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Greeks fighting the Persians


The Persian Wars

The Greek cities in Asia Minor had not been united and often, like the cities of mainland, they quarreled between them. Thales of Miletos, 636 - 546 BC, LouvreThales of Miletos perceived this weakness of Ionia and proposed a united nation, consisting from all the cities with Teos, as the capital, but none listened.
At the end of the seventh century, king Gyges of Lydia conquered Colophon. Responding to the aggression of Lydia, twelve Ionic cities formed a league, whose center was the Panionion, a shrine of Poseidon on the promontory of Mykale. The weak league was unable to stop the conquest of the cities, by the next king of Lydia, king Croesos (560-546 BC). Only Miletos, which had not resisted, remained an ally under a treaty.
After the defeat of Croesos by the king of Persia, Cyrus, the Ionic cities which had fought against him in the war, asked to be governed with the same terms as they were before, under the kindly and benevolent king Croesos. Cyrus refused and the league met at the Panionion and  decided to ask the aid of Sparta. A Persian guard of Darius, "Immortal", from his palace walls at Susa. End of 6th - begining of 5th century BC, Louvre
Though the Lakedaemonians refused to help them, they sent a message to Cyrus, telling him not to harm any Greek city. Cyrus instead send the governor of Lydia Arpagos, who had saved Cyrus in his infancy, to lay siege to the cities. The people of Teos, unwilling to submit, abandoned their homes and went to Abdera, in Thrace. The Phokaeans also left and sailed to Corsica and been harassed by Carthagenians and the people of Tyrrhe, they went to Region and later founded the city of Massalia (Marseilles). One by one, the Ionic cities were conquered and forced to pay tribute to the Persian king, contributing also ships and army. Though the Persians did not interfere with their religion, social life and Greek habits, the cities were unhappy.

The Ionic revolt
499 - 494 BC

The revolt of the Ionic cities was caused by the tyrant of Miletos, Aristagoras, who tried to capture the island of Naxos with the aid of the satrap Artafernes. An engraved gemstone from Italy. A Persian horseman attacks a Greek soldier, common in the southern cities of Asia Minor, in the sixth and fifth century BC. When the expedition failed, Aristagoras in order to avoid punishment for his promises to the satrap, he initiated the revolt to the unhappy Ionic cities. The whole Ionia rebelled and soon was freed from tyranny. Immediately Aristagoras went to Sparta and asked for their support. King Kleomenes personally was in favor to help the Ionians, but the Lakedaemonians took the decision not to engage in such a distant expedition. There is a story, that when Aristagoras offered Kleomenes more and more money, his eight years old daughter, Gorgo, told her father "Go away father, otherwise this man is going to corrupt you".
After the Spartan refusal, Aristagoras went to Athens and persuaded them to support the revolt. The Athenians and Eretrians sent a fleet (twenty triremes the former and five the later) and joining forces with the Ionians, marched and attacked the city of Sardis, which was burned accidentally (498 BC). The Greeks failed to take the citadel and in their return to the coast, they were attacked by the Persian army near Ephesos and defeated. After this incident, the Athenian army returned home and did not get involve anymore, in the Ionic affairs. When Darius learned about the burning of Sardis, in great rage, asked who did it. When they told him, "the Athenians", he asked again, and "who are they?" Upon been informed, he shot an arrow into the sky and said: "grand me Zeus to take revenge upon the Athenians"  and ordered one of his servants to remind him, three times every day during the dinner:
              "My lord, remember the Athenians"
             (Δέσποτα, μέμνησον τοις Αθηναίοις). 
After the burning of Sardis, many other cities revolted in Asia Minor, Thrace and Cyprus.  In 494 BC, the Persian and Ionic fleet fought a battle at the island of Lade, close to the port of Miletos. The Persian fleet was numbering 600 Phoenician ships and the Greek 353. The ships of Chios were defeating the enemy and the naval battle would have been won from the far superior seamen of Ionic cities, but when 50 Samian ships and another 70 from Lesbos treacherously fled, the battle was lost. The Phoenician fleet, which was vastly superior in number, won the battle. Greek oplites fighting a Persian on horseback, sixth century BCAfter a long siege from land and sea, the city of Miletos was captured and destroyed. Most of the inhabitants were killed and the rest were transferred at Ampe, a town near the mouth of the Tigris river. Miletos was taken at the sixth year, after its revolt (494 BC). The temple of Apollo at Didyma, one of the most important oracle of Greece was burned, as the Branchidae priests had prophesized.
A year after the capture of Miletos, the poet Phrynichos used the story in his drama "Capture of Miletos", which was performed at Athens. The whole theater came to tears and Phrynichos was sentenced to pay a fine of a thousand drachmas and his tragedy was banned.

