Short URL for this page:

[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Click here for the text in ancient Greek.]

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]

[Link to a series of help pages]
[Link to the next level up]
[Link to my homepage]

[image ALT: link to previous section]

This webpage reproduces a section of
published in Vol. IV
of the Loeb Classical Library edition,

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


[image ALT: link to next section]

(Vol. IV) Herodotus

 p39  Book VIII: chapters 40‑96

The flags in the text are links to the Greek as printed on facing pages in the Loeb edition.
In the left margin, links to Rawlinson's translation (Vol. IV, with valuable notes),
and to the running commentary by How and Wells.
Cartouches are links to in‑depth articles at Livius.Org or LacusCurtius.

[link to original Greek text] 40 Rawlinson p299 H & W The Greek fleet, after it had left Artemisium came by the Athenians' entreaty to land at Salamis; the reason why the Athenians entreated them to put in there being, that they themselves might convey their children and women safe out of Attica,α and moreover take counsel as to what they should do. For inasmuch as the present turn of affairs had disappointed their judgment they were now to hold a council; they had thought to find the whole Peloponnesian force awaiting the foreigners' attack in Boeotia, but now of that they found no whit, but learnt contrariwise that the Peloponnesians were fortifying the Isthmus, and letting all else go, as deeming the defence of the Peloponnese to be of greatest moment. Learning this, they therefore entreated the fleet to put in at Salamis.

[link to original Greek text] 41 Rawlinson p300 H & W So the rest made sail thither, and the Athenians to their own country. Being there arrived they made a proclamation that every Athenian should save his children and servants as best he could. Thereat most of them sent their households to Troezen, and some to Aegina and Salamis. They made haste to convey all out of harm because they desired to be guided by the oracle, and for another reason, too, which was this: it is said by the Athenians that a great snake lives in their temple, to guard the acropolis; in proof whereof they do ever duly set out a honey-cake as a monthly offering for it; this  p41 cake had ever before been consumed, but was now left untouched. When the priestess made that known, the Athenians were the readier to leave their city, deeming their goddess, too, to have deserted the acropolis. When they had conveyed all away, they returned to the fleet.

[image ALT: zzz as further captioned in the text of this webpage.]

This famous inscription from Troezen documents the evacuation of Athens. It is rather problematic, because several phrases were not in use in the early fifth century, but this may be some kind of "update" of an older document. If the core of the text is authentic, it proves that Themistocles knew quite early that he would set a trap for the invaders at Salamis.

Epigraphical Museum, Athens.
Photo © Livius.Org | Jona Lendering, by kind permission.

[link to original Greek text] 42 When the Greeks from Artemisium had put in at Salamis, the rest of their fleet also heard of it and gathered in from Troezen, the port of which, Pogon, had been named for their place of mustering; and the ships that mustered there were more by far than had fought at Artemisium, and came from more cities. Their admiral-in‑chief was the same as at Artemisium, Eurybiades son of Euryclides, a Spartan, yet not of the royal blood; but it was the Athenians who furnished by far the most and the sea‑worthiest ships.

[link to original Greek text] 43 The Peloponnesians that were with the fleet were, firstly, the Lacedaemonians, with sixteen ships, and the Corinthians with the same number of ships as at Artemisium; the Sicyonians furnished fifteen, the Epidaurians ten, the Troezenians five, the people of Hermione three; all these, except the people of Hermione, were of Dorian and Macedonian stock, and had last come from Erineus and Pindus and the Dryopian region. The people of Hermione are Dryopians, driven by Heracles and the Malians from the country now called Doris.

[link to original Greek text] 44 Rawlinson p302 These were the Peloponnesians in the fleet. Of those that came from the mainland outside the Peloponnese, the Athenians furnished more ships than any of the rest, namely, a hundred and eighty, of their own sending; for the Plataeans did not  p43 fight beside the Athenians at Salamis, whereof the reason was that when the Greeks sailed from Artemisium, and had arrived off Chalcis, the Plataeans landed on the opposite Boeotian shore and set about conveying their households away. So they were left behind bringing these to safety. The Athenians, while the Pelasgians ruled what is now called Hellas, were Pelasgians, bearing the name of Cranai;​1 in the time of their king Cecrops they came to be called Cecropidae, and when the kingship fell to Erechtheus they changed their name and became Athenians, but when Ion son of Xuthus was made leader of their armies they were called after him Ionians.

