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Book 8

The Naval Battle at Artemisium

Roster of the Greek ships at Artemisium (1). Eurybiades the Spartan is in command of the fleet; why the allies were unwilling to have an Athenian in command, and why they later changed their minds (2-3). Upset by the results of Thermopylae, the Greek fleet wants to retreat; but Themistocles is bribed by the Euboeans to make them stay (4). The Spartan and Corinthian commanders are cut in by Themistocles, and their objections are quieted (5). The Persian fleet prepares to attack the Greeks at Artemisium (6). A detachment of 200 Persian ships tries to sail around Euboea and surprise the Greeks (7). A deserter jumps off a Persian ship and informs the Greeks of the Persian plans and situation. The popular story that he swam 10 miles under water is doubted by Hdt. (8) Next day, when the detachment fails to appear, the Greeks decide to attack the main fleet (9). The Greek fleet is surrounded by the enemy ships. Pity felt by the Ionian Greeks under Xerxes for the encircled Greek fleet (10). Greek strategy: a tight circle of ships explodes outwards. The strategy is successful (11). Night falls, and with it another violent storm (12). The storm destroys the detachment of 200 Persian ships sailing around Euboea (13). 53 triremes arrive from Athens in reinforcement; a minor skirmish takes place (14). Next day, the Persian fleet attacks en masse in crescent formation (15). They fight an inconclusive battle with heavy losses on both sides (16). MVPs were the Egyptians, on the Persian side, and the Athenians on the Greek side (17).

Xerxes in Greece: between Thermopylae and Salamis

The Greek fleet retreats southwards (18). On the beach at Euboea, Themistocles plans to split the Ionian Greeks and Carians from the Persian coalition (19). An oracle is ignored by the Euboeans (20). News of the defeat at Thermopylae reaches the Greek fleet, which heads south (21). In retreat from Euboea, Themistocles leaves inscribed messages urging the Ionian Greeks to defect (22). The Persian fleet advances; Persians occupy the northern tip of Euboea (23). Xerxes arranges the corpses from Thermopylae to appear as if the contest had been even, then displays them to his own troops. No one is fooled (24-25). Persians react with surprise upon hearing that the Olympic games have no cash prizes (26). An embassy is sent by the Thessalians to the Phocians; how the Phocians had hurt the Thessalians in their border war before the Persian invasion (27-28). The Thessalians demand surrender, and threaten to have the Persians overrun tiny Phocis, the site of the oracle at Delphi (29). The angry refusal of the Phocians is motivated by hatred of Thessaly, not by Panhellenic feeling (30). Phocis is overrun by the Persians without a battle; atrocities of the Persian troops against people, property, and temples (31-33). Xerxes divides his troops; one contingent enters Boeotia, headed for Athens, while the other makes for the Delphic sanctuary (34-35). Delphi is evacuated; Apollo says he will protect the temple treasures (36). How the gods attacked the Persian troops, and (with the help of the Delphians) drove them off (37-39).

