracle that said that they 'should seek satisfaction at the hands to Xerxes for the death of Leonidas, and take whatever he chose to give them'. So the Spartans sent a hearld to Thessaly, who arrived to report to the king that Sparta required of him satisfaction due for bleedshed, because he slew their king, who fell fighting for Greece. After a long pause of contemplation he pointed to Mardonius, who was standing by him, and said 'Mardonius here shall give them the satisfaction they deserve'. The hearld accepted the answer and went away.

The bulk of the army now made their way back up towards the Hellespont while Mardonius and his soldiers got ready for the winter that lay ahead.

The Athenians having returned from their 'island hopping' returned to Salamis and immediatley sent offerings to Delphi. When the spoils had been divided the Greeks made their way to the Ishthmus, where they voted on who should be awarded for their bravery. On this Themistocles clearly won, however, envy hindered the chiefs from coming to a decision, and they all sailed away without issuing a reward.

Nevertheless Themistocles was regarded everywhere as by far the wisest man of all the Greeks; and the whole country rang with his fame. From their Themistocles went to Lacedaemon, in the hope that he would be honoured there. They received him handsomely, and paid him great respect. The prize of valour indeed, which was a crown of olive, they gave to Eurybiades, but Themistocles was given a crown of olive too, as the pricze of wisdom and dexterity. The was also given a beatiful chariot and after receiving abundant praises was, upon his departure, escorted as far as the borders of Tegea, by the three hundred Spartans, who were called the knights. Never before or since had a man been given an escort such as this. On his return Themistocles was immediatley put on the back foot when long time nemisses Timodemus, accused that 'it was not on his merit that they had won, but on the fame of Athens'.

Mardonius now camping in Thessaly and Macedonia sent Artabazus to escort Xerxes across the Hellespont. The bridge of boats now long gone, blown apart by a storm, this however, did not slow down the journey as the force crossed the straight by boat. After the king was safely across, Artabazus didn't immediatley return to Mardonius. He detoured to the city of Potidaea (on the penincilar of Pallene) who had now openly revolted against the king. On his way there he detoured to Olynthus (Olynthos) as he had suspisions that they too were about to revolt. Here he led them out to swampland and had the entire city killed. Replacing the inhabitants with his own. He now pressed the siege with Potidaea. Not being able to take their walls he dealt with an insider called Timoxenus to breach the walls. The informer was soon discovered, and though not killed, was stipped of his post.

After three long months a stoke of luck now came across the Persians, the ebb in the tide seem to be very low, now only a swamp stood before them, not the sea. The Perisans gave orders for a big push. But while attacking the walls, the sea swept back in, killing many Persians and forcing the remains running for their lives, on this the city opened it's door and their soldiers rushed out to take on the disorientated Persians, killing many and forcing the others to flee toward Mardonius.

The part of the kings navy, about 300, that had survived Salamis and had escorted the king across the Hellespont, now made their way to Cyme, and once regrouping, harboured at Samos. The Greeks had abandoned the chase early on, so they thought a full on asult on Asia Minor would not be coming. They would wait for how Mardonius would go with Athens, threatening on their doorstep.

The approach of spring, and the knowledge that Mardonius was in Thessaly, roused the Greeks from inaction. Their land force had not as yet come together, but the fleet, consisting of one hundred and ten ships, proceeded to Aegina, under the command of the Spartan General and Admiral Leotychides, who had taken over from Eurybiades. The Athenian contingent was commanded by Xanthippus (Themistocles had now moved on to be 'strategos'). It was about this time too that Kleombrotus died of natural causes. Kleombrotus became regent with the death of Leonidas, whos son, Pleistarchus was now rightly king, but being only a child was given his uncle Kleombrotus, son of Anaxandrias, as regent. The regent that now took over was Pausanias who was the son of Kleombrotus, the chief power now belonged to him.

View of Delos and SamosWhen the whole fleet was stationed at Aegina, ambassadors from Ionia arrived. They had just come from Sparta where they had implored help to deliver their native land from the Persians. But this seemed to the Greeks a risky business. They sailed to Delos, but past that seemed to them full of danger, unknown to them and full of Persian troops.

Thus, at the very same time the barbarians were hindered by their fears from venturing any further west than Samos and the prayers of the ambassadors failed to induce the Greeks to advance any further east than Delos...terror guarded the mid-region.


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'Histories' by Herodotus published by Wordsworth 1996




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