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The Naval Battle of Salamis
The Athenians soon after (the battle at Thermopylae) proved their
mettle. Rather than surrender when Xerxes arrived in Attica with his army, they
abandoned their city for him to sack. The Athenian commander Themistocles (c.
528-462 B.C.) then maneuvered the other Greeks into facing the larger Persian
navy in a sea battle in the narrow channel between the island of Salamis and
the west coast of Attica. Athens was able to supply the largest contingent to
the Greek navy at Salamis because the assembly had been financing the construction
of warships ever since a rich strike of silver had been made in Attica in 483
B.C. The proceeds from the silver mines went to the state andat the urging of
Themistocles, the assembly had voted to use the financial windfall to build
a navy for defense, rather than to distribute the money among individual citizens.
As at Thermopylae, the Greeks in the battle of Salamis in 480 B.C. used topography
to their advantage. The narrowness of the channel prevented the Persians from
using all their ships at once and minimized the advantage of their ships' greater
maneuverability. In the close quarters of the Salamis channel, the heavier Greek
ships could employ their underwater rams to sink the less sturdy Persian craft.
When Xerxes observed that the most energetic of his naval commanders appeared
to be the one woman among themArtemisia of Caria (the southwest corner of Turkey),
he reportedly remarked, "My men have become women, and my women, men".
End of the Persian Wars
The Greek victory at Salamis in 480 B.C. sent Xerxes back to Persia,
but he left behind an enormous infantry force under his best general and an
offer for the Athenians (if only they would capitulate): they would remain unharmed
and become the king's overlords over the other Greeks. The assembly refused,
the Athenian population evacuated its homes and city once again, and Xerxes'
general wrecked Athens for the second time in as many years. In 479 B.C., the
Greek infantry headed by the Spartans under the command of a royal son named
Pausanias (c. 520-470 B.C.) outfought the Persian infantry at the battle of
Plataea in Boeotia, just north of Attica, while a Greek fleet caught the Persian
navy napping at Mykale on the coast of Ionia. The coalition of Greek city-states
had thus done the incredible: they had protected their homeland and their independence
from the strongest power in the world.
Political Freedom and Greek Courage
The Greeks' superior armor and weapons and their adroit use of topography to
counterbalance the enemy's greater numbers explain their victories from a military
perspective. What is truly remarkable about the Persian Wars, however, is that
the citizen militias of the thirty-one Greek city-states decided to fight in
the first place. They could have surrendered and agreed to become Persian subjects
to save themselves. Instead, eager to defend their freedom despite the risks
and encouraged to fight by the citizens of their communities, these Greeks chose
to strive together against apparently overwhelming odds. Since the Greek forces
included not only aristocrats and hoplites (who had to be financially capable
of supplying their own armor and weapons), but also thousands of poorer men
who rowed the warships, the effort against the Persians cut across social and
economic divisions. The decision by Greeks to fight the Persian Wars demonstrated
courage inspired by a deep devotion to the ideal of the political freedom of
the city-state, which had emerged in the preceding Archaic Age.
This text is from: Thomas Martin's An Overview of Classical Greek History from Homer to Alexander,
Yale University Press. Cited Sep 2002 from
Perseus Project URL below, which contains bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.
Battle of Salamis, by Herodotus
Short after the battle of Thermopylae)
At the request of the Athenians,
the fleet of the Hellenes came from Artemisium
and put in at Salamis. The Athenians requested them to put in at Salamis so that
they take their children and women out of Attica
and also take counsel what they should do. They had been disappointed in their
plans, so they were going to hold a council about the current state of affairs.
They expected to find the entire population of the Peloponnese
in Boeotia awaiting(1)
the barbarian, but they found no such thing. They learned that they were
fortifying the Isthmus instead and considered the defense of the Peloponnese the
most important thing, disregarding all the rest. When the Athenians learned this,
they asked the fleet to put in at Salamis.
While the others put in at Salamis, the Athenians landed in their
own country. When they arrived, they made a proclamation that every Athenian should
save his children and servants as he best could. Thereupon most of them sent the
members of their households to Troezen,
and some to Aegina and Salamis.
They were anxious to get everything out safely because they wished to obey the
oracle, and also not least because of this: the Athenians say that a great snake(2)
lives in the sacred precinct guarding the acropolis. They say this and even put
out monthly offerings for it as if it really existed. The monthly offering is
a honey-cake. In all the time before this the honey-cake had been consumed, but
this time it was untouched. When the priestess interpreted the significance of
this(3), the Athenians were all the more eager to abandon the
city since the goddess(4) had deserted the acropolis. When they
had removed everything to safety, they returned to the camp.
When those from Artemisium had put in at Salamis, the rest of the
Hellenic fleet learned of this and streamed in from Troezen, for they had been
commanded to assemble at Pogon (5), the harbor of Troezen. Many
more ships assembled now than had fought at Artemisium(6), and
from more cities. The admiral was the same as at Artemisium, Eurybiades son of
Euryclides, a Spartan but not of royal descent. The ships provided by the Athenians
were by far the most numerous and the most seaworthy.
The following took part in the war:
From the Peloponnese, the Lacedaemonians
provided sixteen ships; the Corinthians
the same number as at Artemisium(40 ships); the Sicyonians
furnished fifteen ships, the Epidaurians
ten, the Troezenians five,
the Hermioneans three. All
of these except the Hermioneans are Dorian and Macedonian and had last come from
Erineus and Pindus
and the Dryopian region. The Hermioneans are Dryopians, driven out of the country
now called Doris by Herakles
and the Malians.These, then,
were the Peloponnesians who took part in the war.
From the mainland outside the Peloponnese came the following:
The Athenians provided more than all the rest, one hundred and eighty ships.(7)
They provided these alone, since the Plataeans
did not fight with the Athenians at Salamis for this reason: when the Hellenes
departed from Artemisium(8) and were off Chalcis,
the Plataeans landed on the opposite shore of Boeotia
and attended to the removal of their households. In bringing these to safety they
were left behind. The Athenians, while the Pelasgians ruled what is now called
Hellas, were Pelasgians,
bearing the name of Cranai. When Cecrops was their king they were called Cecropidae,
and when Erechtheus succeeded to the rule, they changed their name and became
Athenians. When, however, Ion son of Xuthus was commander(9) of
the Athenian army, they were called after him Ionians.
The Megarians provided the same number as at Artemisium (20 ships).
The Ampraciots came to help with seven ships, and the Leucadians, who are Dorians
from Corinth, with three.(10)
Of the islanders, the Aeginetans provided thirty ships. They had other
manned ships, but they guarded their own land with these and fought at Salamis
with the thirty most seaworthy. The Aeginetans are Dorians from Epidaurus, and
their island was formerly called Oenone. After the Aeginetans came the Chalcidians
with their twenty ships from Artemisium, and the Eretrians
with the same seven; these are Ionians. Next were the Ceans,
Ionians from Athens, with the same ships as before. The Naxians
provided four ships. They had been sent by their fellow citizens to the Persians,
like the rest of the islanders, but they disregarded their orders and came to
the Hellenes at the urging of Democritus, an esteemed man among the townsmen and
at that time captain of a trireme. The Naxians are Ionians descended from Athens.
The Styrians provided the
same number of ships as at Artemisium, and the Cythnians
one trireme and a fifty-oared boat; these are both Dryopians. The Seriphians,
Siphnians, and Melians
also took part, since they were the only islanders who had not given earth and
water to the barbarian.
All these people who live this side of Thesprotia
and the Acheron river took
part in the war. The Thesprotians border on the Ampraciots
and Leucadians, who were
the ones who came from the most distant countries to take part in the war. The
only ones living beyond these to help Hellas in its danger were the Crotonians,
with one ship. Its captain was Phayllus,(11) three times victor
in the Pythian games. The Crotonians are Achaeans by birth.