[link to original Greek text] 45 H & W The Megarians furnished the same complement as at Artemisium; the Ampraciots brought seven ships to the fleet, and the Leucadians (who are of Dorian stock from Corinth) brought three.

[link to original Greek text] 46 Of the islanders, the Aeginetans furnished thirty. They had other ships, too, manned; but they used them to guard their own coasts, and fought at Salamis with the thirty that were most seaworthy. The Aeginetans are Dorians from Epidaurus; their island was formerly called Oenone. After the Aeginetans came the Chalcidians with the twenty, and the Eretrians with the seven which had fought at Artemisium; they are Ionians; and next the Ceans, furnishing the same ships as before; they are of Ionian stock, from Athens. The Naxians furnished four ships; they had been sent by their townsmen to the Persians, like the rest of the  p45 islanders; but they paid no heed to the command and joined themselves to the Greeks, being invited thereto by Democritus, a man of note in their town, who was then captain of a trireme. The Naxians are Ionians, of Athenian lineage. The Styrians furnished the same number as at Artemisium, and the Cythnians one trireme and a fifty-oared bark; both these people are Dryopians. There were also in the fleet men of Seriphos and Siphnos and Melos, these being the only islanders who had not given the foreigner earth and water.

[link to original Greek text] 47 All these aforesaid came to the war from countries nearer than Thesprotia and the river Acheron; for Thesprotia marches with the Ampraciots and Leucadians, who came from the lands farthest distant. Of those that dwell farther off than these, the men of Croton alone came to aid Hellas in its peril, and they with one ship, whereof the captain was Phaÿllus, a victor in the Pythian games. These Crotoniats are of Achaean blood.

[link to original Greek text] 48 Rawlinson p304 All these furnished triremes for the fleet save the Melians and Siphnians and Seriphians, who brought fifty-oared barks, the Melians (who are of Lacedaemonian stock) two, and the Siphnians and Seriphians (who are Ionians of Athenian lineage) one each. The whole number of the ships, besides the fifty-oared barks, was three hundred and seventy-eight.

[link to original Greek text] 49 When the leaders from the cities aforenamed met at Salamis, they held a council; Eurybiades laid the matter before them, bidding whosoever would to declare what waters in his judgment were fittest for a sea‑fight, among all places whereof the Greeks  p47 were masters; of Attica they had no more hope; it was among other places that he bade them judge. Then the opinion of most of the speakers tended to the same conclusion, that they should sail to the Isthmus and do battle by sea for the safety of the Peloponnese, the reason which they alleged being this, that if they were defeated in the fight at Salamis they would be beleaguered in an island, where no help could come to them; but off the Isthmus they could win to their own coasts.

[link to original Greek text] 50 H & W While the Peloponnesian captains held this argument, there came a man of Athens, bringing news that the foreigner was arrived in Attica, and was wasting it all with fire. For the army which followed Xerxes through Boeotia had burnt the town of the Thespians (who had themselves left it and gone to the Peloponnese) and Plataea likewise, and was arrived at Athens, laying waste all the country round. They burnt Thespia and Plataea because they learnt from the Thebans that those towns had not taken the Persian part.

[link to original Greek text] 51 Rawlinson p306 Now after the crossing of the Hellespont whence they began their march, the foreigners had spent one month in their passage into Europe, and in three more months they arrived in Attica, Calliades being then archon at Athens. There they took the city, then left desolate; but they found in the temple some few Athenians, temple-stewards and needy men, who defended themselves against the assault by fencing the acropolis with doors and logs; these had not withdrawn to Salamis, partly by reason of poverty, and also because they supposed themselves to have found out the meaning of the Delphic oracle that the wooden wall should be  p49 impregnable, and believed that this, and not the ships, was the refuge signified by the prophecy.2

[link to original Greek text] 52 The Persians sat down on the hill over against the acropolis, which is called by the Athenians the Hill of Ares, and besieged them by shooting arrows wrapped in lighted tow at the barricade. There the Athenians defended themselves against their besiegers, albeit they were in extremity and their barricade had failed them; nor would they listen to the terms of surrender proposed to them by the Pisistratids, but defended themselves by counter-devices, chiefly by rolling great stones down on the foreigners when they assaulted the gates; insomuch that for a long while Xerxes could not take the place, and knew not what to do.

[image ALT: zzz as further captioned in the text of this webpage.]

The hill of Ares — the Areopagus — in Athens.

Photo © Livius.Org | Jona Lendering, by kind permission.

