Battle of Salamis - 20th of September 480 B.C.

"Forward, sons of the Greeks, liberate the fatherland, liberate your children, your women, the temples of your ancestral gods, the graves of your forebears: This is the battle for everything".
Aeschylus 'The Persians' See Note#5

Aeschylus, an eyewitness to the battle later wrote that the Persians were drawn up in three lines outside the entrance to the channel. On the mainland nearby, a throne was erected from where the Persian King Xerxes could watch.



At the break of day, the Persian fleet began its advance through the eastern channel. The lines formed up into columns with the Phoenicians leading. "The Athenian squadron found itself facing the Phoenicians on the Persian left wing." As the Phoenicians came through the channel, which was about 4 miles (6.4kms) wide, they faced the Greek fleet which was in an 'L' formation. The Greek ships suddenly began to back water, leading the Persian fleet further into the narrowing channel (See Note#1). "The Greeks checked their way and began to back astern; and they were on the point of running aground when Ameinias of Pallene, in command of an Athenian ship, drove ahead and rammed an enemy vessel. Seeing the two ships foul of one another and locked together, the rest of the Greek fleet hurried to Ameinias' assistance, and the general action began. Such is the Athenian account of how the battle started."



Daybreak, Persians advanceOther ships lay in wait in the bay and now ambushed the Persians on their left flank, driving them towards the shore of the mainland. In the ensuring confusion, the Persian ships began to crowd the narrow channel which was now only about 2 miles wide (See Note#2). Herodotus wrote, "The Greek fleet worked together as a whole, while the Persians had lost formation and were no longer fighting on any plan. None the less they (the Persians) fought well that day - far better than in the actions off Euboea. Every man of them did his best for fear of Xerxes, feeling that the king's eye was on him"



Xerxes witnesses the battle of SalamisThe Persian ships in the narrow channel had difficulty in turning to meet the enemy. Their speed would have been slow and in many instances they would have been broadside to the ramming Greek ships.
Herodotus recorded, The greatest destruction took place when the (Persian) ships which had been first engaged turned tail, for those astern fell foul of them in their attempt to press forward (See Note#3). The enemy was in hopeless confusion; such ships as offered resistance were cut to pieces, others trying to escape turned headlong into their own advancing navy.... Such of the Persian ships as escaped destruction made their way back to Phalerum and brought up there under the protection of the army.


Queen Artemisia, fought valiantly against the Greeks to which Xerxes commented 'My men behave like women and my women like men'. Aristides the Athenian during the confusion, took up a number of heavy-armed troops, who had previously been stationed along the shore of Salamis, and, landing with them on the islet of Psyttaleia there slew all the Persians.




Battle of Salamis

By now the rout was now on, those that sought to make resistance or fleeing to shore found themselves being run down by the rampaging Athenians. Athenian marines were the stars of the day, after the initial collision, they would rush aboard the Persian ships killing all before them. The army that awaited them were not marines but soilders usually from hilly areas, naive of the ways of hand to hand combat at sea. Those ships that sort to make their escape and could get past the Athenians found themselves headlong into the waiting arms of the Aeginetan squadron, who claimed anybody that may have somehow got out of the onslaught.

By sunset the battle was over. "Amongst those killed was the son of Xerxes' brother, and many other well-known men from Persia. There were also Greek casualties, but not many; for most of the Greeks could swim (not sure what stroke that would have been, but they could dog paddle). Most of the enemy, on the other hand, being unable to swim, were drowned." Though Herodotus names many of the Persian commanders killed in the battle there is no mention of ship losses. "After the battle the Greeks towed over to Salamis all the disabled vessels which were adrift, and then prepared for a renewal of the fight, fully expecting that Xerxes would use his remaining ships to make another attack. Those Persian ships that did manage to get away limped back to Phalerum, under cover of their land army.

Picture of a view of Salamis today

A picture of the view of the island of Salamis today.

NEXT PAGE>>>.Aftermath of Salamis




Battle of Salamis - 480 B.C
Fleet size
Outcome: Greek victory
Names of those know to be in the battle

Phaylus of Crotona





Between 480 to 479 B.C. Xanthippus was strategos of Athens.







Note#1 this tactic is to lure the Persian fleet into a even more desperate position, thinking that the Greeks trying to escape are now falling ontop of each other retreating


Note#2 the Persian fleet could not retreat, talk the previous night of the Greeks trying to escape for fear of their destruciton, and with the king looking on, each captain had to push forward.


Note#3 Scythian archers worked as mercenaries for Greek armies. At the battle of Salamis the Greeks hired 300 Scythian mercenaries. Usually 1/3 of the Scythians archers were women so it is possible that 100 Scythian women were fighting on behalf of the Greeks.


Note#4: The 'Corinthian Decoy' preformed here at the Battle of Salamis is a great example of how sophisticated and flexibile the Greek military forces were compared to the Persian one.

Note#5: The play was produced only eight years after the battle itself (472 B.C.), and as far as I know is the oldest surviving play in history

The Persian Ahemeno was the General in this battle.

Go to, 'Estimated population size of Athens and Sparta at this time.'



Copyright 2011 | All Rights Reserved