All of these came to the war providing triremes, except the Melians
and Siphnians and Seriphians, who brought fifty-oared boats. The Melians (who
are of Lacedaemonian stock)(12) provided two; the Siphnians and
Seriphians, who are Ionians from Athens, one each. The total number of ships,
besides the fifty-oared boats, was three hundred and seventy-eight.
When the generals from the aforementioned cities, met at Salamis,
they held a council and Eurybiades proposed that whoever wanted to should give
his opinion on what place under their control was most suitable for a sea battle.
Attica was already lost, and he proposed that they consider the places which were
left. The consensus of most of the speakers was to sail to the Isthmus and fight
at sea for the Peloponnese, giving this reason: if they were defeated in the fight
at Salamis they would be besieged on an island, where no help could come to them,
but if they were at the Isthmus they could go ashore to their own lands.
While the generals from the Peloponnese considered this argument,
an Athenian came with the message that the barbarians had reached Attica and were
laid destroying it by fire. The army with Xerxes had made its way through Boeotia
and burnt the city of the Thespians,
who had abandoned it and gone to the Peloponnese, and Plataea
likewise. Now the army had come to Athens and was devastating everything there.
The army burnt Thespia and Plataea upon learning from the Thebans
that they had not medized.
Since the crossing of the Hellespont,
where the barbarians began their journey, they had spent one month there crossing
into Europe and in three more months were in Attica, when Calliades was archon
at Athens.(13) When they took the town it was deserted, but in
the sacred precinct they found a few Athenians, stewards of the sacred precinct
and poor people, who defended themselves against the assault by fencing the acropolis
with doors and logs. They had not withdrawn to Salamis not only because of poverty
but also because they thought they had discovered the meaning of the oracle the
Pythia had given, namely that the wooden wall would be impregnable. They believed
that according to the oracle this, not the ships, was the refuge.
The Persians took up a position on the hill opposite the Acropolis,
which the Athenians call the Areopagus,
and besieged them in this way: they wrapped arrows in tar and set them on fire,
and then shot them at the barricade. Still the besieged Athenians defended themselves,
although they had come to the utmost danger and their barricade had failed them.
When the Pisistratids proposed terms of surrender, they would not listen but contrived
defenses such as rolling down boulders onto the barbarians when they came near
the gates. For a long time Xerxes was at a loss, unable to capture them.
In time a way out of their difficulties was revealed to the barbarians,
since according to the oracle all the mainland of Attica had to become subject
to the Persians. In front of the acropolis, and behind the gates and the ascent,
was a place where no one was on guard, since no one thought any man could go up
that way. Here some men climbed up, near the sacred precinct of Cecrops' daughter
Aglaurus(14), although the place was a sheer cliff. When the
Athenians saw that they had ascended to the acropolis, some threw themselves off
the wall and were killed, and others fled into the chamber. The Persians who had
come up first turned to the gates, opened them, and murdered the suppliants. When
they had levelled everything, they plundered the sacred precinct and set fire
to the entire acropolis.
So it was that Xerxes took complete possession of Athens, and he sent
a horseman to Susa to announce his present success to Artabanus. On the day after
the messenger was sent, he called together the Athenian exiles who accompanied
him and asked them go up to the acropolis and perform sacrifices in their customary
way, an order given because he had been inspired by a dream or because he felt
remorse after burning the sacred precinct. The Athenian exiles did as they were
I will tell why I have mentioned this. In that acropolis is a shrine
of Erechtheus, called the "Earthborn," and in the shrine are an olive
tree and a pool of salt water. The story among the Athenians is that they were
set there by Poseidon and Athena as tokens when they contended for the land(15).
It happened that the olive tree was burnt by the barbarians with the rest of the
sacred precinct, but on the day after its burning, when the Athenians ordered
by the king to sacrifice went up to the sacred precinct, they saw a shoot of about
a cubit's length sprung from the stump, and they reported this.
When this business concerning the Athenian acropolis was announced
to the Hellenes at Salamis, some of the Peloponnesian generals became so alarmed
that they did not even wait for the proposed matter to be decided, but jumped
into their ships and hoisted their sails for flight. Those left behind resolved
that the fleet should fight for the Isthmus. Night fell, and they dissolved the
assembly and boarded their ships.
When Themistocles returned to his ship, Mnesiphilus, an Athenian,
asked him what had been decided. Learning from him that they had resolved to sail
to the Isthmus and fight for the Peloponnese, he said, "If they depart from
Salamis, you will no longer be fighting for one country. Each will make his way
to his own city, and neither Eurybiades nor any other man will be able to keep
them from disbanding the army. Hellas will be destroyed by bad planning. If there
is any way at all that you could persuade Eurybiades to change his decision and
remain here, go try to undo this resolution."(16)
This advice greatly pleased Themistocles. He made no answer and went
to the ship of Eurybiades. When he arrived there, he said he wanted to talk with
him on a matter of common interest, so Eurybiades bade him come aboard and say
what he wanted. Themistocles sat next to him and told him all that he had heard
from Mnesiphilus, pretending it was his own idea and adding many other things.
Finally by his entreaty he persuaded him to disembark and gather the generals
for a council of war.
When they were assembled and before Eurybiades had a chance to put
forward the reason he had called the generals together, Themistocles spoke at
length in accordance with the urgency of his request. While he was speaking, the
Corinthian general Adeimantus son of Ocytus said, "Themistocles, at the games
those who start before the signal are beaten with rods." Themistocles said
in justification, "Those left behind win no crown."(17)
He answered the Corinthian mildly and said to Eurybiades nothing of
what he had said before, how if they put out from Salamis they would flee different
ways, for it would be unbecoming for him to accuse the allies in their presence.
Instead he relied on a different argument and said, "It is in your hands
to save Hellas, if you will obey me and remain here to fight, and not obey the
words of these others and move your ships back to the Isthmus. Compare each plan
after you have heard. If you join battle at the Isthmus, you will fight in the
open sea where it is least to our advantage, since our ships are heavier and fewer
in number.(18) You will also lose Salamis and Megara
and Aegina, even if we succeed in all else. Their land army will accompany their
fleet, and so you will lead them to the Peloponnese and risk all Hellas. But if
you do what I say, you will find it useful in these ways: first, by engaging many
ships with our few in the strait, we shall win a great victory, if the war turns
out reasonably, for it is to our advantage to fight in a strait and to their advantage
to fight in a wide area. Second, Salamis will survive, where we have carried our
children and women to safety. It also has in it something you are very fond of:
by remaining here you will be fighting for the Peloponnese just as much as at
the Isthmus, and you will not lead them to the Peloponnese, if you exercise good
judgment. If what I expect happens and we win the victory with our ships, you
will not have the barbarians upon you at the Isthmus.
They will advance no further than Attica and depart in no order, and we shall
gain an advantage by the survival of Megara, Aegina, and Salamis, where it is
prophesied that we will prevail against our enemies. Men usually succeed when
they have reasonable plans. If their plans are unreasonable, the god does not
wish to assent to human intentions."
As Themistocles said this, Adeimantus the Corinthian attacked him
again, advising that a man without a city should keep quiet and that Eurybiades
should not ask the vote of a man without a city. He advised Themistocles to contribute
his opinion when he provided a city--attacking him in this way because Athens
was captured and occupied. This time Themistocles said many things against him
and the Corinthians, declaring that so long as they had two hundred manned ships,
the Athenians had both a city and a land greater than theirs, and that none of
the Hellenes could repel them if they attacked. Next he turned his argument to
Eurybiades, saying more vehemently than before, "If you remain here, you
will be an noble man. If not, you will ruin Hellas. All our strength for war is
in our ships, so listen to me. If you do not do this, we will immediately gather
up our households and travel to Siris
in Italy, which has been ours since ancient times, and the prophecies say we must
found a colony there. You will remember these words when you are without such
When Themistocles said this, Eurybiades changed his mind. I think
he did so chiefly out of fear that the Athenians might desert them if they set
sail for the Isthmus. If the Athenians left, the rest would be no match for the
enemy, so he made the choice to remain there and fight.