Salamis Preliminaries; Xerxes on the Acropolis of Athens

The Athenians plan to evacuate Attica, and halt the Greek fleet at Salamis for this purpose; but the Peloponnesians are planning to make their stand further south, at the Isthmus of Corinth (40). A hasty decision to evacuate Attica is carried out (41; but epigraphical evidence (the "Decree of Themistocles") may be proof that the decision had in fact been made much earlier). The Greek fleet is reinforced from reserves at Troezen (42). Catalogue of Greek naval forces at Salamis (43-48). 43 - Peloponnesians; 44 - Athenians (and how the Plataeans got left behind); 45 - Megarians, etc.; 46 - Aeginetans and other islanders; 47 - one ship from the Crotoniats, Greeks of Italy; 48 - non-trireme contingents from Melia, etc.; the total is 378 ships. A war council is held at Salamis; the Peloponnesians urge retreat to the isthmus (49). The Greeks at Salamis learn that Xerxes is in Athens; Thespia and Plataea are destroyed. A date is given: the archonship of Calliades, or 480 B.C. (50). The Persians find a few Athenians barricaded on the Acropolis, which these Athenians think is the oracle's "wooden wall" (51). Xerxes' difficulty in taking the Acropolis (52). The Acropolis is taken; the temples are ransacked and destroyed (53). Some Athenian exiles in Xerxes' camp sacrifice on the Acropolis; the miraculous growth of an olive tree at the Erectheum (54-55). The council at Salamis votes to retreat to the isthmus (56). Themistocles is urged by Mnesiphilus, an Athenian, to prevent this retreat (57). Themistocles convinces Eurybiades, the Spartan commander, to reconvene the council (58). Friction between Themistocles and the Corinthians (59). Themistocles argues for the strategic advantages of fighting in the narrow waters near Salamis (60). The Corinthians furiously debate Themistocles, calling him "a man without a country", but Themistocles hold his ground (61). Themistocles appeals to Eurybiades, and hints that the Athenian fleet may desert the alliance (62). Eurybiades is convinced; the council decides to fight at Salamis (63). An earthquake, and prayers (64). The story is told by Dicaeus the Athenian concerning the divine apparition of the procession for Demeter and Kore; clearly a bad omen for Xerxes (65). The Persian fleet nears Salamis; Xerxes' numbers are increased by recent arrivals (66). Xerxes hold a conference with his commanders, all of whom favor a sea fight at Salamis, except Queen Artemisia of Halicarnassus (67). Artemisia wisely urges Xerxes to wait and allow the fragile Panhellenic coalition to break up; she points out the worthlessness of some of his allied forces (68). Xerxes is pleased with Artemisia's advice, but decides not to follow it (69). The Persian fleet proceeds toward Salamis; the Greek fleet feels cornered (70). A wall which was built across the isthmus of Corinth, and the different Peloponnesians who participated in the construction (71-72). Ethnographic notes on the Peloponnesians (73). There is continued debate at Salamis, since some Peloponnesian commanders still want to retreat to the isthmus (74). Themistocles sends a double-agent to Xerxes. The man tells Xerxes that he is a defector, that the Greeks are in disarray and about to retreat, and that a swift Persian attack would be sure of success (75). Xerxes swallows the bait. Persian troops land on Psyttaleia to kill any shipwrecked Greeks who might swim ashore, and the Persian fleet is positioned to block the egress from the bay (76). A defense of the veracity of oracles (77). The Persian fleet positions are unknown to the Greeks (78). Aristides (the Athenian politician) arrives at Salamis and tells Themistocles that the Greek fleet is hemmed in (79). Themistocles urges him to tell the allied commanders himself (80). Aristides does so, but he is not believed (81). His account is confirmed by the crew of a ship from the island of Tenos; for this the Tenians were later inscribed on the Delphic victory tripod (82).

The Naval Battle at Salamis

The Greeks prepare to fight; Themistocles exhorts the men (83). The battle begins. An Athenian/Aeginetan controversy over which ship struck first (84). Disposition of ships (from Greek perspective): Athenians on the right against Phoenicians, Spartans on the left against Ionians. Two Persian captains who distinguished themselves (85). General success of the Greeks, especially Athenians and Aeginetans (86). How Artemisia escaped death by ramming a ship of her own side (87). Her luck in getting away with this, as Xerxes was watching from shore (88). Casualties occur on both sides; but the Greeks' ability to swim saves many of them (89). How some Phoenician captains, whose ships were accidentally sunk by their own side, tried to blame the Ionians, and were themselves executed when a Samothracian ship proved the loyalty of the Ionians to Xerxes (90). The Persian fleet is in confusion; incredibly, the Athenians and Aeginetans cooperate with each other (91). How Polycritus the Aeginetan proved himself, and reproached Themistocles for doubting him (92). Others who distinguished themselves in the battle (93). An Athenian story, that the Corinthians tried to sail away from the battle and had to be turned back by divine intervention, is firmly rejected by Hdt. and the rest of Greece (94). During the battle, Aristides uses some hoplites to retake Psyttaleia (95). The battle ends with the retreat of those Persian ships not yet destroyed; another prophecy is fulfilled (96). Xerxes plans to return to Persia; his ruse to make it appear that he intends to stay (97).