[link to original Greek text] 53 But at the last in their quandary the foreigners found an entrance; for the oracle must needs be fulfilled, and all the mainland of Attica be made subject to the Persians. In front of the acropolis, and behind the gates and the ascent thereto, there was a place where none was on guard and none would have thought that any man would ascend that way; here certain men mounted near the shrine of Cecrops' daughter Aglaurus, though the way led up a sheer cliff.​3 When the Athenians saw that they had ascended to the acropolis, some of them cast themselves down from the wall and so perished, and others fled into the inner chamber. Those Persians who had come up first betook themselves  p51 to the gates, which they opened, and slew the suppliants; and when they had laid all the Athenians low, they plundered the temple and burnt the whole of the acropolis.

[link to original Greek text] 54 Rawlinson p308 Being now wholly master of Athens, Xerxes sent a horseman to Susa to announce his present success to Artabanus. On the next day after the messenger was sent he called together the Athenian exiles who followed in his train, and bade them go up to the acropolis and offer sacrifice after their manner, whether it was some vision seen of him in sleep that led him to give this charge, or that he repented of his burning of the temple. The Athenian exiles did as they were bidden.

[link to original Greek text] 55 H & W I will now show wherefore I make mention of this: on the acropolis there is a shrine of Erechtheus the Earthborn (as he is called), wherein is an olive tree, and a salt-pool, which (as the Athenians say) were set there by Poseidon and Athene as tokens of their contention for the land.​4 Now it was so, that the olive tree was burnt with the temple by the foreigners; but on the day after its burning, when the Athenians bidden by the king to sacrifice went up to the temple, they saw a shoot of about a cubit's length sprung from the trunk; which thing they reported.

[image ALT: zzz as further captioned in the text of this webpage.]

The shrine of Erechtheus on the acropolis of Athens, with a carefully nurtured olive tree.

Photo © Livius.Org | Jona Lendering, by kind permission.

[link to original Greek text] 56 When it was told to the Greeks at Salamis what had befallen the Athenian acropolis, they were so panic-struck that some of their captains would not wait till the matter whereon they debated should be resolved, but threw themselves aboard their ships and hoisted their sails for flight. Those that were  p53 left behind resolved that the fleet should fight to guard the Isthmus; and at nightfall they broke up from the assembly and embarked.

[link to original Greek text] 57 Themistocles then being returned to his ship, Mnesiphilus, an Athenian, asked him what was the issue of their counsels. Learning from him that their plan was to sail to the Isthmus and fight in defence of the Peloponnese, "Then," said Mnesiphilus, "if they put out to sea from Salamis, your ships will have no country left wherefor to fight; for everyone will betake himself to his own city, and neither Eurybiades, nor any other man, will be able to hold them, but the armament will be scattered abroad; and Hellas will perish by unwisdom. Nay, if there be any means thereto, go now and strive to undo this plan, if haply you may be able to persuade Eurybiades to change his purpose and so abide here."

[link to original Greek text] 58 Rawlinson p310 This advice pleased Themistocles well; making no answer to Mnesiphilus, he went to Eurybiades' ship, and said that he would confer with him on a matter of their common interest. Eurybiades bidding him come aboard and say what he would, Themistocles sat by him and told him all that he had heard from Mnesiphilus, as it were of his own devising, and added much thereto, till he prevailed with the Spartan by entreaty to come out of his ship and assemble the admirals in their place of meeting.

[link to original Greek text] 59 They being assembled (so it is said), before Eurybiades had laid before them the matter wherefor the generals were brought together, Themistocles spoke long and vehemently in the earnestness of his entreaty; and while he yet spoke, Adimantus son  p55 of Ocytus, the Corinthian admiral, said, "At the games, Themistocles, they that come forward before their time are beaten with rods." "Ay," said Themistocles, justifying himself, "but they that wait too long win no crown."