After this skirmish of words, since Eurybiades had so resolved, the
men at Salamis prepared to fight where they were. At sunrise on the next day there
was an earthquake on land and sea, and they resolved to pray to the gods and summon
the sons of Aeacus as allies. When they had so resolved, they did as follows:
they prayed to all the gods, called Ajax and Telamon to come straight from Salamis,
and sent a ship to Aegina for Aeacus and his sons.
Dicaeus son of Theocydes, an Athenian exile who had become important
among the Medes, said that at the time when the land of Attica was being laid
waste by Xerxes' army and there were no Athenians in the country, he was with
Demaratus the Lacedaemonian on the Thriasian plain(20) and saw
advancing from Eleusis a
cloud of dust as if raised by the feet of about thirty thousand men. They marvelled
at what men might be raising such a cloud of dust and immediately heard a cry.
The cry seemed to be the "Iacchus" of the mysteries, and when Demaratus,
ignorant of the rites of Eleusis, asked him what was making this sound, Dicaeus
said, "Demaratus, there is no way that some great disaster will not befall
the king's army. Since Attica is deserted, it is obvious that this voice is divine
and comes from Eleusis to help the Athenians and their allies. If it descends
upon the Peloponnese, the king himself and his army on the mainland will be endangered.
If, however, it turns towards the ships at Salamis, the king will be in danger
of losing his fleet. Every year the Athenians observe this festival for the Mother
and the Maiden, and any Athenian or other Hellene who wishes is initiated. The
voice which you hear is the 'Iacchus' they cry at this festival."(21)
To this Demaratus replied, "Keep silent and tell this to no one
else. If these words of yours are reported to the king, you will lose your head,
and neither I nor any other man will be able to save you, so be silent. The gods
will see to the army." Thus he advised, and after the dust and the cry came
a cloud, which rose aloft and floated away towards Salamis to the camp of the
Hellenes. In this way they understood that Xerxes' fleet was going to be destroyed.
Dicaeus son of Theocydes used to say this, appealing to Demaratus and others as
When those stationed with Xerxes' fleet had been to see the Laconian
disaster at Thermopylae,
they crossed over from Trachis
to Histiaea, waited three
days, and then sailed through the Euripus,
and in three more days they were at Phalerum,
the port of Athens. I think no less a number invaded Athens by land and sea than
came to Sepias and Thermopylae.
Those killed by the storm, at Thermopylae, and in the naval battles at Artemisium,
I offset with those who did not yet follow the king: the Melians and Dorians and
Locrians and the whole force
of Boeotia except the Thespians and Plataeans; and the Carystians
and Andrians and Teneans
and all the rest of the islanders, except the five cities whose names I previously
mentioned. The farther into Hellas the Persian advanced, the more nations followed
All these came to Athens except the Parians.
The Parians stayed behind in Cythnus watching to see which way the war turned
out. When the rest of them reached Phalerum, Xerxes himself went down to the ships,
wishing to mix with the sailors and hear their opinions. He came and sat on his
throne, and present at his summons were the tyrants of all the peoples and the
company leaders from the fleet. They sat according to the honor which the king
had granted each of them, first the king of Sidon,
then the king of Tyre, then
the rest. When they sat in order one after another, Xerxes sent Mardonius to test
each by asking if they should fight at sea.
Mardonius went about questioning them, starting with the Sidonian,
and all the others were unanimous, advising to fight at sea, but Artemisia said,
"Tell the king, Mardonius, that I, who neither was most cowardly in the sea
battles off Euboea nor performed the least feats of arms, say this: 'Master, it
is just for me to declare my real opinion, what I consider to be best for your
cause. And I say to you this: spare your ships, and do not fight at sea. Their
men are as much stronger than your men by sea as men are stronger than women.
Why is it so necessary for you to risk everything by fighting at sea? Do you not
possess Athens, for which you set out on this march, and do you not have the rest
of Hellas? No one stands in your way. Those who opposed you have received what
they deserved. I will tell you how I think the affairs of your enemies will turn
out: If you do not hurry to fight at sea, but keep your ships here and stay near
land, or even advance into the Peloponnese, then, my lord, you will easily accomplish
what you had in mind on coming here. The Hellenes are not able to hold out against
you for a long time, but you will scatter them, and they will each flee to their
own cities. I have learned that they have no food on this island, and it is not
likely, if you lead your army against the Peloponnese, that those of them who
have come from there will sit still, nor will they care to fight at sea for Athens.
But if you hurry to fight at sea immediately, I fear that your fleet if reduced
to cowardice may also injure your army on land. In addition, my King, take this
to heart: Good people's slaves tend to be base, and the slaves of the base tend
to be good. You, who are best among men, have base slaves, who are accounted your
allies, the Egyptians and
Cyprians and Cilicians
and Pamphylians, who are
of no use at all.' "
When she said this to Mardonius, all who were well disposed towards
Artemisia lamented her words, thinking she would suffer some ill from the king
because she advised against fighting at sea. Those who were jealous and envied
her, because she was given honor among the chief of all the allies, were glad
at her answer, thinking she would be killed. But when the counsels were reported
to Xerxes, he was greatly pleased by Artemisia's opinion. Even before this he
had considered her of excellent character, and now he praised her much more highly.
Still he ordered that the majority be obeyed, for he believed that at Euboea they
had purposely fought badly because he was not there. This time he had made preparations
to see the battle in person.
When the command to put out to sea was given, they set sail for Salamis
and were calmly marshalled in line. There was not enough daylight left for them
to fight, since night came on, so they made preparations for the next day. Fear
and dread possessed the Hellenes, especially those from the Peloponnese. They
were afraid because they were stationed in Salamis and were about to fight at
sea on behalf of the land of the Athenians, and if they were defeated they would
be trapped on an island and besieged, leaving their own land unguarded.
That very night the land army of the barbarians began marching to
the Peloponnese. Yet every possible device had been used to prevent the barbarians
from invading by the mainland. As soon as the Peloponnesians learned that Leonidas
and his men at Thermopylae were dead, they ran together from their cities and
took up their position at the Isthmus. Their general was Cleombrotus son of Anaxandrides,
the brother of Leonidas. When they were in position at the Isthmus, they demolished
the Scironian road and then, after resolving in council, built a wall across the
Isthmus. Since there were many tens of thousands and everyone worked, the task
was completed, as they brought in stones and bricks and logs and baskets full
of sand. At no moment of the day or night did those who had marched out there
rest from their work.(22)
These were the Hellenes who marched out in a body to the Isthmus:
the Lacedaemonians and all the Arcadians,
the Eleans and Corinthians
and Sicyonians and Epidaurians and Phliasians
and Troezenians and Hermioneans. These were the ones who marched out and feared
for Hellas in her peril. The rest of the Peloponnesians cared nothing, though
festivals were now past.
Seven nations inhabit the Peloponnese. Two of these are aboriginal
and are now settled in the land where they lived in the old days, the Arcadians
and Cynurians. One nation,
the Achaean, has never left
the Peloponnese, but it has left its own country and inhabits another nation's
land. The four remaining nations of the seven are immigrants, the Dorians and
Aetolians and Dryopians and Lemnians.
The Dorians have many famous cities, the Aetolians only Elis,
the Dryopians Hermione and Asine
near Laconian Cardamyle,
the Lemnians all the Paroreatae.
The Cynurians are aboriginal and seem to be the only Ionians,(23)
but they have been Dorianized by time and by Argive
rule. They are the Orneatae
and the perioikoi(24). All the remaining cities of these seven
nations, except those I enumerated, stayed neutral. If I may speak freely, by
staying neutral they medized.