The battle of Marathon
490 BC

King Darius on the throne and his son Xerxes behind him giving audience, 490 BC. Teheran MuseumIn 492 BC, Darius sent his son in law Mardonios with a large army and fleet in an expedition at Thrace, with the purpose to invade the rest of Greece. The fleet, which was following close the land army, was destroyed by a storm, at the promontory of mount Athos. Three hundred vessels were lost from the hurricane and 20,000 men were drowned. Soon after, Mardonios was wounded, when a Thracian tribe, the Brygians, attacked his army during the night. With his forces weakened, he returned to Persia.
The failure of the expedition did not sake Darius. He immediately started to prepare a larger army. He sent heralds to all the Greek cities, asking from them "earth and water", the symbol of submission. All the Greek Islands and many Greek cities submitted. Athens and Sparta were so much insulted at the demand, that the first threw the heralds into the Barathron, a deep pit in the walls of Acropolis and the later into a well, to find their earth and water.
In the spring of 490 BC, Darius assembled in Cilicia a big army, he also prepared a fleet of 600 galleys. The commanders, Datis and Artafernes, had been instructed to reduce to subjection the cities which had refused to give earth and water, particularly Athens and Eretria. At first, they sailed to Samos and from there to Naxos, the island which had repelled a large Persian fleet, ten years ago. The people of Naxos fled from the cities, which they were burned by the Persians. All the other islands submitted and the fleet sailed to  Eretria, where they found great resistance. For six days the Eretrians fought gallantly, but on the seventh, the gates were opened by two Eretrian traitors, both leading citizens. The city was destroyed and the surviving inhabitants were put in chains.
After a few days, Datis crossed to Attica, landing at the plain of Marathon, a place which had been chosen by Hippias, the son of Peisistratos, who was accompanying the Persians. In the meantime, the Athenians, upon learning the news of the fall of Eretria, sent Phidippides to Sparta, to ask for assistance. Phidippides, a postman by profession, made the journey of 150 miles on foot, in only 48 hours. The Spartans promised to send a force, but asked for time, because it was not full moon yet (one more week was needed), a Spartan superstition, which was prohibiting them to march during these days.
Miltiades, 550 - 488 BC, Athenian general, statesman and victor of Marathon. 450 BC, Museum of Ravenna.The Athenians, who had decided to fight the Persian army at Marathon, had encamped at the the valley of Aulona, near the temple of Herakles and were watching closely their movements.  When they received the news from Phidippides, the Athenian Generals were divided, as to what was the best course. Five generals wanted an immediate engagement with the Persian army, between them were Miltiades, Themistokles and Aristeides, and the other five refused to engage in battle, until the arrival of the Spartan army. The General Miltiades, who belonged to the team of generals for immediate engagement, persuaded the Polemarch Kallimachos, to vote for battle. The Athenian army was numbered 10,000 heavy armed soldiers (hoplites) and they had no significant light armed men, nor had a cavalry or archers. Unexpectedly the city of Plataea indebted for the help the Athenians had given them in their war against the Thebans, sent their whole force of 1,000 hoplites, to their assistance. The Persian army was numbering in more than 120,000 men (according to others 50,000) and had encamped at the plain, about one mile from the sea. It had been decided, that if the Persians would move towards Athens or starting embarking on the ships, they would attack them immediately.
After waiting for eight days, on the 17th day of September 490 BC, the Persians started to embark men in the ships to sail at the defenseless city of Athens. Miltiades immediately ordered to prepare for battle. Because they were not enough men to cover the length of the Persian army, Miltiades decided to strengthen the wings and leave the center weaker, with only a few ranks. The right wing was under the command of the polemarch Kallimachos and in the left wing were the Plataeans. Miltiades did not immediately engage them, holding back his men, to avoid their arrows. When Miltiades gave the order to attack, the Athenians rushed toward the enemy, in order to avoid long exposure to their arrows. With their war cry, "Ελελευ! Ελελευ!", fell upon the Persians, who were unused for hand to hand fighting. After a long and hard battle, the Persians were victorious in the center, in which they had positioned their best men. But the Athenians, in the right and left wing had defeated the enemy and by joining the left and right wing, they attacked at the center. The Athenian attack had such a devastated effect that in a short time the Persians retreated to their ships, with great loses, abandoning their camp. At the sea shore, a vicious and long battle took place, in which the Greeks tried to prevent the Persians escape to their ships. The Persians, who took refuge in the swamps, were all slaughtered.

The battle of Marathon, Greeks fighting the invading Persians, 490 BC.