[link to original Greek text] 60 Thus for the nonce he made the Corinthian a soft answer; then turning to Eurybiades, he said now nought of what he had said before, how that if they set sail from Salamis they would scatter and flee; for it would have ill become him to bring railing accusations against the allies in their presence; he trusted to another plea instead. "It lies in your hand," said he, "to save Hellas, if you will be guided by me and fight here at sea, and not be won by the words of these others to remove your ships over to the Isthmus. Hear me now, and judge between two plans. If you engage off the Isthmus you will fight in open waters, where it is least for our advantage, our ships being the heavier and the fewer in number; and moreover you will lose Salamis and Megara and Aegina, even if victory attend us otherwise; and their land army will follow with their fleet, and so you will lead them to the Peloponnese, and imperil all Hellas. But if you do as I counsel you, you will thereby profit as I shall show; firstly, by engaging their many ships with our few in narrow seas, we shall win a great victory, if the war have its rightful issue; for it is for our advantage to fight in a strait as it is theirs to have wide sea‑room. Secondly, we save Salamis, whither we have conveyed away our children and our women. Moreover, there is this, too, in my plan, and it is your chiefest desire: you will be defending the  p57 Peloponnese as well by abiding here as you would by fighting off the Isthmus, and you will not lead our enemies (if you be wise) to the Isthmus. And if that happen which I expect, you will never have the foreigners upon you at the Isthmus; they will advance no further than Attica, but depart in disorderly fashion; and we shall gain by the saving of Megara and Aegina and Salamis, where it is told us by an oracle that we shall have the upper hand of our enemies. Success comes oftenest to men when they make reasonable designs; but if they do not so, neither will heaven for its part side with human devices."

[link to original Greek text] 61 Rawlinson p312 H & W Thus said Themistocles; but Adimantus the Corinthian attacked him again, saying that a landless man should hold his peace, and that Eurybiades must not suffer one that had no city to vote; let Themistocles (said he) have a city at his back ere he took part in council, — taunting him thus because Athens was taken and held by the enemy. Thereupon Themistocles spoke long and bitterly against Adimantus and the Corinthians, giving them plainly to understand that the Athenians had a city and country greater than theirs, as long as they had two hundred ships fully manned; for there were no Greeks that could beat them off.

[link to original Greek text] 62 Thus declaring, he passed over to Eurybiades, and spoke more vehemently than before. "If you abide here, by so abiding you will be a right good man; but if you will not, you will overthrow Hellas; for all our strength for war is in our ships. Nay, be guided by me. But if you do not so, we then  p59 without more ado will take our households and voyage to Siris in Italy, which has been ours from old time, and the oracles tell that we must there plant a colony; and you, left without allies such as we are, will have cause to remember what I have said."

[link to original Greek text] 63 These words of Themistocles moved Eurybiades to change his purpose; which to my thinking he did chiefly because he feared lest the Athenians should leave him if he took his ships to the Isthmus; for if the Athenians should leave the fleet the rest would be no match for the enemy. He chose then the plan aforesaid, namely, to abide and fight on the seas where they were.

[link to original Greek text] 64 Thus after this wordy skirmish the Greeks at Salamis prepared, since Eurybiades so willed, to fight their battle where they were. At sunrise on the next day there was an earthquake on land and sea; and they resolved to pray to the gods, and to call the sons of Aeacus to be their helpers. As they resolved, so they did; they prayed to all the gods, and called Aias and Telamon to come to them from Salamis, where the Greeks were; and they sent a ship to Aegina for Aeacus and the rest that were of his House.5

[link to original Greek text] 65 Rawlinson p314 There was one Dicaeus, son of Theocydes, an exile from Athens who had attained to estimation among the Medes. This was the tale that he told: At the time when the land of Attica was being laid waste by Xerxes' army, and no Athenians were therein, he, being with Demaratus the Lacedaemonian on the Thriasian​6 plain, saw dust coming  p61 from Eleusis as it were raised by the feet of about thirty thousand men; and as they marvelled greatly what men they should be whence the dust came, immediately they heard a cry, which cry seemed to him to be the Iacchus-song of the mysteries. Demaratus, not being conversant with the rites of Eleusis, asked him what this voice might be; and Dicaeus said, "Without doubt, Demaratus, some great harm will befall the king's host; for Attica being unpeopled, it is plain hereby that the voice we hear is of heaven's sending, and comes from Eleusis to the aid of the Athenians and their allies. And if the vision descend upon the Peloponnese, the king himself and his army on land will be endangered; but if it turn towards the ships at Salamis, the king will be in peril of losing his fleet. As for this feast, it is kept by the Athenians every year for the honour of the Mother and the Maid,​7 and whatever Greek will, be he Athenian or other, is then initiated; and the cry which you hear is the 'Iacchus' which is uttered at this feast." Demaratus replied thereto, "Keep silence, and speak to none other thus; for if these words of yours be reported to the king, you will lose your head, and neither I nor any other man will avail to save you. Hold your peace; and for this host, the gods shall look to it." Such was Demaratus' counsel; and after the dust and the cry came a cloud, which rose aloft and floated away towards Salamis, to the Greek fleet. By this they understood, that Xerxes' ships must perish. — This was  p63 the tale told by Dicaeus, son of Theocydes; and Demaratus and others (he said) could prove it true.