Those at the Isthmus were involved in so great a labor, since all
they had was at stake and they did not expect the ships to win distinction. Those
at Salamis heard of their labors but still were full of dread, fearing not for
themselves but for the Peloponnese. For a time each man talked quietly to his
neighbor, wondering at Eurybiades' folly, but finally it came out into the open.
They held an assembly and talked at length on the same matters as before: some
said they must sail away to the Peloponnese and risk battle for that country,
not stay and fight for a captured land; but the Athenians and Aeginetans and Megarians
said they must stay and defend themselves.
When the Peloponnesians were outvoting him, Themistocles secretly
left the assembly, and sent a man by boat to the Median fleet after ordering him
what to say. His name was Sicinnus, and he was Themistocles' servant and his sons'
attendant. Later Themistocles enrolled him as a Thespian, when the Thespians were
adopting citizens,(25) and made him wealthy with money. He now
came by boat and said to the generals of the barbarians, "The Athenian general
has sent me without the knowledge of the other Hellenes. He is on the king's side
and prefers that your affairs prevail, not the Hellenes'. I am to tell you that
the Hellenes are terrified and plan flight, and you can now perform the finest
deed of all if you do not allow them to escape. They do not all have the same
intent, and they will no longer oppose you. Instead you will see them fighting
against themselves, those who are on your side against those who are not."
After indicating this to them he departed.
Finding the message credible, they first landed many of the Persians
on the islet of Psyttalea,
which lies between Salamis and the mainland. When it was midnight, they brought
their western wing in a circle towards Salamis, and those stationed at Ceos
and Cynosura(26) also put out to sea, occupying all the passage
as far as Munychia with their ships. They launched their ships in this way so
that the Hellenes would have no escape: they would be trapped at Salamis and pay
the penalty for the battles at Artemisium. The purpose of their landing Persians
on the islet called Psyttalea was this: when the battle took place, it was chiefly
there that the men and wrecks would be washed ashore, for the island lay in the
path of the impending battle. The Persians would be able to save some of those
who washed up and kill the others. They did this in silence for fear that their
enemies hear, making their preparations at night without sleep.
I cannot say against oracles that they are not true, and I do not
wish to try to discredit them when they speak plainly. Look at the following matter:
"When the sacred headland of golden-sworded Artemis and Cynosura by the sea
they bridge with ships,
After sacking shiny Athens in mad hope,
Divine Justice will extinguish mighty Greed the son of Insolence
Lusting terribly, thinking to devour all.
Bronze will come together with bronze, and Ares
Will redden the sea with blood. To Hellas the day of freedom
Far-seeing Zeus and august Victory will bring."
Considering this, I dare to say nothing against Bacis concerning oracles when
he speaks so plainly, nor will I consent to it by others.
Among the generals at Salamis there was fierce argument. They did
not yet know that the barbarians had encircled them with their ships, supposing
them still marshalled in the place where they had seen them by day. As the generals
disputed, Aristides son of Lysimachus, an Athenian, crossed over from Aegina.
Although he had been ostracized by the people, I, learning by inquiry of his character,
have come to believe that he was the best and most just man in Athens. This man
stood at the assembly and called Themistocles out, although he was no friend of
his, but his bitter enemy. Because of the magnitude of the present ills, he deliberately
forgot all that and called him out, wanting to talk to him. He had already heard
that those from the Peloponnese were anxious to set sail for the Isthmus, so when
Themistocles came out he said, "On all occasions and especially now our contention
must be over which of us will do our country more good. I say that it is all the
same for the Peloponnesians to speak much or little about sailing away from here,
for I have seen with my own eyes that even if the Corinthians and Eurybiades himself
wanted to, they would not be able to escape. We are encircled by the enemy. Go
in and indicate this to them."(27)
Themistocles answered, "Your exhortation is most useful and you
bring good news. You have come as an eyewitness of just what I wanted to happen.
Know that I am the cause of what the Medes are doing. When the Hellenes would
not willingly enter battle, it was necessary to force them against their will.
Since you have come bringing good news, tell it to them yourself. If I say these
things, they will think I invented it, and they will not believe that the barbarians
are doing this. Go in yourself and let them know how it stands. It would be best
if they believe you when you tell them, but if they find these things incredible
it is all the same to us. They will not be able to run away, if indeed we are
surrounded on all sides as you say."
Aristides went in and told them, saying that he had come from Aegina
and had barely made it past the blockade when he sailed out, since all the Hellenic
camp was surrounded by Xerxes' ships. He advised them to prepare to defend themselves.
He said this and left, and again a dispute arose among them. The majority of the
generals did not believe the news.
While they were still held by disbelief, a trireme of Tenian deserters
arrived, captained by Panaetius son of Sosimenes, which brought them the whole
truth. For this deed the Tenians were engraved on the tripod at Delphi with those
who had conquered the barbarian(28). With this ship that deserted
at Salamis and the Lemnian which deserted earlier at Artemisium, the Hellenic
fleet reached its full number of three hundred and eighty ships, for it had fallen
short of the number by two ships.
When they found the words of the Tenians worthy of belief, the Hellenes
prepared to fight at sea. As dawn glimmered, they held an assembly of the fighting
men, and Themistocles gave the best address among the others. His entire speech
involved comparing the better and lesser elements in human nature and the human
condition. He concluded his speech by advising them to choose the better of these,
then gave the command to mount the ships. Just as they embarked, the trireme which
had gone after the sons of Aeacus arrived from Aegina.
Then the Hellenes set sail with all their ships, and as they were
putting out to sea the barbarians immediately attacked them. The rest of the Hellenes
began to back water and tried to beach their ships, but Ameinias of Pallene, an
Athenian, charged and rammed a ship. When his ship became entangled and the crew
could not free it, the others came to help Ameinias and joined battle. The Athenians
say that the fighting at sea began this way, but the Aeginetans say that the ship
which had been sent to Aegina after the sons of Aeacus was the one that started
it. The story is also told that the phantom of a woman appeared to them, who cried
commands loud enough for all the Hellenic fleet to hear, reproaching them first
with, "Men possessed, how long will you still be backing water?".
The Phoenicians were marshalled against the Athenians, holding the
western wing toward Eleusis. Against the Lacedaemonians were the Ionians, on the
eastern wing toward Piraeus, and a few of them fought badly according to Themistocles'
instructions, but the majority did not. I can list the names of many captains
who captured Hellenic ships, but I will mention none except Theomestor son of
Androdamas and Phylacus son of Histiaeus, both Samians. I mention only these because
Theomestor was appointed tyrant of Samos by the Persians for this feat, and Phylacus
was recorded as a benefactor of the king and granted much land. The king's benefactors
are called "orosangae" in the Persian language.
Thus it was concerning them. But the majority of the ships at Salamis
were sunk, some destroyed by the Athenians, some by the Aeginetans. Since the
Hellenes fought in an orderly fashion by line, but the barbarians were no longer
in position and did nothing with forethought, it was likely to turn out as it
did. Yet they were brave that day, much more brave than they had been at Euboea,
for they all showed zeal out of fear of Xerxes, each one thinking that the king
was watching him.
I cannot say exactly how each of the other barbarians or Hellenes
fought, but this is what happened to Artemisia, and it gave her still higher esteem
with the king: When the king's side was all in commotion, at that time Artemisia's
ship was pursued by a ship of Attica. She could not escape, for other allied ships
were in front of her and hers was the nearest to the enemy. So she resolved to
do something which did in fact benefit her: as she was pursued by the Attic ship,
she charged and rammed an allied ship, with a Calyndian
crew and Damasithymus himself, king of the Calyndians, aboard. I cannot say if
she had some quarrel with him while they were still at the Hellespont, or whether
she did this intentionally or if the ship of the Calyndians fell in her path by
chance. But when she rammed and sank it, she had the luck of gaining two advantages.
