On a late September day in 480 B.C., Greek warships faced an invading Persian armada in the narrow Salamis Straits in the most important naval battle of the ancient world. Overwhelmingly outnumbered by the enemy, the Greeks triumphed through a combination of strategy and deception. More than two millennia after it occurred, the clash between the Greeks and Persians at Salamis remains one of the most tactically brilliant battles ever fought. The Greek victory changed the course of western history -- halting the advance of the Persian Empire and setting the stage for the Golden Age of Athens.
In this dramatic new narrative account, historian and classicist Barry Strauss brings this landmark battle to life. He introduces us to the unforgettable characters whose decisions altered history: Themistocles, Athens' great leader (and admiral of its fleet), who devised the ingenious strategy that effectively destroyed the Persian navy in one day; Xerxes, the Persian king who fought bravely but who ultimately did not understand the sea; Aeschylus, the playwright who served in the battle and later wrote about it; and Artemisia, the only woman commander known from antiquity, who turned defeat into personal triumph. Filled with the sights, sounds, and scent of battle, The Battle of Salamis is a stirring work of history.
This engaging and informative account of the 480 B. C. showdown between Greece and Persia relies on the conflict's foremost ancient chronicler, Herodotus, whom Strauss deems an"excellent historian" and"mainly reliable." While gently correcting some of Herodotus's claims, military historian Strauss (Athens After the Peloponnesian War) stays faithful to his trademark blend of sensationalism and skepticism. He regales readers with lurid Herodotian anecdotes about oracles and omens, vengeful eunuchs and labyrinthine double crosses among the fractious Greeks, and paints colorful portraits of the cruel and impious Xerxes, the admiral-queen Artemisia of Halicarnassus ("combines the cunning of Athena and the seductiveness of Aphrodite") and the Athenian leader Themistocles, whose blend of military genius, charisma and manipulativeness obliterated the line between statesmanship and treason. Also in keeping with the spirit of Greek sources, Strauss celebrates their victory as a triumph of democracy and nationalism over a polyglot despotism, of the common Greek rower over the Persian aristocrat. At the same time, Strauss draws on other contemporary accounts as well as on modern scholarship to detail the Persian campaign in Greece and flesh out a picture of society and warfare in the ancient world, illuminating such topics as Persian court protocol, the prayers of Corinthian temple prostitutes and the proper method of ramming an enemy trireme. His combination of erudite scholarship, well-paced storytelling and vivid color commentary make this an appealing popular history for the general reader.