[link to original Greek text] 66 H & W They that were appointed to serve in Xerxes' fleet, when they had viewed the hurt done to the Laconians and crossed over from Trachis to Histiaea, after three days' waiting sailed through the Euripus, and in three more days they arrived at Phalerum. To my thinking, the forces both of land and sea were no fewer in number when they brake into Athens than when they came to Sepias and Thermopylae; for against those that were lost in the storm, and at Thermopylae, and in the sea‑fights off Artemisium, I set these, who at that time were not yet in the king's following — namely, the Melians, the Dorians, the Locrians, and the whole force of Boeotia (save only the Thespians and Plataeans), yea, and the men of Carystus and Andros and Tenos and the rest of the islands, save the five states of which I have before made mention.​8 For the farther the Persian pressed on into Hellas the more were the peoples that followed in his train.

[link to original Greek text] 67 Rawlinson p317 So when all these were come to Athens, except the Parians (who had been left behind in Cythnus watching to see which way the war should incline) — the rest, I say, being come to Phalerum, Xerxes then came himself down to the fleet, that he might consort with the shipmen and hear their opinions. When he was come, and sat enthroned, there appeared before him at his summons the despots of their cities and the leaders of companies from the ships, and they sat according to the  p65 honourable rank which the king had granted them severally, first in place the king of Sidon, and next he of Tyre, and then the rest. When they had sat down in order one after another, Xerxes sent Mardonius and put each to the test by questioning him if the Persian ships should offer battle.

[link to original Greek text] 68 Mardonius went about questioning them, from the Sidonian onwards; and all the rest gave their united voice for offering battle at sea; but Artemisia said: "Tell the king, I pray you, Mardonius, that I who say this have not been the hindmost in courage or in feats of arms in the fights near Euboea. Nay, master, but it is right that I should declare my opinion, even that which I deem best for your cause. And this I say to you — Spare your ships, and offer no battle at sea; for their men are as much stronger by sea than yours, as men are stronger than women. And why must you at all costs imperil yourself by fighting battles on the sea? have you not possession of Athens, for the sake of which you set out on this march, and of the rest of Hellas? no man stands in your path; they that resisted you have come off in such plight as beseemed them. I will show you now what I think will be the course of your enemies' doings. If you make no haste to fight at sea, but keep your ships here and abide near the land, or even go forward into the Peloponnese, then, my master, you will easily gain that end wherefor you have come. For the Greeks are not able to hold out against you for a long time, but you will scatter them, and they will flee each to his city; they have no food in this island, as I am informed, nor, if you  p67 lead your army into the Peloponnese, is it likely that those of them who have come from thence will abide unmoved; they will have no mind to fight sea‑battles for Athens. But if you make haste to fight at once on sea, I fear lest your fleet take some hurt and thereby harm your army likewise. Moreover, O king, call this to mind — good men's slaves are wont to be evil and bad men's slaves good; and you, who are the best of all men, have evil slaves, that pass for your allies, men of Egypt and Cyprus and Cilicia and Pamphylia, in whom is no usefulness."

[link to original Greek text] 69 Rawlinson p318 When Artemisia spoke thus to Mardonius, all that were her friends were sorry for her words, thinking that the king would do her some hurt for counselling him against a sea‑fight; but they that had ill‑will and jealousy against her for the honour in which she was held above all the allies were glad at her answer, thinking it would be her undoing. But when the opinions were reported to Xerxes he was greatly pleased by the opinion of Artemisia; he had ever deemed her a woman of worth and now held her in much higher esteem. Nevertheless he bade the counsel of the more part to be followed; for he thought that off Euboea his men had been slack fighters by reason of his absence, and now he purposed to watch the battle himself.

[link to original Greek text] 70 When the command to set sail was given, they put out to Salamis and arrayed their line in order at their ease. That day there was not time enough left to offer battle, for the night came; and they made preparation for the next day instead. But the  p69 Greeks were in fear and dread, and especially they that were from the Peloponnese; and the cause of their fear was, that they themselves were about to fight for the Athenians' country where they lay at Salamis, and if they were overcome they must be shut up and beleaguered in an island, leaving their own land unguarded. At the next nightfall, the land army of the foreigners began its march to the Peloponnese.