When the captain of the Attic ship saw her ram a ship with a barbarian crew, he
decided that Artemisia's ship was either Hellenic or a deserter from the barbarians
fighting for them, so he turned away to deal with others.
Thus she happened to escape and not be destroyed, and it also turned
out that the harmful thing which she had done won her exceptional esteem from
Xerxes. It is said that the king, as he watched the battle, saw her ship ram the
other, and one of the bystanders said, "Master, do you see how well Artemisia
contends in the contest and how she has sunk an enemy ship?" When he asked
if the deed was truly Artemisia's, they affirmed it, knowing reliably the marking
of her ship, and they supposed that the ruined ship was an enemy. As I have said,
all this happened to bring her luck, and also that no one from the Calyndian ship
survived to accuse her. It is said that Xerxes replied to what was told him, "My
men have become women, and my women men." They say this is what Xerxes said.
In this struggle the general Ariabignes died, son of Darius and the
brother of Xerxes. Many other famous men of the Persians and Medes
and other allies also died, but only a few Hellenes, since they knew how to swim.
Those whose ships were sunk swam across to Salamis, unless they were killed in
action, but many of the barbarians drowned in the sea since they did not know
how to swim. Most of the ships were sunk when those in the front turned to flee,
since those marshalled in the rear, as they tried to go forward with their ships
so they too could display some feat to the king, ran afoul of their own side's
ships in flight.
It also happened in this commotion that certain Phoenicians
whose ships had been destroyed came to the king and accused the Ionians of treason,
saying that it was by their doing that the ships had been lost. It turned out
that the Ionian generals were not put to death, and those Phoenicians who slandered
them were rewarded as I will show. While they were still speaking, a Samothracian
ship rammed an Attic ship. The Attic ship sank and an Aeginetan ship bore down
and sank the Samothracian ship, but the Samothracians, being javelin-throwers,
by pelting them with missiles knocked the fighters off the ship that had sunk
theirs and boarded and seized it. This saved the Ionians. In his deep vexation
Xerxes blamed everyone. When he saw the Ionians performing this great feat, he
turned to the Phoenicians and commanded that their heads be cut off, so that they
who were base not slander men more noble. Whenever Xerxes, as he sat beneath the
mountain opposite Salamis which is called Aegaleos,
saw one of his own men achieve some feat in the battle, he inquired who did it,
and his scribes wrote down the captain's name with his father and city of residence.
The presence of Ariaramnes, a Persian and a friend of the Ionians, contributed
still more to this calamity of the Phoenicians. Thus they dealt with the Phoenicians.
The barbarians were routed and tried to flee by sailing out to Phalerum,
but the Aeginetans lay in wait for them in the strait and then performed deeds
worth telling. The Athenians in the commotion destroyed those ships which either
resisted or tried to flee, the Aeginetans those sailing out of the strait. Whoever
escaped from the Athenians charged right into the Aeginetans.
The ships of Themistocles, as he was pursuing a ship, and of Polycritus
son of Crius, an Aeginetan, then met. Polycritus had rammed a Sidonian ship, the
one which had captured the Aeginetan ship that was on watch off Sciathus,
and on it was Pytheas son of Ischenous, the one the Persians marvelled at when
severely wounded and kept aboard their ship because of his virtue. This Sidonian
ship carrying him with the Persians was now captured, so Pytheas came back safe
to Aegina. When Polycritus saw the Attic ship, he recognized it by seeing the
flagship's marking and shouted to Themistocles, mocking and reproaching him concerning
the Medizing of the Aeginetans(29). After ramming an enemy ship,
Polycritus hurled these insults at Themistocles. The barbarians whose ships were
still intact fled and reached Phalerum under cover of the land army.
In this battle the Hellenes with the reputation as most courageous
were the Aeginetans, then the Athenians. Among individuals they were Polycritus
the Aeginetan and the Athenians Eumenes of Anagyrus
and Aminias of Pallene, the
one who pursued Artemisia. If he had known she was in that ship, he would not
have stopped before either capturing it or being captured himself. Such were the
orders given to the Athenian captains, and there was a prize offered of ten thousand
drachmas to whoever took her alive, since they were indignant that a woman waged
war against Athens. But she escaped, as I said earlier, and the others whose ships
survived were also in Phalerum.
The Athenians say that when the ships joined battle, the Corinthian
general Adeimantus, struck with bewilderment and terror, hoisted his sails and
fled away. When the Corinthians saw their flagship fleeing, they departed in the
same way, but when in their flight they were opposite the sacred precinct of Athena
Sciras on Salamis, by divine guidance a boat encountered them. No one appeared
to have sent it, and the Corinthians knew nothing about the affairs of the fleet
when it approached. They reckon the affair to involve the gods because when the
boat came near the ships, the people on the boat said, "Adeimantus, you have
turned your ships to flight and betrayed the Hellenes, but they are overcoming
their enemies to the fulfillment of their prayers for victory." Adeimantus
did not believe them when they said this, so they spoke again, saying that they
could be taken as hostages and killed if the Hellenes were not seen to be victorious.
So he and the others turned their ships around and came to the fleet, but it was
all over. The Athenians spread this rumor about them(30), but
the Corinthians do not agree at all, and they consider themselves to have been
among the foremost in the battle. The rest of Hellas bears them witness.
Aristides son of Lysimachus, the Athenian whom I mentioned a little
before this as a valiant man, did this in the commotion that arose at Salamis:
taking many of the armed men who were arrayed along the shore of Salamis, he brought
them across and landed them on the island of Psyttalea, and they slaughtered all
the Persians who were on that islet.(31)
When the battle was broken off, the Hellenes towed to Salamis as many
of the wrecks as were still there and kept ready for another battle, supposing
that the king could still make use of his surviving ships. A west wind had caught
many of the wrecks and carried them to the shore in Attica called Colias.
Thus not only was all the rest of the oracle fulfilled which Bacis and Musaeus
had spoken about this battle, but also what had been said many years before this
in an oracle by Lysistratus, an Athenian soothsayer, concerning the wrecks carried
to shore there. Its meaning had eluded all the Hellenes:
"The Colian women will cook with oars. But this was to happen after the king
had marched away"
When Xerxes understood the calamity which had taken place, he feared
that some of the Ionians might advise the Hellenes, if they did not think of it
themselves, to sail to the Hellespont and destroy the bridges. He would be trapped
in Europe in danger of destruction, so he resolved on flight. He did not want
to be detected either by the Hellenes or by his own men, so he attempted to build
a dike across to Salamis, and joined together Phoenician cargo ships to be both
a bridge and a wall, making preparations as if to fight another sea battle. All
who saw him doing this confidently supposed that he fully intended to stay and
fight there, but none of this eluded Mardonius, who had the most experience of
the king's intentions. While doing all this, Xerxes sent a messenger to Persia
to announce the disaster.
While Xerxes did thus, he sent a messenger to Persia with news of
his present misfortune. Now there is nothing mortal that accomplishes a course
more swiftly than do these messengers, by the Persians' skillful contrivance.
It is said that as many days as there are in the whole journey, so many are the
men and horses that stand along the road, each horse and man at the interval of
a day's journey. These are stopped neither by snow nor rain nor heat nor darkness
from accomplishing their appointed course with all speed. The first rider delivers
his charge to the second, the second to the third, and thence it passes on from
hand to hand, even as in the Greek torch-bearers' race in honor of Hephaestus.
This riding-post is called in Persia, angareion.(32)
Such was the plight of the Persians for all the time until the coming
of Xerxes himself ended it. Mardonius, however, seeing that Xerxes was greatly
distressed because of the sea-fight, and suspecting that he planned flight from
Athens, thought that he would be punished for persuading the king to march against
Hellas and that it was better for him to risk the chance of either subduing Hellas
or dying honorably while engaged in a noble cause; yet his hope rather inclined
to the subduing of Hellas. Taking all this into account, he made this proposal:
"Sire, be not grieved nor greatly distressed because of what has befallen
us. It is not on things of wood that the issue hangs for us, but on men and horses;
furthermore, there is no one among these men, who thinks that he has now won a
crowning victory and will disembark from his ship in an attempt to withstand you,
no, nor anyone from this mainland. Those who have withstood us have paid the penalty.
