Battle of Salamis: description, history, participants and results
The Battle of Salamis (year 480 BC) is a battle at sea between the Greek and Persian armies. Its name is explained simply. The battle took place near Athens, near the island of Salamis. According to some reports, the fleet of Greeks consisted of 311 or 380 ships. This was quite enough to defeat 1 thousand Persian ships in a narrow strait. It was the Salamsk battle (Grade 5 of any secondary school that necessarily studies this war in history lessons) turned the tide of the Greco-Persian wars. In this article we will briefly describe this event.
How did it all start?
The participants of the Salamis battle are the Greeks and Persians. The battle was preceded by several events that significantly influenced the further course of the war. Persian soldiers invaded Athens and destroyed them. All residents of the city managed to pre-evacuate to the island of Salamis.Between him and the mainland in the narrow straits was concentrated the entire Greek fleet. There are different opinions about the number of ships, but invariably only one - the Persians had a numerical superiority. Most of the sources include the following figures: 310 Greek vessels of Trier (according to Herodot - about 380, Aeschylus - 311 ships), against 1,200 Persian. Although, according to the well-known Soviet historian, Professor S. Lurye, no more than 500 ships took part in the battle from the Persians. Such a moment is also very important: most of the Persian ships were larger and heavier than the Greek. At that time, ship artillery was still absent, so only two means were used to fight the enemy at sea — ram and boarding. So the size of the vessel and the number of soldiers that fit it were of great importance.
Among the Greeks, there were quite serious disagreements. Most of the commanders offered to leave Salamis and throw all forces to defend the Corinthian isthmus. Being a good strategist, Themistokles, who headed the Greek fleet, said that the Hellenes could defeat the superior Persians in the number of ships only in narrow straits. But no one listened to his opinion.And Themistocles went to the trick: he sent a trusted messenger to Xerxes with an important message. He told the Persian king that the Greeks plan to flee, and if he wants to destroy the enemy fleet, then it is worthwhile to attack them right now (in more detail we will tell about it below).
For the Greeks, the battle in a narrow space was the only way to defeat the enemy. After all, the only way to level the numerical superiority of the Persian fleet. Swimming in the straits between the island and the mainland, the Persians deprived themselves of advantages. Starting the Salamis battle, the date of which is indicated at the beginning of the article, they made a strategic mistake that determined the outcome of the battle and the outcome of the war as a whole.
In 490 BC. er under the command of Artafern and Datis, a fleet was sent to conquer Athens. Along the way, the Persians conquered and destroyed Eritrea. The army landed in Attica, but was defeated by the Platians and the Athenians at the Battle of Marathon. Having failed, the Persian king Darius began to gather a large army to conquer all of Greece. The plans of the ruler prevented the Egyptian uprising of 486 BC. er And then Darius passed away. The throne rightfully went to his son Xerxes.After suppressing the uprising, he decided to continue the work begun by his father and resumed the gathering of troops to march on Greece.
Strong Greek Navy
Meanwhile, Themistocles came to power in Athens. He closely engaged in the creation of a powerful fleet. According to custom, the Athenians divided the profits from the silver mines in Lavrion. They belonged to the state. But when the tyrants were overthrown, state property became the property of all citizens. If after paying all government spending in the treasury there was a surplus, then he was equally divided among all the Athenians.
Themistocles offered to send the money to build ships. The idea was taken quite ambiguously. By accepting it, every Athenian voluntarily deprived himself of a small cash benefit. When Themistocles was preparing the fleet for the war with the Persians, he was well aware that the Athenians were unlikely to support his decision. After all, the Greeks did not consider the barbarians to be a serious threat to the losers under the Marathon. Therefore, Themistocles persuaded his fellow citizens that a powerful fleet and new ships are needed for the war with Aegina (this island was waging a continuous battle with Athens). It was this policy that led the Hellenes to win the battle of Salamis.