[link to original Greek text] 71 Nathless the Greeks had used every device possible to prevent the foreigners from breaking in upon them by land. For as soon as the Peloponnesians heard that Leonidas' men at Thermopylae were dead, they hasted together from their cities and encamped on the Isthmus, their general being the brother of Leonidas, Cleombrotus son of Anaxandrides. Being there encamped they broke up the Scironian road,​9 and thereafter built a wall across the Isthmus, having resolved in council so to do. As there were many tens of thousands there and all men wrought, the work was brought to accomplishment; for they carried stones to it and bricks and logs and crates full of sand, and they that mustered there never rested from their work by night or by day.

[image ALT: zzz, as further captioned in the text of this webpage.]

Skiron's Road, narrow and hemmed in by cliffs and the sea. The Greeks blocked it to prevent the Persian advance.

Photo © Livius.Org | Jona Lendering, by kind permission.

[link to original Greek text] 72 Rawlinson p320 H & W Those Greeks that mustered all their people at the Isthmus were the Lacedaemonians and all the Arcadians, the Eleans, Corinthians, Sicyonians, Epidaurians, Phliasians, Troezenians, and men of Hermione. These were they who mustered there, and were moved by great fear for Hellas in her peril; but the rest of the Peloponnesians cared  p71 nothing; and the Olympian and Carnean festivals were now past.10

[link to original Greek text] 73 Seven nations inhabit the Peloponnese; two of these, the Arcadians and Cynurians, are native to the soil and are now settled where they have ever been; and one nation, the Achaean, has never departed from the Peloponnese, but has left its own country and dwells in another. The four that remain of the seven have come from elsewhere, namely, the Dorians and Aetolians and Dryopians and Lemnians; the Dorians have many notable cities, the Aetolians Elis alone; the Dryopians have Hermione and that Asine which is near Cardamyle of Laconia; and the Lemnians, all the Paroreatae. The Cynurians are held to be Ionians, and the only Ionians native to the soil, but their Argive masters and time have made Dorians of them; they are the people of Orneae and the country round. Now of these seven nations all the cities, save those aforesaid, sat apart from the war; and if I may speak freely, by so doing they took the part of the enemy.

[link to original Greek text] 74 Rawlinson p322 So the Greeks on the Isthmus had such labour to cope withal, seeing that now all they had was at stake, and they had no hope of winning renown with their ships; but they that were at Salamis, although they heard of the work, were affrighted, and their dread was less for themselves than for the Peloponnese. For a while there was but murmuring between man and man, and wonder at Eurybiades' unwisdom, but at the last came an open outbreak; and an assembly was held, where there was much speaking of the same matters as before, some saying  p73 that they must sail away to the Peloponnese and face danger for that country, rather than abide and fight for a land won from them by the spear; but the Athenians and Aeginetans and Megarians pleading that they should remain and defend themselves where they were.

[link to original Greek text] 75 Then Themistocles, when the Peloponnesians were outvoting him, when privily out of the assembly, and sent to the Median fleet a man in a boat, charged with a message that he must deliver. This man's name was Sicinnus, and he was of Themistocles' household and attendant on his children; at a later day, when the Thespians were receiving men to be their citizens, Themistocles made him a Thespian, and a wealthy man withal. He now came in a boat and spoke thus to the foreigners' admirals: "I am sent by the admiral of the Athenians without the knowledge of the other Greeks (he being a friend to the king's cause and desiring that you rather than the Greeks should have the mastery) to tell you that the Greeks have lost heart and are planning flight, and that now is the hour for you to achieve an incomparable feat of arms, if you suffer them not to escape. For there is no union in their counsels, nor will they withstand you any more, and you will see them battling against each other, your friends against your foes."

[link to original Greek text] 76 Rawlinson p324 H & W With that declaration he departed away. The Persians put faith in the message; and first they landed many of their men on the islet Psyttalea, which lies between Salamis and the mainland; then, at midnight, they advanced their western wing  p75 towards Salamis for encirclement, and they too put out to sea that were stationed off Ceos and Cynosura; and they held all the passage with their ships as far as Munychia.​11 The purpose of their putting out to sea was, that the Greeks might have no liberty even to flee, but should be hemmed in at Salamis and punished for their fighting off Artemisium. And the purpose of their landing Persians on the islet called Psyttalea was this, that as it was here in especial that in the sea fight men and wrecks would be washed ashore (for the island lay in the very path of the battle that was to be), they might thus save their friends and slay their foes. All this they did in silence, lest their enemies should know of it. So they made these preparations in the night, taking no rest.