If then you so desire, let us straightway attack the Peloponnese, or if it pleases
you to wait, that also we can do. Do not be downcast, for the Greeks have no way
of escaping guilt for their former and their later deeds and from becoming your
slaves. It is best then that you should do as I have said, but if you have resolved
to lead your army away, even then I have another plan. Do not, O king, make the
Persians the laughing-stock of the Greeks, for if you have suffered harm, it is
by no fault of the Persians. Nor can you say that we have anywhere done less than
brave men should, and if Phoenicians and Egyptians and Cyprians and Cilicians
have so done, it is not the Persians who have any part in this disaster. Therefore,
since the Persians are in no way to blame, be guided by me; if you are resolved
not to remain, march homewards with the greater part of your army. It is for me,
however, to enslave and deliver Hellas to you with three hundred thousand of your
host whom I will choose."
When Xerxes heard that, he was as glad and joyful as a man in his
situation might be and said to Mardonius that he would answer him after deliberating
which of the two plans he would follow. When he consulted with those Persians
whom he summoned, he resolved to send for Artemisia as well, because he saw that
she alone at the former sitting had discerned what was best to do. When Artemisia
came, Xerxes bade all others withdraw, both Persian councillors and guards, and
said to her: "It is Mardonius' advice that I should follow here and attack
the Peloponnese, for the Persians, he says, and the land army are not to blame
for our disaster; of that they would willingly give proof. Therefore he advises
me to do this, or else he offers to choose three hundred thousand men of the army
and deliver Hellas to me enslaved, while I myself by his counsel march homeward
with the rest of the host. Now I ask of you, seeing that you correctly advised
me against the late sea-fight, counsel me as to which of these two things would
be best for me to do."
When she was asked for advice, she replied: "It is difficult,
O king, to answer your plea for advice by saying that which is best, but in the
present turn of affairs I think it best that you march back and that Mardonius,
if he so wishes and promises to do as he says, be left here with those whom he
desires. For if he subdues all that he offers to subdue and prospers in his design,
the achievement, Sire, is yours since it will be your servants who have accomplished
it. If, on the other hand, the issue is contrary to Mardonius' expectation, it
is no great misfortune so long as you and all that household of yours are safe;
for while you and the members of your household are safe, many a time will the
Greeks have to fight for their lives. As for Mardonius, if any disaster befalls
him, it is does not much matter, nor will any victory of the Greeks be a real
victory when they have but slain your servant. As for you, you will be marching
home after the burning of Athens, which thing was the whole purpose of your expedition."
Artemisia's counsel pleased Xerxes, for it happened that she spoke
what he himself had in mind. In truth, I think that he would not have remained
even if all men and women had counselled him so to do--so panic-stricken was he.
Having then thanked Artemisia, he sent her away to take his sons to Ephesus,
for he had some bastard sons with him.
This extract is from: Herodotus. The Histories (ed. A. D. Godley, 1920), Cambridge. Harvard University Press. Cited August 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains comments & interesting hyperlinks.
Commentary: (selection from W.W. How, J.Wells works)
1. Meyer (iii, § 222) holds that this idea only grew up after
the campaign of Plataea, and that immediately after Thermopylae no one would have
contemplated a pitched battle in Boeotia with Xerxes. The Spartans
had no doubt promised that Attica should be defended, but they meant to fulfil
their promise at Thermopylae and not on Mount
Cithaeron. And whatever the 'man in the street' at Athens may have expected,
the leaders must have known that resistance in Boeotia was out of the question,
and must have ordered the evacuation of Attica as soon as they heard that Thermopylae
was lost, since the people had time to emigrate en masse before Xerxes reached
2. This snake was known as oikouros ophis (Aristoph.
Lys. 758). In the earliest form of the legend Erichthonius (Erechtheus) was
the sacred serpent (Paus. i. 24. 7; J. H. S. xxi. 329); later he becomes the child
of Earth and foster son of Athena hidden in a chest, being half-man, half-serpent
(Hyginus, fab. 166), or a child guarded by serpents (Eur. Ion 20 f., 267-74; Apollodorus
iii. 14. 6).
3. Hdt. will not pledge himself to the existence of the snake,
which was believed to be concealed in a secret chest or chamber of the temple
(probably the Erechtheum), and to prove its existence by the disappearance of
the honey-cake offered every new moon(Plutarch. Them. 10) declares that Themistocles
suggested to the priests the interpretation of the portent that the cake on this
occasion remained untouched.
4. The snake was the symbol of her foster-child, Erichthonius,
and sacred to the goddess herself. For gods deserting a doomed city cf. Aesch.
Sept. c. Theb. 304 f.; Eur.
Tro. 25; Virg.
Aen. ii. 351; Hor.
Odes ii. 1. 25; Tac.
Hist. v. 13.
5. The haven of Pogon lies between the island of Calauria
and Troezen. The spacious bay sheltered by the island, with a broad entrance from
the north-east giving access to the largest ancient ships, formed an ideal meeting-place.
6. There were fifty-four more ships at Salamis than at Artemisium,
and nine new states (Hermione, Ambracia, Leucas, Naxos, Cythnos, Seriphos, Siphnos,
Melos, Croton) were represented, while only one, Opuntian
Locris, has meanwhile gone over to the enemy.
7. Hdt.'s figures, 180 as against 198 from all other states,
compare favourably with those of the Attic orator in Thucydides (i. 74), a little
less than two-thirds of 400, and with those of Demosthenes (de Cor. § 238), 200
out of 300.
8. At Artemisium the Plataeans had helped to man the Athenian
ships (ch. 1); now the Athenians are said not only to have made good their heavy
losses there (ch. 16 and 18), but to have filled the places of the Plataeans.
According to Aristotle (Ath. Pol. ch. 23; cf. Cic. de Off. i. 22. 75) the Areopagus
enabled the fleet to be fully manned by providing eight drachmas for each man;
Cleidemus (fr. 13, F. H. G. i. 362) ascribed this, too, to a stratagem of Themistocles,
but his story deserves little credit (Plut.
9. He gained the victory for the Athenians in the war between
Erechtheus (his grandfather) and Eumolpus of Eleusis. The accepted tradition represented
him as of foreign origin, the son of Xuthus or Apollo and Creusa daughter of Erechtheus,
and king of the Aegialees. Yet his sons give their names to the four old Attic
(Ionic) tribes. Clearly Ion played too important a part in old Attic mythology
to be altogether ignored, but he could not be fitted into the received genealogy
of the Attic kings, which ran in unbroken line from Cecrops to Theseus. Hence
his ambiguous position and foreign origin, which is strongly affirmed by Euripides.
10. The Bacchiadae of Corinth are said to have claimed suzerainty
over Megara till Orsippus headed his countrymen in a successful revolt a little
after 720 B. C. (Paus.
i. 44. 1). Leucas and Ambracia, as well as Anactorium,
were founded by sons of Cypselus, and Potidaea
by a son of Periander, but the theory that there is a separate list of Corinthian
allies either here or on the inscription at Delphi
11. Aristophanes twice (Ach. 215; Vesp. 1206) alludes to Phayllus
as a noted runner of the olden time, and probably refers to the hero of the Persian
wars, though if so the scholiast is wrong in calling him Olumpionikes. The epigram
(Anth. Pal. App. 297) ascribing to him a jump of 55 feet and a discus throw of
95 feet appears to be late, and is worthless as an authority. It is noticeable
that but one trireme came from Greater Greece, and that furnished by a volunteer
who had a special connexion with the mother country through his athletic victories.
refers "There is a statue at Delphi of Phaylus of Crotona. He won no victory
at Olympia, but his victories at Pytho were two in the pentathlum and one in the
foot-race. He also fought at sea against the Persian, in a ship of his own, equipped
by himself and manned by citizens of Crotona who were staying in Greece. Such
is the story of the athlete of Crotona."
