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A History of Sea Power by Stevens and Westcott

Just opposite the peninsula of Salamis


daybreak the Persian triremes drew up in three lines on each side of the island of Psyttaleia and advanced into the straits. But the narrowing waters of the channel made it necessary to reduce the front and bear to the left. Consequently all formation was lost, and the Persian triremes poured into the narrows "in a stream,"--to quote the phrase of the tragedian AEschylus, who fought on an Athenian trireme in this battle and describes it in one of his plays.

Facing the invader was a smaller array of ships but a better ordered line of battle. On the Greek left was the Athenian division opposing the advancing triremes of Phoenicia; on the right was the Spartan division facing the Greeks of Asia Minor. The two fleets rushed toward each other, but just before contact the Persians found themselves embarrassed by their very number of ships. As may be seen by the map, they had an awkward turn to make in entering the narrows. At this point, just opposite the peninsula of Salamis, the straits are only about 2000 yards wide, making it impossible for more than 80 or 90 triremes to advance abreast. As a result the Phoenician wing of the line was extended considerably in advance of the rest, forced ahead by the pressure of ships behind. Although, as a matter of fact, the Spartan wing also was somewhat in advance of the rest of the Greek line, the first shock of battle came between the Phoenicians and the Athenians.


After Grundy, _The Great Persian War._


1 The Original Position 2 The Advance 3 The Contact]

This initial advantage offered by an exposed wing was immediately seized upon. While the Athenians bore the frontal attack, the AEginetans on their right fell upon the Phoenicians' flank. This double attack on the Persian right wing eventually proved the turning point of the battle. The Phoenicians, however, had the reputation of being the foremost sea fighters in the world, and they bore themselves well. Similarly the Asiatic Greeks proved themselves foemen worthy of their brethren from the Peloponnesus, and the fight was maintained with great ferocity all along the line. The inhabitants of Athens who had been removed to Salamis blackened the shores on one side of the Strait, as anxious watchers of the tremendous spectacle. Opposite them on the slope of Mt. AEgaleos sat Xerxes himself, surrounded by his staff, a less anxious spectator but no less interested in the outcome.

About seven o'clock a fresh westerly wind arose, as it does at this day in that region, and as it did some years later during a battle won by an Athenian admiral in the Gulf of Corinth.[1] This wind blows every morning with considerable violence for about two hours; and in this battle it must have tended to make the bows of the Persian ships pay off--thus exposing their sides to the Greek rams--and drift back upon the galleys that were crowding forward from the rear in the attempt to get into the battle.

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