Ancient/Classical History/Greek history

Advertisement


Question
Thanks for first reply my next question is about the Battle of Salamis .Is there any physical proof of this battle exists .There have been many ship wrecks settled at that close waters. secondly ,what was the role of oracle of Delphi in this battle? Is it myth?

Answer
Hello,

the Battle of Salamis, the first great naval battle recorded in history, was really fought in September 480 BC  between an alliance of Greek city-states and the Achaemenid Empire of Persia led by king Xerxes.

This naval battle, in which a Greek fleet defeated much larger Persian naval forces into the narrow waters of the strait at Salamis, between the island of Salamis in the Saronic Gulf, near Athens, and the Athenian port-city of Piraeus, marked the high-point of the second Persian invasion of Greece which had begun just in 480 BC.

Such a battle is described  in detail by the great Greek historian Herodotus(484 BC- 425 BC) in the book 8 of his work “The Histories” written around 440–430 BC,  and formerly  by the great Greek playwright  Aeschylus (c. 525 BC – c. 456 BC ) in his tragedy “The Persians” based on his own experiences, since in 480 BC  Aeschylus  was called into military service against Xerxes’s  invading forces just at the Battle of Salamis.

We know that the Greeks had 371 triremes effectively under the Athenian Themistocles, but nominally led by the Spartan Eurybiades, while the much larger Persian fleet consisted of about 800 galleys that however could not manoeuvre in the narrow waters of the strait at Salamis, differently from the  lighter Greek triremes, so that at least 300 Persian ships were sunk.
So, we know that the Persian navy bottled up the smaller Greek fleet  in the Saronic Gulf and  the Greek commander, Themistocles, lured the Persian fleet into the narrow waters of the strait at Salamis, where the massed Persian ships had difficulty maneuvering.
The Greek triremes then attacked furiously, ramming or sinking many Persian vessels and boarding others.
The Greeks sank about 300 Persian vessels while losing only about 40 of their own.
The rest of the Persian fleet was scattered, and as a result Xerxes had to postpone his planned land offensives for a year, a delay that gave the Greek city-states time to unite against him.


As for the role of the oracle of Delphi in the battle of Salamis, we read this  in Herodotus , The Histories, Book 7, chapter 141, section 3, where the priestess Pythia gives the Athenians this oracle :”… Yet a wood-built wall will by Zeus all-seeing be granted..” (Greek,  ….τεῖχος …..ξύλινον διδοῖ εὐρύοπα Ζεύς ).

Also, in Herodotus, The Histories, Book 8, chapter 51,  we read  that, when the Persians took Athens, 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, and then 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”.

To conclude, the battle of Salamis has been really  fought  in September 480 BC and the role of oracle of Delphi in this battle is attested by Herodotus, and then is not a myth, but is  part of the ancient Greek religiousness which had great respect for the oracle of Delphi where the Pythia, who  was the priestess at Apollo's oracle in Delphi, operated as a vehicle for Apollo's will to be known to those on earth.

Best regards,

Maria

Ancient/Classical History

All Answers


Answers by Expert:


Ask Experts

Volunteer


Maria

Expertise

My field of expertise is Ancient Greek and Roman History.

Experience

Over 25 years teaching experience.

Education/Credentials
I received my Ph.D.in Classics (summa cum laude) from Genova University (Italy).

This expert accepts donations:

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.