12. Melos was believed to have been colonized from Lacedaemon
at the time of the Dorian invasion (Thuc.
v. 84. 112) before 1100 B. C.
13. Though the regular dating by archons is believed by many
to go back to the institution of the annual archonship, 683 B. C., and almost
certainly extends as far back as Solon, no trace of its use is found in the fragments
of historians earlier than Hdt.; Hdt. employs it here only, and Thucydides twice
(v. 25, ii. 2).
14. Pausanias (i. 18. 2) repeats this, adding the myth of Aglauros
(Agraulos) and her sisters who opened the chest in which Erichthonius was hidden
and then cast themselves down from the rocks above the precinct of Aglauros. ?It
has generally been supposed that the escalading party either climbed up in the
open, where they could hardly have escaped notice, or else ascended by the direct
but narrow staircase that may still be seen above the grotto of Aglauros; but
so obvious a way if not strongly barricaded, could hardly have been left unguarded.
Recent excavations have shown a much more likely route. A natural cleft in the
rock runs under or within the northern wall of the Acropolis; its western entrance
is in the projecting face of rock just to the west of the cave of Aglauros; it
has also an outlet at the eastern end, nearly opposite the west end of the Erechtheum.
Where this cleft is within the wall of the Acropolis, it has an opening at the
top which gives access to the plateau above it; but there is a sheer drop of about
twenty feet, which might well lead the defenders to regard it as needing no guard;
and an attacking party, once within the cleft, could ascend at their leisure with
scaling ladders or ropes?.
15. The myth (see Apollod.
iii. 14. 1) was that Poseidon came first, and, striking with his trident,
created the salt well on the Acropolis, then Athena made the olive; and the land
was adjudged to Athena by the witness of Cecrops. The scene was represented on
the west gable of the Parthenon at the moment of Athena's triumph. There seems
no earlier authority for the legend, which may be a reminiscence of a struggle
between the worshippers of Poseidon and of Athene.
16. In the suggestions that the absolute necessity of fighting
at Salamis was seen first by Mnesiphilus, and that Themistocles adopted his plan
without acknowledgment, we may see the prejudice of Hdt.'s Attic informants (cf.
ch. 4. 2 n.; Introd. § 31). We may set against the story Themistocles' reputation
for matchless wisdom immediately after Salamis (ch. 124), and his dedication after
the battle of a shrine to Artemis Aristoboule (Plut. Them. 22; de Mal. Herod.
37), and above all Thucydides' insistence on his originality (i. 138) phuseos
men dunamei, meletes de brachuteti kratistos de houtos autoschediazein ta deonta
egeneto. The dispute whether statesmanship was innate or acquired became a favourite
topic in philosophic circles (Xen. Mem. iv. 2. 2; Symp. viii. 39; Plat. Men. 93
B, 99 B), and Themistocles was a leading instance (Bauer, Them. p. 72). We may
see the result of this in Plutarch, who by silence (Them.) or explicitly (de Mal.
l.c.) rejects the intervention of Mnesiphilus on this occasion, and yet retains
him as the pupil of Solon and teacher of Themistocles in politics (Them. 2; Moral.
154, 795 C). The anecdote here is surely apocryphal (cf. Busolt, ii. 641 n.; Meyer,
iii. § 223 n.).
17. All the later writers (Plut. Them. 11; Aelian, V. H. xiii.
40; Aristid. ii. p. 258, Dind.) except Pseud. Plut. Mor. 185 B represent the scene
as taking place between Eurybiades and Themistocles, thus unduly emphasizing the
rivalry between Sparta and Athens and obscuring the hostility of Corinth. They
add more picturesque detail, e. g. Plut.
18. In the open sea the enemy could surround the weaker Greek
fleet, in the narrows their very numbers would be against them as well as their
ignorance of the fairway. The Greek ships were inferior to the enemy in manoeuvring.
Only the great superiority in this acquired by the Athenians between 480 and 430
B. C. (cf. Thuc.
i. 49) justified the opposite tactics of Phormio (Thuc.
19. Siris, fabled to be of Trojan
origin (Strabo 264), was on the river of the same name half-way between Sybaris
and Tarentum. Apparently
it was colonized from Colophon
and imitated Sybaris in wealth and luxury. Probably it also resembled Sybaris
in the possession of an overland trade, since we find alliance coins with the
names of Siris and Pyxus on
them. It is said to have been conquered by its Achaean neighbours, Sybaris, Croton,
and Metapontum (before 510
B. C.). Later, after 440, Siris was refounded by Thurii
and Tarentum jointly, though accounted a Tarentine colony. Finally, 433-431 B.
C., most of its inhabitants removed to Heraclea,
Siris remaining the port of that colony.
The claims of Athens to Siris seem shadowy, resting only on her headship
of the Ionic race. But that the idea of westward expansion, afterwards so popular
at Athens, had occurred to Themistocles is suggested by the names of his daughters
Italia and Sybaris (Plut.
Them. 32), by his supposed relations with Hiero (Plut.
Them. 24, 25), if they be not fictions of Stesimbrotus and Theophrastus, and
by his interest in Corcyra
(Plut. Them. 24; Thuc. i. 136). It is, however, possible that Themistocles, following
the oracle, only threatened westward emigration vaguely, and that the precise
spot was fixed on later, when Athenian interest had become centred on New Sybaris
(450 B. C.) and Thurii (445 B. C.). At that time there would be many old oracles,
real or spurious, encouraging colonization there. The idea of emigration en masse
had been mooted more than once in Ionia, but would have been hard to carry out
in this case.
20. The Eleusinian plain lies south-west of Mount
Parnes, being divided from the Attic plain by Mount
Poikilon and Daphni, and
bounded on the north and west by Cithaeron
and the highlands of Megara. It is called Thriasian from the important deme of
Thria, which lay probably
at Kalyvia, three miles east-north-east of Eleusis. The regular route from Thebes,
by which the Persian infantry would naturally come, led to the Thriasian plain
a little north of Eleusis. Plutarch (Them. 15) puts this vision on the day of
the battle, which would thus be on the 20th Boedromion (Plut. Phocion 28, Camill.
19). It is, however, evident that Plutarch derived all the details of his account,
except 'a great light that shone from Eleusis', from Hdt., and that the historian
believed that Dicaeus saw the portent at least a day, and perhaps several days,
before the battle. Busolt (ii. 703-4) argues that the battle took place a few
days after the 20th Boedromion (= Sept. 22) and some days before the eclipse (Oct.
2, 480), which prevented Cleombrotus from molesting the retreat of Xerxes (ix.
10), probably Sept. 27 or 28.
21. The great procession from Athens to Eleusis along the sacred
way took place on the 20th Boedromion (Eur. Ion 1076). It bore the name Iacchus
because in it the statue of the child Iacchus, with his cradle and playthings,
was borne, escorted by Ephebi and followed by the Mystae bearing torches and singing
hymns (Arist. Ran. 398-413). Frequent sacrifices and ceremonies on the road made
the procession last from daybreak till late at night. All through the day there
was constant invocation of the god.
22. This wall, from the materials and haste with which it was
built, would seem to have been a temporary field-work. Neither Thucydides nor
Xenophon alludes to any such impediment to the march of troops across the Isthmus.
