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The Battle of Salamis: The Naval Encounter…

The Battle of Salamis: The Naval Encounter that Saved Greece -- and… (original 2004; edition 2005)

by Barry Strauss

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369829,371 (3.7)4
Title:The Battle of Salamis: The Naval Encounter that Saved Greece -- and Western Civilization
Authors:Barry Strauss
Info:Simon & Schuster (2005), Paperback, 294 pages
Collections:Your library, Books Read, Seminar in Naval History
Tags:Non-fiction, Naval History, Ancient Greece, History, 938

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The Battle of Salamis: The Naval Encounter that Saved Greece -- and Western Civilization by Barry Strauss (2004)


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Another event that saved Western Civilization. ( )
  clarkland | Sep 15, 2015 |
Fascinating and well written summary of the Battle of Salamis, a crucial Greek naval win in the Greco-Persian War of the 400s B.C. The author has made this narrative interesting and not too scholarly for the general reader such as myself. We are informed as to the causes of the war, important battles up to that time {Artemesium--naval battle ending in a draw] and Thermopylae, the Spartans' "last stand" in spite of treachery and overwhelming odds. Then there are the factors leading up to the decision to face off against the Persians at sea from the Greek base on the island of Salamis. Eurybiades, the pragmatic Spartan, chief admiral of the Greek sea forces, defers to Themistocles in matters of strategy and planning. The author calls the Athenian "a latter-day Odysseus." By a ruse, the cunning Themistocles tricks the Persians into coming to Salamis to battle it out--just where Themistocles wants them to be. Themistocles knows the help he'll get from the geography and from the weather. Description of the one-day battle was fantastic; maps of each stage were invaluable. Then we follow the Great King's retreat. Salamis was not the last battle in the war, but a turning point; the author uses the analogy of a Gettysburg vs an Appomattox. I enjoyed reading about some of the unknown [to me] historical participants: Aeschylus the playwright as a participant and eyewitness; Artemesia, the wily woman admiral and queen of Halicarnassus; Aminias of Pallene, who may have started the battle, and others. I thought the last part of the subtitle a bit grandiose.

I thought easily the best parts were descriptions of a trireme and her crew with which Strauss opens the book and of ancient sea warfare both at Salamis and in general! I realize the author based his text heavily on primary sources: Herodotus, Aeschylus, Plutarch, and Timotheus, and on later writers' interpretations but I felt uneasy about so many "if"s, "maybe"s, "it could have happened this way" and other speculations including the [speculative] physical descriptions of the main players that opened nearly every chapter. Highly recommended. ( )
  janerawoof | Dec 10, 2014 |
Barry Strauss does a very good job of telling one of the most interesting stories from history. The second war between the Persians and the Greeks was fought with the fate of Western civilization in the balance. After the Greek victory came the Golden Age of Greece who knows what would have followed a defeat.
The book is a military history of the war through the end of the Battle of Salamis. The emphasis is on the glory of war and the thrill of victory. The Greeks are fighting for freedom and their opponents are the slaves of Xerxes. In addition to the stories of the battles there were other interesting factors of the action discussed by the author.
All through the action the author lays out the geography of the different areas where the battles were fought. Greece is a small country with areas of mountains, islands and bays. Thermopylae was a battle created by the mountain geography along the Eastern coast of Greece. Extreme weather turned the Battle of Artesium into a Persian defeat as they lost 400 ships to the storm. The island of Salamis and the straits dictated the tactics of the battle.
The descriptions of Xerxes and Themistocles were the stories of two fascinating men. While Xerxes was the stern ruler of millions Themistocles had to make his arguments in the Assembly and always won with guile and bribery. In the end he becomes the servant of the Persians after being ostracised by his jealous countrymen.
I did not think the maps in the book were equal to the quality of the writing. Many were simple pen drawings that looked like stick figures. One other difficulty is that since there are very few sources for that time after you have read Herodotus you have read about eighty percent of what any author would have to say on this subject. Herodotus was a very good writer himself and is tough competition. This writer keeps a good pace to the story and the book is not overly long or dry at all. I would think that the reader that doesn't usually go for history might be surprised and really enjoy this book. I enjoyed the book very much. It is a book that makes me glad I like to read history. ( )
  wildbill | Aug 21, 2012 |
This is really well written and informative, and still manages to stay entertaining. Would be of interest to people who don't normally read alot but saw the movie 300 it's good follow up to what happened there.
  trinibaby9 | Nov 24, 2009 |
This is a popularly written but well-researched account of the critical battle at Salamis which defeated Xerxes and the Persian Empire. Strauss writes well and descriptively outlines the battle before, during, and after the conflict. Along the way we are more generally introduced to sea warfare and ancient battles.