[link to original Greek text] 77 But, for oracles, I have no way of gainsaying their truth; for they speak clearly, and I would not essay to overthrow them, when I look into such matter as this:

"When that with lines of ships thy sacred coasts they have fencèd,

Artemis​12 golden-sworded, and thine, sea‑washed Cynosura,

All in the madness of hope, having ravished the glory of Athens,

Then shall desire full fed, by pride o'erweening engendered,

Raging in dreadful wrath and athirst for the nations' destruction,

Utterly perish and fall; for the justice of heaven shall quench it;

 p77  Bronze upon bronze shall clash, and the terrible bidding of Ares

Redden the seas with blood. But Zeus far‑seeing, and hallowed

Victory then shall grant that Freedom dawn upon Hellas."

Looking at such matter and seeing how clear is the utterance of Bacis, I neither venture myself to gainsay him as touching oracles nor suffer such gainsaying by others.

[link to original Greek text] 78 Rawlinson p326 But among the admirals at Salamis there was a hot bout of argument; and they knew not as yet that the foreigners had drawn their ships round them, but supposed the enemy to be still where they had seen him stationed in the daylight.

[link to original Greek text] 79 But as they contended, there crossed over from Aegina Aristides son of Lysimachus, an Athenian, but one that had been ostracised by the commonalty; from that which I have learnt of his way of life I am myself well persuaded that he was the best and justest man at Athens. He then came and stood in the place of council and called Themistocles out of it, albeit Themistocles was no friend of his but his chiefest enemy; but in the stress of the present danger he put that old feud from his mind, and so called Themistocles out, that he might converse with him. Now he had heard already, that the Peloponnesians desired to sail to the Isthmus. So when Themistocles came out, Aristides said, "Let the rivalry between us be now as it has been before, to see which of us two shall do his country more good. I tell you now, that it is all one for the Peloponnesians to talk much or little about sailing  p79 away from hence; for I say from that which my eyes have seen that now even if the Corinthians and Eurybiades himself desire to sail out, they cannot; we are hemmed in on all sides by our enemies. Do you go in now, and tell them this."

[link to original Greek text] 80 "Your exhortation is right useful," Themistocles answered, "and your news is good; for you have come with your own eyes for witnesses of that which I desired might happen. Know that what the Medes do is of my contriving; for when the Greeks would not of their own accord prepare for battle, it was needful to force them to it willy-nilly. But now since you have come with this good news, give your message to them yourself. If I tell it, they will think it is of my own devising, and they will never take my word for it that the foreigners are doing as you say; nay, go before them yourself and tell them how it stands. When you have told them, if they believe you, that is best; but if they will not believe you, it will be the same thing to us; for if we are hemmed in on every side, as you say, they will no longer be able to take to flight."

[link to original Greek text] 81 Rawlinson p328 H & W Aristides then came forward and told them; he was come, he said, from Aegina, and had been hard put to it to slip unseen through the blockade; for all the Greek fleet was compassed round by Xerxes' ships, and they had best (he said) prepare to defend themselves. Thus he spoke, and took his departure. They fell a‑wrangling again; for the more part of the admirals would not believe that the news was true.

[link to original Greek text] 82 But while they yet disbelieved, there came a trireme with Tenian deserters, whose captain was one Panaetius son of Sosimenes, and this brought  p81 them the whole truth. For that deed the men of Tenos were engraved on the tripod at Delphi among those that had vanquished the foreigner. With this ship that deserted to Salamis and the Lemnian which had already deserted to Artemisium, the Greek fleet, which had fallen short by two of three hundred and eighty, now attained to that full number.