Immediately after the battle, an Athenian hoplite, in full arms, run to Athens (the distance of 21 miles), to give the good news. He passed the mountain Ymetos and then the hill of Lykavetos and through Acropolis came to Agora. Raising his shield, he cried "We have won" (Νενικήκαμε) and then he collapsed and died.
At the battle, the Persians lost 6,400 men and seven of their ships were captured, and from the Athenian side, 192 men were killed, among them the polemarch Kallimachos and Stesilaos, one of the ten generals. The second day after the battle, 2,000 Spartans came to Athens, marching 150 miles in just three days. Finding the battle over, they visited Marathon and after inspecting the field of the battle, where thousands of enemy bodies were lying, they returned to Sparta, having only praise for the bravery of the Athenians. The tomb of Marathon, where the 192 Athenians, who lost their lives for defending their city, buried. 490 BC
The 192 Athenians  killed, were buried at the field of the battle and a thirty nine feet high tomb was erected over them. Their names were inscribed on ten pillars, one for each tribe. On the white marble stone tumulus was written an inscription by the poet Simonides:
              "At Marathon for Greece the Athenians fought;
               And low the Medians' gilded power they brought
"
             (Ελλήνων προμαχούντες Αθηναίοι Μαραθώνι,
              χρυσοφόρων Μήδων εστόρεσαν δύναμιν
).
Two other tombs were erected, one for the fallen Plataeans and one for the slaves. From the loot of the Persian camp, the Athenians offered the one tenth to goddess Athena, Apollo and Artemis. It was from the Persian loot that Pheidias constructed the chryselephantine statue of goddess Athena. They erected the treasury of Athenians at Delphi and part of the loot was given to Plataea.
In the battle of Marathon fought the tragic poet Aeschylos and his brother Kynegeiros, who fell in the battle showing immense bravery. Trying to hold a Persian ship, his hand was cut off by an axe. Aeschylos, who was wounded badly, considered his participation in the battle of Marathon, the highest honor he had in his life, as it was inscribed in his grave style.
During the battle of Marathon, a strange event happened to the Athenian hoplite Epizelos, son of Kouphagoras, who lost his vision and never regained it, though he had not receive any wound or beating. He was telling later, that a giant soldier appeared in front of him, whose beard was shedding his whole shield and this phantom was killing the enemies around him. He thought to be a god and the bright shining of his armor, blinded him. 
During the end of the battle, the Athenians saw that someone was flashing a shield, from high up on the mountain of Pentely and afraid that a traitor was signaling a message to the enemy to capture the city, they rushed to the unprotected city of Athens leaving behind the tribes of Themistokles and Aristeides, which had been tested in the battle. Tired from the battle in the hot September day, after seven hours they arrived at the south of the city walls and encamped in the temple of Herakles, at Kynosargaes. The Persians, who had entered the Phaleron bay, when they saw them they sailed for Asia.

490 - 480 BC

The disastrous expedition by the Persians in Greece, made Darius even more eager to conquer Greece. For three years, after the battle of Marathon, he was preparing a vast army, but a revolt that broke out in Egypt postponed an early expedition and in 485 BC, he died. His son, Xerxes, by the older daughter of Cyrus, Attosa, succeeded him to the throne.
Within a year, he crashed the rebellion in Egypt and started preparations against Greece, on a massive scale. For four years, provisions of all kinds and army were assembled at the plains of Kapadokia, as well as food dumps along his route to the coast of Thrace. The marks from the Xerxes canal are still evident today in the Chalkidiki peninsula A ship canal was opened in Chalkidiki, north of mount Athos, large enough for two triremes, in order to avoid the dangerous cape, which had destroyed his fleet in 492 BC. He also build a bridge on the river Strymon. In the meantime, Egyptian and Phoenician engineers were constructing a bridge, over the Hellespont, near Abydos, where the breadth of the sea is only seven stadia (about one mile). The bridge was constructed by old ships and held by enormous ropes. It was later destroyed by a storm and Xerxes ordered the heads, of those responsible for the construction, to be cut and three hundred lashes to be given to the unruly Hellespont. Two new bridges were constructed by Greek engineers using 674 ships, next to each other, one for the army and the other for animals and baggage. The bridges were resting upon a row of anchored ships and fastened by ropes.
At Greece, Athens and Aegina were at war for some time. Aegina was one of the strongest naval powers at this time and her ships were ravaging the Attic coast. When a rich bed of silver, was discovered at Maronia, in Lavrion, the surplus money of more than one hundred talents, was proposed to be distributed among the Athenian citizens. Themistokles tried and persuaded the Athenians, to use the surplus to build a fleet, to help mainly the cause of the war without a herald (πόλεμος ακήρυκτος) with Aegina (498 BC), but without doubt from fear of another Persian invasion. In a period of two years, Athens had a fleet of more than two hundred triremes.
When Aegina gave "earth and water", the Athenians asked the intervention of Sparta, accusing the Aeginitians that they betrayed the cause of Greece. King Kleomenes seized ten leading Aeginitian citizens and transferred them in Athens, as hostages. After this episode, Aegina ended the hostilities against Athens, which was preparing for the forthcoming Persian invasion.
In Greece, the news for the Persian expedition had long been known. For the first time, in Greece's history the cities were united under the leadership of Sparta and while Xerxes was passing the winter at Sardis, a council of the Greek cities was summoned to meet at Korinth (481 BC). In front of the imminent danger, they attempted to unite all the cities in one great league for the defense of the motherland. But it was such the terror, Xerxes had inspired over many of them, that the attempt failed. Anyway, the congress proved fruitful in reconciling the cities, mainly Athens and Aegina. Themistokles, 528 - 459 BC. Athenian general, statesman and victor at Salamis. The strategic plan of the Greeks, which was without doubt product of Themistokles, was to defeat the Persian fleet in a naval battle, with the hope, that their land army will withdraw, without support. The proposition of Spartans to meet the Persians in the Isthmos of Korinth, was not accepted, because all the northern Greece necessarily would Medize and thus they decided, that the only place for defense was Thermopylae. The Greek fleet consisting from 300 ships was anchored at Artemision, north of Euboea, where Artemis had her temple, opposite the bay of Pagasae, ready to fight the Persian fleet.
Aristeides the Just, Athenian general and statesman. In Athens, the leaders, Aristeides and Themistokles were quarrelling, for the course their city ought to take. Aristeides, an able man but without a lot of clear-sightedness, famous for his honesty and integrity, was in favor of keeping the ancient Athenian habits avoiding to become his city a maritime state. Themistokles, a man of genius, vigorously advocated that Athens ought to build a fleet and become a naval power. Themistokles managed to expel one after the other his opponents. Hipparchos was exiled in 487 BC, Xanthippos in 484 BC and Aristeides in 482 BC. In order to have the power in his hands and because was prohibited to be elected archon for a second time, he persuaded the Athenians to change the constitution, taking away the executive powers of archon eponymous. The power was transferred to the ten generals of the tribes, who could be reelected multiple times.

The battle of Thermopylae
480 BC

At the end of the year 481 BC, all the Persian preparations for the expedition against Greece had been completed and in the following year 480 BC, after the spring rains, the vast army marched towards Hellespont. For seven days and nights the army was crossing over to Europe. According to Herodotos, the force including the attendants, was exceeding the five million men and the Persian fleet numbered to 1207 ships. The vast army was consisted from 1,700,000 foot soldiers, 80,000 cavalry and 20,000 Lybians and Arabians, with chariots and camels. Leonidas, king of SpartaThracians and Macedonians and cities of the northern Greece contributed more than 300,000 men. They reached Thessaly in 480 BC, without any resistance. In the meantime, a small force sent by the Greek cities under the king of Sparta, Leonidas, encamped at Thermopylae. 
Athens and Sparta, having consulted Delphi, received terrifying responses. Athenians, who could not accept the oracle "Flee to the ends of the earth", told the Delphians, that they will stay until they die, waiting for a better oracle. They were given another ambiguous one, saying that "a wooden wall will survive the destruction of Attica" and "divine Salamis would destroyed the children of women". In the Athenian assembly, Themistokles later argued that the wooden wall was their fleet and if the god prophesized evil for Greece, he would never use the word, "divine" (θείη), but the word "pernicious" (σχετλίη). To the Spartans the oracle was equally dreadful, telling them that "either their city or a Spartan king would perish".
On the arrival of Xerxes at Thermopylae, he found that the place was defended by a body of three hundred Spartans and about seven thousand hoplites from other states, commanded by the Spartan king Leonidas.
Xerxes learning about the small number of Greek forces and that several Spartans outside the walls were exercising and combing their hairs, in his perplexity, immediately called Demaratos to explain him the meaning of all these. Demaratos told him that the Spartans will defend the place to the death and it was custom to wash and dress their hairs with special care when they intended to put their lives in great danger. Xerxes who did not believe Demaratos, delayed his attack for four days, thinking that the Greeks as soon as they would realize his great forces will disperse. He sent also heralds asking to deliver up their arms. The answer from Leonidas was:
                 "come and take them" (Μολών λαβέ).
A Spartan, who was told about the great number of Persian soldiers, who with their arrows will conceal the sun, he answered:  "so much the better, we will fight in the shade".
At the fifth day Xerxes attacked but without any results and with heavy losses, though the Medes fought bravely. He then ordered his personal guard  the "Immortals" under Hydarnes, a body of ten thousand consisting from the best Persian soldiers, to advance. They also failed and Xerxes was observed to jump from his throne three times in anger and agony. The following day they attacked, but again made no progress. Xerxes was desperate but his luck changed when a Malian named Ephialtes told him about a secret path across the mountain. Immediately a strong Persian force was sent under Hydarnes, guided by the traitor. At day's break they reached the summit, where the Phokian army was stationed and who upon seeing the Persians fled.
When Leonidas was informed about all these incidents, he ordered the council of war to be summoned. Many were of the opinion that they should retire and find a better defendable place, but Leonidas, who was bound by the laws of Sparta and from an oracle, which had declared that either Sparta or a Spartan king must perish, refused. Three hundred Spartans and seven hundred Thespians took the decision to stay and fight.
The battle of Thermopylae, 490 BC. Leonidas did not wait the Persian attack, which had being delayed by Xerxes and advancing in the path, he fell upon the Persians. Thousands of them were slain, the rest were driven near the sea, but when the Spartan spears broke, they started having losses and one of the first that fell was king Leonidas. Around his body one of the fiercest battles took place. Four times the Persians attacked to obtain it and four times they were repulsed. At the end, the Spartans exhausted and wounded, carrying the body of Leonidas, retired behind the wall, but they were surrounded by the enemy, who killed them with arrows.
On the spot, a marble lion was erected by the Greeks in honor of Leonidas and his men, together with two other monuments near by. On one of them, the memorable words were written:
           "Ω ξείν αγγέλλειν Λακεδαιμονίοις, ότι τήδε κείμεθα,
           τοις κείνων ρήμασι πειθόμενοι
".
           "Oh stranger tell the Lacedaemonians, that we lie here,
            obedient to their laws
".