In 369 B. C. (Diod. xv. 68) an ineffectual attempt was made to bar the Isthmus
against Epaminondas by making a palisade and trench from Cenchreae
to Lechaeum. A wall seems
to have protected the Peloponnese against the Gallic invasion, 279 B. C. (Paus.
vii. 6. 7), and more certainly in the days of Valerian (253 A. D.) there was a
wall, repaired later by Justinian, and last used by the Venetians in 1463 and
1696. It may still be traced from sea to sea running along a line of low cliffs,
a little south of the modern canal, and is best preserved near the Isthmian sanctuary;
cf. Frazer, Paus. iii. 5-6.
23. The meaning seems to be: 'The Cynurians being autochthonous,
appear to be Ionians, and the only ones left in the Peloponnese' (the Aegialians
having been driven out). Pausanias (iii. 2. 2) would derive them from the preDorian
inhabitants of Argos. It is probable that they belong to the aboriginal population,
but there seems no special reason for holding them to be Ionic. Hdt. here as elsewhere
(cf. i. 56) makes Ionians a branch of Pelasgi.
24. Apparently the town Orneae
(about thirteen miles north-west of Argos)
was reduced by Argos to a status similar to that of the Laconian Perioecic towns
under Sparta. Hence all the
other Perioeci of Argos were termed Orneatae; cf. the Caerites at Rome. Stein
holds that kai perioikoi is an adscript, on the grounds that Cynuria had belonged
to Sparta at least since about 550 B. C. (i. 82; Thuc. v. 41), and that the Argive
Perioeci, some of whom are said to have been enfranchised (Ar. Pol. 1303 a 8),
and who were all, including the Orneatae (Thuc. v. 67), treated as summachoi (Thuc.
v. 47, 77), had been united with Argos (Paus. viii. 27. 1). But perioikoi may
well be an explanation of Orneatai.
25. Losses at Thermopylae and elsewhere (vii. 222; ix. 30) had
so much diminished the number of Thespians that the city was glad to welcome immigrants
(epoikous). That Sicinnus was a Greek is stated by Aeschylus (Pers. 355) and supported
by his enfranchisement. Plutarch (Them. 12) must be wrong in calling him a Persian,
though he may have been an Asiatic Greek.
26. These names cause a difficulty. They seem to be taken from
the oracle of Bacis
(ch. 77). That oracle may well have had reference originally not to Salamis but
to Artemisium; if so, Ceos would be the well-known island, Cynosura the promontory
near Marathon, and the temple
of Artemis that at Brauron.
Afterwards the prophecy was applied to Salamis and the temple of Artemis identified
with that at Munychia. Blakesley, following Larcher, believes that Hdt. intends
to describe the closing up of Persian squadrons from these distant points, but
the nearest of them, Ceos, is forty miles off Salamis, while Cynosura is sixty
miles away, so that the supposed movement is impossible. It seems probable that
Cynosura (dog's tail) really was the name of the long tongue of land reaching
out from Salamis towards Psyttaleia, and that Ceos and Munychia are mentioned
because the prophecy must be fulfilled. Stein and Hauvette believe Ceos to be
identical with Cynosura, the former, as the regular name, coming first and explaining
the obsolete synonym; for this use of te kai cf. ch. 43, 73. 3. Beloch's (Klio
viii. 477) suggestion that Ceos is the old name of Lipso Kutali (Psyttaleia) and
his attempt to find the true Psyttaleia in the isle of St. George are not acceptable.
27. The narrative of Hdt. suggests, though it does not assert,
that this was the first return of Aristides to his country after his ostracism,
which took place at the time of Themistocles' increase of the fleet in 483-482,
or a little before (484-483, Jerome, Eusebius). But it appears that the general
return of exiles must be placed in the archonship of Hypsichides, i. e. before
June 480, though Plutarch (Arist. 8) makes it synchronize with Xerxes' march through
Thessaly and Boeotia (July-August). Again, Xanthippus, who had also been ostracized,
returned before the evacuation of Attica. Finally, in the capture of Psyttaleia,
Aristides acts as general in command of a large force of Attic hoplites, i. e.
appears to be one of the strategi (ch. 95 n.). If so, he must have been sent to
Aegina on some mission, perhaps to take Athenian refugees thither, or to fetch
the Aeacidae thence. The objection that while Aristides reached Salamis overnight,
the trireme with the Aeacidae is not reported to have arrived till next morning
(viii. 83), is parried by Burrows' remark (Cl. Rev. xi. 258) that Aristides did
not arrive till after midnight (viii. 76, 81), so that the sailors would have
already turned in, and so would not welcome the Aeacidae till daybreak. Nor is
it easy to see how any ship could have evaded the Persian blockade after Aristides.
The objections remain that the trireme which fetched the Aeacidae must surely
have been Aeginetan (viii. 64, 83, 84), and that, had Aristides been commissioned
to escort the Aeacidae, Hdt. would have known and mentioned so interesting a fact.
28. Diodorus (xi. 17) speaks of a Samian sent by the Ionians,
and Plutarch, or his copyist (Them. 12), of a Tenedian ship, but Tenos duly appears
on the snake supporting the tripod dedicated at Delphi (ix. 81 n.) as well as
on the base of the statue of Zeus at Olympia (Paus. v. 23).
29. The point of Polycritus' taunt is that Athens ten years
before had charged the Aeginetans in general, and his own father Crius (vi. 50
n.) in particular, with Medism (vi. 49, 73, 85).
30. That this Athenian story was a late and malicious invention
is hinted by Hdt. himself in the words (§ 4) martureei de sphi kai he alle Hellas.
Indeed, the phrase phatis echei is itself a note of uncertainty; cf. vii. 3. 2;
ix. 84. 2. There is no trace of any such charge elsewhere, and immediately after
the battle the Athenians allowed the following epitaph to be placed on the tomb
of the Corinthians buried at Salamis (Hicks, 18; cf. Plut. Mor. 870 E) [O xeine,
euudr]on pok' enaiomes astu Korinthou [Nun d' hame Aia]ntos [nasos echei Salamis]....
31. Aeschylus distinctly put this exploit after the defeat of
the Persian fleet, when the Greeks can surround the island with their ships and
land from them (Pers. 455 f.). Hdt. seems to date it at the time of the Persian
rout. Plutarch mistakenly makes Aristides land from boats with some picked volunteers
at the beginning of the sea-fight, and adds other untrustworthy details from Phanias
(Them. 13; Arist. 9). Bury argues forcibly that Aristides, being given so important
a duty, must have been a Strategus.
32. Torch races were held at the Panathenaea, and the festivals
of Prometheus, Hephaestus, Pan (vi. 105. 3), Bendis (Plato, Rep. i. 328 A), Hermes,
and Theseus. They appear to have been of two kinds. In the simpler, a number of
runners each with a lighted torch started abreast, and the one who first carried
his torch alight to the goal won (Paus. i. 30. 2). The other was a relay or team
race. There were several lines of runners; the first man in each line had his
torch lighted at the altar and ran with it at full speed to the second, to whom
he passed it on, the second to the third, and so on till the last man carried
it to the goal. The line of runners which first passed its torch alight to the
goal was the winning team. Cf. Lucr. ii. 79; Aesch. Ag. 312 f.; and of the similar
horse race to Bendis, Plato, l. c. lampadia echontes diadosousin allelois hamillomenoi
tois hippois (cf. also Laws 776 B). The torch race arose from the custom of transmitting
a new and sacred fire from the altar to hearths polluted by death or the enemy's
presence (Plut. Arist. 20). In such cases the old fire was extinguished and new
pure fire carried as quickly as possible by runners to the hearths awaiting it
(cf. Frazer, Paus. ii. 392).
Hdt. gives no details of the losses on either side, Ctesias (Pers.
26) gives the Persian loss in ships as 500, Diodorus (xi. 19, Ephorus) says 40
Greek ships were destroyed and over 200 Persian besides those captured.
This extract is from: A Commentary on Herodotus (ed. W. W. How, J. Wells). Cited August 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks.