Battle of Salamis - Second Persian War
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Battle of Salamis

map shows athens north of corinth and sparta

The plan to stop the Persians at Thermopylae hadn't worked, and, in the late summer of 480 BC, the Persian army was marching south towards Athens. The Greeks got together to discuss what to do.

The Thebans had already surrendered, and Argos decided to stay neutral. The Spartans and Corinthians wanted to go back to their original plan, and just defend southern Greece (where their cities were) and forget about defending Athens (in northern Greece). But the Athenians wanted to defend their city! Finally they reached a compromise plan.

bay of salamis near athens
Bay of Salamis

The Athenians, under their general Themistocles (thuh-MISS-toe-klees), moved everybody out of Athens, to an island nearby, and let the Persian army burn their city. The Persian soldiers burned everything, even the Archaic temple of the Parthenon on the Acropolis.

But the Athenian navy tricked the Persian navy into attacking them in the Bay of Salamis (SALL-ah-miss), and the Athenian navy won. Without his navy, Xerxes decided it was impossible to continue the invasion, and he went home to Persia with most of his army for the winter.

Learn by doing: try to go out on a small boat for a little while

More about the battle of Salamis

Bibliography and further reading about the Second Persian War:

Oxford First Ancient History, by Roy Burrell and Peter Connolly (1997). Lively interviews and pictures make the ancient Mediterranean come to life. For teens.

A Brief History of Ancient Greece: Politics, Society, and Culture, by Sarah Pomeroy and others (2004). For college students.

The Greco-Persian Wars, by Peter Green (1998). A popular history of the wars.

The Greek and Persian Wars 499-386 BC, by Philip De Souza (2003).

The Persian Wars, by Herodotus. Straight from the Greek historian himself!

More about the battle of Salamis
More about the Battle of Plataea
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter.
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