The battle of Salamis
480 BC

The Greek fleet at Artemision, when received information about the great numbers of the Persian fleet, left their post and sailed to Euripus, at the narrow straits, between Euboea and Boeotia. A Greek trireme The Persian fleet after sailing down the Thermaic gulf, reached the island of Skiathos and anchored at Sepias, along the coast of Magnesia. The enormous fleet was consisted from 200 Egyptian triremes, 150 Cyprians, 300 from Phoenicia and Palestine, 100 ships have contributed the Ionian cities, 100 the Celicians, 100 from Hellispontians and the rest from many other cities. Totaling 1207 and supported from about 3000 smaller vessels. The fighting men on the triremes were about 36,000 and with their rowers 240,000. The Greeks along the coast of Thrace and  islands were contributing 120 ships.
When the Persian fleet anchored on the coast of Magnesia, a vicious storm lasting for three days, destroyed 400 ships and almost all the smaller vessels. This incident gave courage to the Greek fleet and returned back to Artemision. As soon as the storm ended, the Persian fleet sailed around the Pagasian bay and anchored at Aphetae. Fifteen vessels which have been left behind, thinking that the Greek fleet at Artemision was their own, when they approached, they were captured. But when the Persian fleet approached them, the Greeks seeing the great number of Persian ships wanted to leave their posts. With difficulty the Euboeans, who were removing their wives and children, persuaded them to stay and engage the enemy there.
The Persians dispatched 200 ships, which sailed around Euboea, in order to occupy the Euripus, just behind the Greek fleet to cut off their retreat. The Greeks, who were informed about the Persian move from the excellent diver Skyllias of Skione, decided to sail during the night to Euripus and attack them. But in the afternoon there was a change of plan and they sailed to engage the main body of the Persian fleet. The battle lasted many hours and the Greeks captured 30 Persians ships and the Persians just one Lemnian. At night, the Persians had another misfortune. A big storm destroyed most of the 200 ships, that were sent to Euripus and sailing in the dangerous shores of Trypes. Many ships from the main naval body were also destroyed, but this did not stop the Persians from giving another battle two days later. A day before the battle fifty three Athenian triremes came to join the Greek fleet. The naval battle was vicious, lasting the entire day. Many ships from both sides were lost and half of the Athenian ships were destroyed. When the news came, that Thermopylae fell to the Persians, the Greek ships sailed to Salamis. 
Though, the naval battles in Artemision were undecided, they gave courage and hope to the Greeks, who thought, that with better conditions, they could defeat the Persians at the sea. The gulf of Salamis, where the Greek fleet sailed, was a well chosen place to fight the enemy, because in the narrow straits of the sea, the advantage that the Persians had in ships was diminished. The fleet was also protecting the transportation of the citizens of Attica, who were leaving their homes for Aegina, Troezen and Salamis. In front of the eminent danger, the exiled Athenians, among them Aristeides and Xanthippos, were permitted to return. 
In the meantime, Xerxes had reached Athens and surrounded Acropolis. A body of his army stationed at Areiopagos, who by throwing arrows furnished with lighting tow, burned the wooden defenses of Acropolis. The defenders of the sacred rock did not surrender and when the Persians tried to climb the rock, they rolled big stones crushing them. Persians captured the Acropolis, when they discovered a undefended spot, near the temple of Aglavros. A small force of them, ascended the rock, entered Acropolis and opened the gates to the Persian army. The Athenian defenders were slaughtered or threw themselves from the walls. All the temples and buildings of the Acropolis were plundered and burned. The Athenian exiles, who went to Acropolis the next day to offer sacrifice, they discovered that the sacred olive tree, which was burned to the ground, to have thrown a fresh shoot of one cubit long.
From the ships and the island of Salamis, Athenians and the rest of Greeks were looking the city of Athens in fire. Many disheartened from the sight, wanted to withdraw to Isthmos.

The battle of Salamis. The Persian ships on the right at the side of Attica. September 29th, 480 BC.

The Greek fleet was consisted from 180 Athenian ships, 40 Korinthian, 30 Aeginian, 20 Megarian, 20 Chalkidian, 16 Lakedaemonian, 15 Sikyonian, 10 Epidaurian, 7 Eretrian, 7 from Keos, 5 Troezenian, 4 from Naxos, 3 Hermionian, 2 from Styrea, 1 from Kythnos, 1 from Kroton and some fifty-oared vessels. (According to Herodotos, they were 366 ships, Aeschylos mentions 310 only).
The Persian fleet now was no less than 1000 ships. The ships that had been destroyed at the storm and the naval battles in Artemision had been made up from the coast of northern Greece and islands.
At the Persian council, Xerxes asked his generals, if they ought to fight. All of them responded positively, except Artemisia, the queen of Hallicarnassus in Karia. She told Xerxes, that if he did not attack, the Greeks would disperse. Attacking them was an unnecessary risk not only for the fleet, but for the land army as well. She proposed instead of a naval battle to lead the land army and take Peloponnesos. Though Xerxes applauded her opinion, he sided with the rest and orders for an attack were issued for the following morning.
In the first Greek war council, the Peloponnesian commanders, especially the Korinthian admiral Adeimantos, were strongly opposed to the propositions of Themistokles, to stay and fight at the straits. They argued, that if the fleet sailed to Isthmos of Korinth, they would communicate better with the land forces and would be able to protect the unconquered cities of Peloponnesos. In vain Themistokles tried to persuade them and in the voting the majority chose to retreat, but because it was night, they decided to wait until the morning.
When Themistokles returned after the council to his trireme, his friend Mnesiphilos upon learning, about the decisions taken in the council, told him: "Then, all is lost. They will disperse and Euribiades will be unable to hold them. Go and try to make him, fight here." Themistokles immediately, after these words, went and found Euribiades to his ship and persuaded him to summon an emergency council. At the assembly, he did not wait for Euribiades to speak about the reason of the urgent meeting and started speaking. It was then that the Korinthian admiral insulted Themistokles and speaking to him loudly said: "Themistokles, those who rise at the public games before the signal, are whipped". Themistokles insulted, responded: "True, but the ones who are left behind, they don't win the crown". Themistokles then proceeded to explain the reasons why they ought to stay and fight at Salamis. Plutarch tells us, that in this meeting Euribiades got angry with the language of Themistokles and lifted up his stick to hit him. Themistokles then told him: "Strike, but hear me".  He then proceeded to explain the dangers involved, If they would not fight at the straits and sailed at Isthmos. Firstly, they would lose Salamis, Aegina and Megara and thus bring the Persians on the Peloponnesos. Secondly, that they will be forced to fight in the open sea, without any chance, to win the battle. He reminded them also, that many Athenian families at Salamis will be left unprotected. When he finished, general Adeimantos said to Euribiades to stop listening to a man, who has no country. Themistokles, in great anger then told him, that the Athenians had two hundred triremes, which can take the Athenian families on board and settle at Siris in Italy. These words had the desired effect and Euribiades decided to stay and fight at Salamis, without any voting. A trireme was sent to Aegina to invoke assistance, by bringing the statues and icons, of Aeakus and the Aeakids heros, Telamon and Ajax
The next morning, obeying to the orders of Euribiades, the trierarchs started preparing the ships for action. But it was such the discontent between them and upon news and instructions from home, they demanded a third council. After long deliberations, in which Themistokles tried to persuade them, he sent his entrusted servant, Sikinnus, the tutor of his children, who spoke the Persian language, to Xerxes, to inform him that the Greeks were in disagreement and ready to leave immediately with their ships from Salamis and that he could entrap them and obtain an easy victory. The council lasted until late night, when Themistokles received the message that someone was asking for him. It was Aristeides, who was returning from Aegina. He told Themistokles that the Persians had surrounded Salamis and it was impossible for the fleet to retreat. Themistokles then told him to keep it a secret, that he was responsible for this and asked him to take part and tell the news to the council. Aristeides explained to the council, that the whole island was encircled by the Persian fleet and it was thanks to the darkness, that his small vessel went undetected passing through their lines.
In the meantime the Persian fleet which had previously anchored at Phaleron, with orders from Xerxes, had encircled Salamis. The whole Egyptian naval force of two hundred ships sailed and blocked the straits between Salamis and Megara. The rest of his fleet blockaded the straits between Salamis and Attica. Persians also landed troops in the small island of Psitallia, that lies in the mouth of the straits, opposite Kynosoura of Salamis.
A throne was prepared at the summits of mount Aegaleo for Xerxes, opposite the island of Salamis, to watch the naval battle.