In 481 BC. erXerxes sent ambassadors to all Greek city-states, except Sparta and Athens. The Persian king demanded "land and water." The autumn of the same year a general meeting was convened. The Greeks realized the danger they were facing and concluded an alliance between them, ending the internecine wars. Ambassadors were sent to all the Greek colonies asking for help. But, from a technical point of view, it was difficult to execute the orders of the general Greek council because of the fragmentation of the Hellenes and mutual hostility.
Hike to greece
In 480 BC. er The Persian king began transporting his troops from Asia to Europe. In addition to land soldiers, Xerxes had a powerful fleet.
Throughout the spring and summer, the Persian army moved along the coast of the Aegean Sea. They tried to block the path of the Spartan king Leonid, along with three hundred soldiers. But they were all killed by the Persians in the gorge of Thermopyles. Then the army of Xerxes broke into central Greece. The Persian ships met with the Hellenic fleet at Cape Artemisia. The Greeks were forced to retreat to the south and stood in the western part of the coast of Attica.
According to all the canons of marine art, the location of the Greek fleet near the island of Salamis was the most inconvenient.The ships of the Greeks stood in a narrow space, both exits from which were easily controlled by the enemy. There was nowhere to deploy triremes for battle, and there was nowhere to retreat in case of an attack. But Themistocles decided to consciously take the risk in order to win the battle of Salamis. He made the "disadvantageous" position of his fleet a bait for the Persians. The trick was that the Greeks took into account all the conditions of the terrain. They perfectly knew all the shoals, reefs and currents in the straits and bays of Salamis. The management of the Persian ships were mainly engaged in the Phoenicians, who were considered excellent sailors. But it was precisely off the coast of a little-studied island that all their vast experience turned out to be completely useless.
Nevertheless, Themistocles' positional trick was only half the battle. Indeed, in this situation, the Persians were not particularly eager to get involved in a fight. And this was a serious problem. Many fleet leaders of Xerxes reasoned very sensibly: let the Greeks remain in the trap, and when they get tired of sitting out, swim and attack themselves. These arguments are given in the work of the historian Herodotus, who described in detail the battle of Salamis.Despite the obvious superiority of its own fleet, Xerxes did not dare to go on the offensive.
Being an experienced military leader, Themistocles guessed the intentions of the enemy. In addition, among the Greeks, too, there was no consensus about the position of Salamis. The commander of the fleet of Sparta Euribiad, formally standing on the ladder of military leaders a little “above” Themistocles, very persistently suggested relocating ships to the Corinth isthmus, closer to Peloponnese. He even ordered his soldiers to prepare for a breakthrough. Themistocles understood that on the high seas the Battle of Salamis (briefly described in this article) would be lost by them. Therefore, I decided to act quickly, luring the Persians into battle. The Athenian went to an unprecedented for that time deception, which can be called "false betrayal."
A servant of Themistocles named Sikin, who was of Persian origin, went to Xerxes with a message. He told the king that his master’s detachment would go over to the Persians in battle. “In proof of the devotion Themistocles reveals to Xerxes all the plans of the Greeks. The king needs to lock up two exits from the Salamis Strait and prevent the Hellenes from leaving, ”Sikin said. Xerxes believed the slave.So the Persian ships headed straight into Themistocles' trap, blocking the outlets from the strait, including the most inconvenient and narrow for large ships - at Cape Kamatero. It was there that the main events of the battle unfolded.
The Salamis battle, a brief summary of which was described above, proceeded according to the plan of Themistocles. Some Persian ships were stranded, where they were safely captured by the Greeks. Several ships stumbled upon reefs and sailed to the seabed without enemy intervention. But most of the Persian ships fell victim to another Themistocles tricks: the Greek pretended that his ships in the center of the position began to retreat. Thus, the naval commander "tightened" the Persians in the place of the strait, where it is impossible to physically turn around.
Enemies were forced to retreat in disarray, while facing with their own ships and drowning them. By evening, the Persian flotilla had halved and hastily sailed from the island fatal for it. The Greeks won the Salamis battle and were able to regain dominance at sea. And only a year later, in the battle of Plataeus, they completely crushed the Persian army on foot, putting an end to the plan of Xerxes to conquer Greece.