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Digital Subscriptions > History Revealed > November 2016 > Battlefield: Salamis

Battlefield: Salamis

Themistocles’ crushing naval victory at Salamis defied the odds and saved Greece from Persian domination. Julian Humphrys explains how such an unexpected feat came about and why it mattered so much Themistocles’ crushing naval victory at Salamis defied the odds and saved Greece from Persian domination. Julian Humphrys explains how such an unexpected feat came about and why it mattered so much
TOMB OF HEROES A monument to the fallen warriors of Salamis now stands near the site of the clash

War on the high seas

Xerxes, the King of Persia, was looking forward to this. For nearly 20 years the insolent Greeks had been a thorn in the side of the mighty Persian empire, but now, finally, they were going to get their comeuppance. His soldiers had already reduced Athens to a heap of smouldering ruins, and now his ships had bottled up the puny Greek fleet at Salamis at the entrance to the Bay of Eleusis. All that remained was to finish them off. Keen to get a grandstand view of the action, Xerxes had his throne set up on the headland overlooking the two fleets and settled down to enjoy what he thought would be a triumphant spectacle.

The Athenians had first brought the wrath of the Persians upon Greece in 498 BC, when they had supported their countrymen in Asia Minor, who were in revolt against their Persian overlords. Once he’d suppressed the rebellion, Darius, the Persian king at the time, invaded Greece, but in 490 BC his forces suffered a devastating defeat at Marathon. Ten years later, Darius’s successor Xerxes returned – and he meant business. Gathering together an enormous army, he crossed the Hellespont (the modern-day Dardanelles) by two long pontoon bridges he’d ordered his engineers to construct, and marched down through race and Macedonia towards Athens.

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The SAS in World War II, Athens vs Persia, Jack the Ripper and the tragedy of the forgotten queen in this month's issue
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