The Aftermath of Salamis & the Retreat of Xerxes

Xerxes sends a message home; the Persian pony express is described (98). Rejoicing at Susa over the capture of Athens turns to mourning over the defeat at Salamis (99). Mardonius, to protect himself, urges Xerxes to keep fighting in Greece, or to go home and leave him, Mardonius, in command of 300,000 troops (100). Xerxes consults Artemisia about Mardonius' offer (101). Artemisia advises that he leave Mardonius in command, since then Xerxes will have nothing to lose even if Mardonius fails; Xerxes agrees (102-3). The story of Xerxes' eunuch Hermotimus, and the horrible revenge he got on the man who castrated him (104-6). The Persian fleet retreats (107). Themistocles argues for sailing to the Hellespont and breaking the bridges; Eurybiades argues against this, because Xerxes would be more dangerous if trapped in Europe (108). Themistocles acquiesces, and points out that the gods have punished Xerxes for his impious and hubristic actions (109). Themistocles allegedly has an ulterior motive, namely the future good will of Xerxes, should he need it. He sends a secret message to Xerxes informing him of how he, Themistocles, has convinced the Greeks not to hinder Xerxes' retreat (110). The island of Andros refuses to contribute money for the Greek cause, and is besieged by the allies, led by Athens (111). Themistocles uses his position to extort money from other islands (112). The Persian army retreats north to Thessaly; Mardonius selects his troops (113). A demand by the Spartans for reparations is laughed off by Xerxes with a threat (114). The march of Xerxes back to the Hellespont, and the many deaths in the army from plague and hunger (115). The story of the the Thracian king who blinded his sons for serving with Xerxes (116). The army crosses the Hellespont by ships, since the bridges have been destroyed by storms (117). Hdt knows a story that Xerxes sailed all the way home in a ship, and made his retinue jump overboard to lighten the vessel in a storm (118). The veracity of the story is doubted by Hdt., on the grounds that it is improbable (119). Further evidence in support of Hdt.'s version of Xerxes' return to Asia Minor (120). The Greeks make offerings to Delphi in thanks for the victory at Salamis. Apollo demands an additional offering from the Aeginetans (121-22). A vote held to decide the MVP at Salamis is inconclusive, because each commander votes for himself; but they all vote Themistocles second place (123). Themistocles visits Sparta and is greatly honored there (124). How Themistocles put down a detractor back in Athens (125).

The Persians in Northern Greece

Artabazus, returning from escorting Xerxes through Thrace, decides to retake Potidaea and Olynthus (126). Olynthus falls (127). How Artabazus exchanged a secret message with an accomplice inside Potidaea. The agent is discovered; many Persians are drowned while trying to cross into the city. The Persians abandon the siege of Potidaea (128-29). Next spring, what is left of the Persian fleet remains at Samos, not crossing back to Greece (130). The Greek fleet sails to Aegina under Leotychidas the Spartan; his genealogy (131). The fleet commanders are urged by the Ionians to sail against the Persians at Samos; but mutual fear keeps both fleets on opposite sides of the Aegean (132). Mardonius sends his agent Mys ("Mouse") to consult the oracles (133). Various oracular seats visited by Mys; why the Thessalians are not allowed to consult the oracle of Amphiaraus (134). One oracle was delivered to Mardonius in Carian (135). Mardonius sends Alexander of Macedon to negotiate with Athens (136). A story about the boyhood of Alexander's ancestor, Perdiccas (137-38). Alexander's family tree (139). Alexander addresses the Athenians, urging them to accept an honorable settlement with Xerxes or face destruction (140). Why some Spartan envoys happened to be in Athens at the time of Alexander's appeal (141). Speech of the Spartan envoys, urging the Athenians not to make a separate peace with Mardonius and Xerxes (142). The Athenians reject Mardonius' offer, citing their faith in their bravery and in the gods (143). In response to the Spartan envoys, the Athenians remind them of the sacrifices Athens has made for Greece, and urge the Spartans to prepare to fight a major land battle in Boeotia.

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