3.17.2009

The Battle of Salamis, 480 BC

I've debated the value of Google Earth as a tool for re-creating land battles with several people. I'm skeptical of its value, since it does not show terrain and elevations terribly well, and since we're not exactly sure where most ancient battles took place: the site of the Battle of Marathon varies considerably depending upon whom you ask, and the Jugurthine War could have taken place in Tunisia or Morocco according to different historians ...

When it comes to naval battles, I love Google Earth. This is their view of the island of Salamis. Although coast lines change over the years - we tend to think of 'climate change' as meaning they erode, but in some places ports have ended up miles inland ... - this is a pretty accurate representation of how the layout of the battle site would have appeared on the day.

The Greek ships were gathered in the bay to the north of the island.
The Persians thought they had blockaded their two exits, trapping the Greeks and guaranteeing a victory.

Much ink has been spilt discussing its details, but I find Barry Strauss' account of the battle the most convincing.

This detail of the east end of the island shows were the battle took place. This is where Artemisia would have been, leading her ships, whilst Xerxes sat on his mountainside throne watching.

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