The book features a list of additional sources for Salamis. The best primary source is of course Herodotus. Second, Aeschylus' The Persians is the next best source, a sound translation is the one done by the University of Chicago. A third source is Plutarch's, The Rise and Fall of Athens (Penguin) which includes a biography of Themistocles. Thucydides', The Peloponnesian War is of course indispensable. The Robert Strassler, ed., Landmark Thucydides is a comprehensive guide in English. There are other important sources listed in the book as well.

A number of secondary sources should be noted. An interesting secondary source is Victor David Hanson's Carnage and Culture on Salamis (pp. 27-59). One of Hanson's main contentions is that Western warriors have a unique perspective on battle. Western warriors dissent, are adaptable, and are uniquely equipped due to democracy. Along the general lines of this interpretation is Josiah Ober, A Company of Citizens: Political Dissent in Democratic Athens: Intellectual Critics of Popular Rule. One of the most important works on seafaring is Lionel Casson, Ships and Seamanship in the Ancient World (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995).

The work is along the same lines as Tom Holland's, Rubicon, or Paul Cartledge, Thermopylae, popular accounts which are well-written and scholarly credible.
1 vote gmicksmith | Nov 16, 2008 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
Wow, well, certainly a lot of localised myth and bullshit but the basic issues were correct.
The Persians were victim to local horseshit and the locals were privy to real-time data, as we were to term it today. Add that to arrogant Persian navy mistakes - as if their exhausted crew could outperform for thirty hours at a stretch flawlessly...ridiculous!

The Persians were fooled into diving into battle prematurely and when their rowers were exhausted beyond belief from two days of rowing in the open sea...they were easy prey to the waiting and disciplined Greeks.
Once again sad that so many lives were lost to futility of purpose, futlity of resolve, futility of understanding.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0743244516, Paperback)

On a late September day in 480 B.C., Greek warships faced an invading Persian armada in the narrow Salamis Straits in the most important naval battle of the ancient world. Overwhelmingly outnumbered by the enemy, the Greeks triumphed through a combination of strategy and deception. More than two millennia after it occurred, the clash between the Greeks and Persians at Salamis remains one of the most tactically brilliant battles ever fought. The Greek victory changed the course of western history -- halting the advance of the Persian Empire and setting the stage for the Golden Age of Athens.

In this dramatic new narrative account, historian and classicist Barry Strauss brings this landmark battle to life. He introduces us to the unforgettable characters whose decisions altered history: Themistocles, Athens' great leader (and admiral of its fleet), who devised the ingenious strategy that effectively destroyed the Persian navy in one day; Xerxes, the Persian king who fought bravely but who ultimately did not understand the sea; Aeschylus, the playwright who served in the battle and later wrote about it; and Artemisia, the only woman commander known from antiquity, who turned defeat into personal triumph. Filled with the sights, sounds, and scent of battle, The Battle of Salamis is a stirring work of history.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:05 -0400)

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"The battle of Salamis in 480 B.C. was the most important naval encounter of the ancient world. In the narrow strait between the island of Salamis and the Greek mainland, a heavily outnumbered Greek navy defeated the Persian armada in a victory that is still studied today. The Greek triumph at Salamis stopped the advancing Persians and saved the first democracy in history. It made Athens the dominant city in Greece, gave birth to the Athenian empire, and set the stage for the Age of Pericles. On the Persian side, the battle of Salamis also featured history's first female admiral and sailors from three continents."."The Battle of Salamis features some of the most fascinating figures in the ancient world: Themistocles, the Athenian commander who masterminded the victory (and tricked his fellow Greeks into fighting); Xerxes, the Persian king who understood land but not naval warfare; Aeschylus, the Greek playwright who took part at Salamis and later immortalized it in drama; and Artemisia, the half-Greek queen who was one of Xerxes' trusted commanders and who turned defeat into personal victory."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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