At dawn, on the 29th of September 480 BC, the Persian ships, with the Phoenicians leading the way and the Ionians behind, moved in three lines into the straits on the side of Attica and creating a long formation of three columns, took position for battle. The Greek ships, which had been anchored at Salamis at night, were also ready, boarded by the rested seamen. The Athenians were posted in the left wing opposing the Phoenisians. The Aeginitians and Euboeans were in the center and the Lakedaemonians and other Peloponnesians at the right, opposing the Ionians. Minutes before the beginning of the battle, the trireme, which had been sent to Aegina, returned and took also position for battle. They were small waves at the straits at that moment and the Greek seamen, who knew the currents and had heavier ships, though equally fast with the Persians, had a clear advantage. 
When the signal from the trumpets was given into the still morning, the Greeks started singing loudly their war paean "Apollo, saving lord" and moved to engage the enemy. But after a short time, they stopped and started oaring backwards. At that moment, a gigantic supernatural feminine figure appeared over them, shouting with a loud voice, that was heard from the whole fleet: "you miserable people, until when will you fall back?".  When the Persian ships started approaching, in a semicircular formation, the enthusiastic Greeks moved forwards again.
The first incident of the battle, occurred when a Greek trireme rushed in front and struck a Phoenician ship. That forced other Greek triremes to come quickly to its aid and the battle started. The Aeginitians afterwards claimed, that it was their trireme, which had been sent for the Aeakids, that began the fight. At the narrow straits of Salamis, the Greek ships had greater maneuverability and were faster to attack. The Greeks were fighting with order, without any confusion, while the Persians, though they were fighting bravely, had no tactical plan. As soon as, the Phoenicians came close, the Athenians moved forward, assailing them in the flank, cutting them from the rest of the fleet and driving them towards the Attic shore. After a hard battle, the Persian ships panicked and turned back, falling upon their own, ramming them with their bronze beaks. 
Themistokles seizes the opportunity and orders his trireme to attack the Persian flagship, which was under the leadership of general Aravignes, brother of Xerxes, but other ships who were protecting the flagship, tried to encircle his ship. The trierarch Ameinias, brother of the tragic poet Aeschylos and the hero of Marathon, Kynaegeiros, who sees the danger of Themistokles trireme, rushes to help and with the ram of his ship hits the sides of the Persian flagship and disables it. Aravignes then, orders the attack on the ship of Ameinias and jumps to it first, but he is killed by arrows. His body was taken by Artemisia and given later to Xerxes.
The ship of queen Artemisia, whom the Athenians had set a price for her head of ten thousand drachmas, chased by an Athenian trireme under the command of  Ameinias, seeing no other way to escape, fell upon an ally Karian ship and shank it. The Athenians after this, stopped the chase, thinking that the ship was helping their own cause. Xerxes, who  witnessed the event and being told, that the shank ship was Greek, said about Artemisia: "My men had become women and the women men". 
While the Athenian triremes were chasing the Persian ships, causing great destruction, the Aeginitians, who took first prize for valor in the battle afterwards (Athenians came second), got out to the open sea destroying the ones, that were fleeing from the Athenians. The whole strait of Salamis was full from the wrecks, when Aristeides with an able body of hoplites, passed over to Psitallia and slaughtered all the Persian soldiers. At sunset the battle was over, with the Persian fleet partly destroyed or out of action. The Greeks lost 40 triremes and the Persians 200 and about 50,000 men.
Though the Persians had been defeated, the land forces were occupying Attica and their fleet was still formidable. The Persian monarch in rage, after the battle beheaded some Phoenicians, thought to be responsible for the loss of the battle. The Phoenician fleet after that, fearing the rage of Xerxes, left Phaleron at night and sailed for home. Xerxes, who could not rely anymore on the capability of his fleet to protect his retreat to Asia, fearing that the Greeks might try to damage the bridge in the Hellispont, ordered the best of his troops to disembark from the ships and march quickly to secure the bridge. At the same time, the fleet was ordered to leave Phaleron for Asia. When the Greeks saw that the Persian fleet was leaving Phaleron, they sailed after them and pursued them, as far as the island of Andros. Themistokles, anxious to see the Persians leaving Attica, he sent a second message with Sikinnus to Xerxes, telling him, that he, Themistokles, out of personal friendship restrained the Greeks, who wanted to destroy the bridge at Hellispont.
Mardonios, in the meantime had eased the anger of Xerxes, telling him that after all, his majesty had succeeded to conquer Greece, burned Athens and Eretria and defeated their best army, at Thermopylae. This is what Mardonios said to Xerxes, proposing him to let him stay with 300,000 soldiers, to complete the conquest of Greece. Xerxes after taking the advice of Artemicia, he accepted the plan of Mardonios and left for Hellispont, reaching Asia in forty five days. His army suffering from famine, was greatly diminished. Mardonios passed the winter in Thessaly, preparing the army for a new expedition.

