Battle of Salamis: Greek Organization/Tactics

Honors 2110B

Rainey, William. Death of the Persian admiral at Salamis. The Stapleton Collection / The Bridgeman Art Library. Plutarch's Lives for Boys and Girls',. n.d. Colour Lithograph.

Rainey, William. Death of the Persian admiral at Salamis. The Stapleton Collection / The Bridgeman Art Library. Plutarch’s Lives for Boys and Girls’,. n.d. Colour Lithograph.

January 28, 2014

Battle of Salamis

     In the roaring waters between the mainland of Salamis and the island in the Saronic Gulf near Athens, a naval battle was fought between the Greek city-states and the Achaemenid Empire of Persia in September 480 BC.  As numerous ships trailed through the waters, the marking of the soon to be war was upon them as they lined up in preparation to see who would be victorious.

As each side prepared for battle, different tactics and strategies engulfed the minds of each side. The Persians, expecting an easy victory, were at a significant tactical advantage, outnumbering their allies, and having better ships, one being the Phoenician, which was the fastest ship. Most of their marines carried a bow, which the Persians relied greatly on in their battles, which would most likely fail if their ship was boarded, as the bow would be negated due to the standoff range. Persians had swifter ships with triremes being equipped with a ram at the bows, which would be used for ramming, which required skill sailing, Persians were more likely to employ this technique, but the Greeks developed special tactics and a unique set-up specifically to counter this.

Led by Themistocles, the Greeks sailed there estimated 300 plus ships in a single file line towards the Persians who had their boats aligned in a different form.  As the Greek ships approached closer to the Persians, the Greeks began to roe out of there single file line into a circular formation as they rowed into the clumsy line set-up of the Persians. Once in position, the Greeks turned their ram-equipped bows toward the Persians, using a common tactic “diekplous”, which is described as a tactic of sailing into gaps between enemy ships and then ramming them into the sides. As the Greeks rammed the Persians, they began to lure the Persians further into the channels. As the Persians fell for the trick, the Greeks struck again hitting the weakest point of the ships on the sides and the stern quarter. As the process was repeated, the objective was to puncture a hole in the enemy vessel or break a number of the enemy’s oars to disable the ship or get the ship to sink.

As the Persian ships sank, the Greeks were at an advantage because of their ability to swim. Many Persians drowned because they could not make it to shore. Persian command and control soon broke down, and in fear of that the Greeks might attack the bridges across the Hellespont, the few remaining ships headed back, as the Greeks scored a decisive victory.

Works Cited

Elayi, Josette. The Role of the Phoenician Kings at the Battle of Salamis (480 B.C.E.). Vol. 126. Paris: Journal of the American Oriental Society, 2006. Scholarly Journal.

Gabriel, Richard A. Battle of Salamis. Vol. 26. Military History, 2009. 28 January 2014. <http://web.a.ebscohost.com.hal.weber.edu/&gt;.

Rainey, William. Death of the Persian admiral at Salamis. The Stapleton Collection / The Bridgeman Art Library. Plutarch’s Lives for Boys and Girls’,. n.d. Colour Lithograph.PICTURE.

Rawlinson, George. Herodotus: The History. Vol. 4. New York Appleman & Company, 1885. Print.

Waterfield, Robin. Herodotus:The Histories. 2008. Book.

Wood, Adrian K. Warships of the World. 2012. Book.

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