Battle of Salamis

Following the defeats at Thermopylae and Artemisium, Greek forces retreated to the island of Salamis, while 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 4 to 1, but this would not necessarily work in the their favour.

Themistocles sent a servant to King Xerxes to tell him that he,Themistocles was on Xerxes side and that the Greeks were fighting amongst themselves and that some were planning to leave. This was just a ruse and Xerxes fell for it. He sailed his navy into the straits of Salamis to block both entrances to stop the Greeks leaving.

The Persian fleet was so great that they struggled to manoeuvre their ships into the strait. Xerxes was hoping for a quick decisive victory, but he was only creating problems for his fleet in the narrow waters.

The Persian fleet looked impressive in numbers and depth, but as the Greeks attacked and pushed the Persians back, one line of Persian ships became entangled with the next line of their own ships. This caused chaos amongst the Persians.

To further affect them was the death of Persian Admiral Ariabignes (brother of Xerxes), who died early on in the battle. This left many ships without their leader and they became very disorganised.

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. It 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 fell into the water during battle and drowned. The Persians were unable to swim.

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.

Xerxes and the remaining Persian ships retreated to Asia Minor, leaving Mardonius (military commander) to continue with the conquest of Greece.

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