Battle of Plataea
479 BC

The reluctance, which Sparta showed after the battle of Thermopylae until a little before the battle of Plataea, did not help the Greek cause. But when finally she took the decision to engage seriously herself in the war, it did it in a great manner.
Five thousand citizens, each one attended by seven Helots, together with five thousand Lacedaemonian Perioikoi (each one attended by one light armed Helot) marched toward the Isthmos. This was a very large army and never in the past Sparta had sent such a big force in the field. At Isthmos, she was joined with the Peloponnesian allies and marched towards Megara. The army was joined there by three thousand Megarians and finally at Plataea with eight thousand Athenian hoplites. The city of Plataea also contributed six hundred hoplites, who came from Salamis, under the command of Aristeides. The number of Greek army were now thirty eight thousand hoplites, who with light armed troops and the Helots reached one hundred and ten thousand men. This number includes the eighteen hundred badly armed Thespians. There was no cavalry and the bow men were very few.
When Mardonios learned the approach of Lacedaemonians, he left Attica and by way of Dekeleia crossed the mount Parnes and entered Boeotia. Marching two days along the Asopos river, he encamped near the town of Plataea.
The battle of Plataea, 479 BC The Greeks after consulting the Gods with sacrifices at Eleusis marched over the ridge of Kithairon mountain and descending from the northern side they saw the encamped Persian army in the valley of Asopos. King Pausanias who was waiting good omens from sacrifices held his troops from the attacks of the Persian cavalry, near Erythrae, where the ground is ragged and uneven, but even this did not prevent the commander Masistios to attack the Greeks. When the Megarians were in great danger suffering many losses, three hundred Athenian hoplites succeeded in repulsing the Persians, killing the tall and brave Masistios. His body was paraded in triumph, in a cart. This event encouraged Pausanias, who positioned the army on the plain, in a line at the right bank of Asopos.
When Mardonios learned the change in the position of the Greeks he ordered his army to be placed opposite to them on the other side of Asopos. Himself took the post in the left wing, facing the Lakedaemonians. The rest of his army consisting from Medized Greeks, fifty thousand strong, were opposite to Athenians. The center of Mardonios composed from Bactrians Sacae and Indians. The whole army was numbering three hundred thousand men.
For eight days the attack was delayed from both sides by unfavorable sacrifices. On the eight day Mardonios by the advice of the Theban leader Timagenidas cut off the supplies of the Greeks and captured a big supply in one of the passes of Kithaeron. Artabazos too, advised him to continue this line of harassing and wearing but Mardonios was impatient and ordered his cavalry to attack, which obtained possession of the fountain of Gargapheia.
Pausanias summoned the council of war and took the decision to retreat, to a place called the Island, which was two kilometers further and halfway between it and the town of Plataea.  When Pausanias at night gave the order of retreat, some Spartans refused to move. Threats did nothing to persuade the Spartan captain Amomferatus, who took a huge rock and threw it at the feet of Pausanias, with the words: "with this pebble I give my vote not to fly".
Pausanias who had no time to lose since daybreak was near, he left Amompheratus and his lochos behind and hurried to the island. Mardonios ordered attack when he learned that the Greeks had retreated. His army passing the waters of Asopos started to throw arrows to the Greeks, who did not engage, even in this moment, in battle until they received a good omen from the sacrifices. Mardonios at the head of his one thousand bodyguards was in the front line fighting bravely, until he was struck down by the Spartan Aimnestos. When Mardonios fell the Persian army fled to their fortified camp. But this did not save them, the Greeks managed to enter and a great massacre took place. Only three thousand Persians who escaped, from the three hundred thousand, survived. The Greeks lost only one thousand and three hundred men.    
 

A Greek hoplitae is fighting with a Persian

 

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