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The Battle of Salamis: The Naval Encounter That Saved Greece and Western Civilization


The battle of Salamis in 480 B.C. was the most important naval encounter of the ancient world. In the narrow strait between the island of Salamis and the Greek mainland, a heavily outnumbered Greek navy defeated the Persian armada in a brilliant victory that is still studied today. The Greek triumph at Salamis stopped the advancing Persians and saved the first democracy in history. It made Athens the dominant city in Greece, gave birth to the Athenian empire, and set the stage for the Age of Pericles. On the Persian side, the battle of Salamis also featured history's first female admiral and sailors from three continents.

The Battle of Salamis features some of the most fascinating figures in the ancient world: Themistocles, the Athenian commander who masterminded the victory (and tricked his fellow Greeks into fighting); Xerxes, the Persian king who understood land but not naval warfare; Aeschylus, the Greek playwright who took part at Salamis and later immortalized it in drama; and Artemisia, the half-Greek queen who was one of Xerxes' trusted commanders and who turned defeat into personal victory.

In his riveting story of this clash on the Greek seas, classicist and historian Barry Strauss offers a new in-depth account of the ancient battle. Drawing on recent work in archaeology, meteorology, and forensic science as well as on his own experience as a rower (both navies were oar powered), Strauss revises our understanding of one of history's pivotal wars and of Herodotus's classic if underrated account of it. But in addition to being exciting military history, The Battle of Salamis is also a vivid analysis of ancient culture.