[link to original Greek text] 83 The Greeks, believing at last the tale of the Tenians, made ready for battle. It was now earliest dawn, and they called the fighting men to an assembly, wherein Themistocles made an harangue in which he excelled all others; the tenor of his words was to array all the good in man's nature and estate against the evil; and having exhorted them to choose the better, he made an end of speaking and bade them embark. Even as they so did, came the trireme from Aegina which had been sent away for the Sons of Aeacus.13

[link to original Greek text] 84 With that the Greeks stood out to sea in full force, and as they stood out the foreigners straightway fell upon them. The rest of the Greeks began to back water and beach their ships; but Aminias of Pallene, an Athenian, pushed out to the front and charged a ship; which being entangled with his, and the two not able to be parted, the others did now come to Aminias' aid and joined battle. This is the Athenian story of the beginning of the fight; but the Aeginetans say that the ship which began it was that one which had been sent away to Aegina for the Sons of Aeacus. This story also is told, — that they saw the vision of a woman, who  p83 cried commands loud enough for all the Greek fleet to hear, uttering first this reproach, "Sirs, what madness is this? how long will you still be backing water?"

[image ALT: zzz as further captioned in the text of this webpage.]

The narrows of Salamis.

Photo © Livius.Org | Jona Lendering, by kind permission.

[link to original Greek text] 85 Rawlinson p330 The Phoenicians (for they had the western wing, towards Eleusis) were arrayed opposite to the Athenians, and to the Lacedaemonians the Ionians, on the eastern wing, nearest to Piraeus. Yet but few of them fought slackly, as Themistocles had bidden them, and the more part did not so. Many names I could record of ships' captains that took Greek ships; but I will speak of none save Theomestor son of Androdamas and Phylacus son of Histiaeus, Samians both; and I make mention of these alone, because Theomestor was for this feat of arms made by the Persians despot of Samos, and Phylacus was recorded among the king's benefactors and given much land. These benefactors of the king are called in the Persian language, orosangae.14

[link to original Greek text] 86 H & W Thus it was with these two; but the great multitude of the ships were shattered at Salamis, some destroyed by the Athenians and some by the Aeginetans. For since the Greeks fought orderly and in array, but the foreigners were by now disordered and did nought of set purpose, it was but reason that they should come to such an end as befel them. Yet on that day they were and approved themselves by far better men than off Euboea; all were zealous, and feared Xerxes, each man thinking that the king's eye was on him.

 p85  [link to original Greek text] 87 Rawlinson p332 Now as touching some of the others I cannot with exactness say how they fought severally, foreigners or Greeks; but what befel Artemisia made her to be esteemed by the king even more than before. The king's side being now in dire confusion, Artemisia's ship was at this time being pursued by a ship of Attica; and she could not escape, for other friendly ships were in her way, and it chanced that she was the nearest to the enemy; wherefore she resolved that she would do that which afterwards tended to her advantage, and as she fled pursued by the Athenian she charged a friendly ship that bore men of Calyndus and the king himself of that place, Damasithymus. It may be that she had had some quarrel with him while they were still at the Hellespont, but if her deed was done of set purpose, or if the Calyndian met her by crossing her path at haphazard, I cannot say. But having charged and sunk the ship, she had the good luck to work for herself a double advantage. For when the Attic captain saw her charge a ship of foreigners, he supposed that Artemisia's ship was Greek or a deserter from the foreigners fighting for the Greeks, and he turned aside to deal with others.

[link to original Greek text] 88 By this happy chance it came about that she escaped and avoided destruction; and moreover the upshot was that the very harm which she had done won her great favour in Xerxes' eyes. For the king (it is said) saw her charge the ship as he viewed the battle, and one of the bystanders said, "Sire, see you Artemisia, how well she fights, and  p87 how she has sunk an enemy ship?" Xerxes then asking if it were truly Artemisia that had done the deed, they affirmed it, knowing well the ensign of his ship; and they supposed that the ship she had sunk was an enemy; for the luckiest chance of all which had (as I have said) befallen her was, that not one from the Calyndian ship was saved alive to be her accuser. Hearing what they told him, Xerxes is reported to have said "My men have become women, and my women men"; such, they say, were his words.

[link to original Greek text] 89 In that hard fighting Xerxes' brother the admiral Ariabignes, son of Darius, was slain, and withal many other Persians and Medes and allies of renown, and some Greeks, but few; for since they could swim, they who lost their ships, yet were not slain in hand-to‑hand fight, swam across to Salamis; but the greater part of the foreigners were drowned in the sea, not being able to swim. When the foremost ships were turned to flight, it was then that the most of them were destroyed; for the men of the rearmost ranks, pressing forward in their ships that they too might display their valour to the king, ran foul of their friends' ships that were in flight.

[link to original Greek text] 90 Rawlinson p334 It happened also amid this disorder that certain Phoenicians whose ships had been destroyed came to the king and accused the Ionians of treason, saying that it was by their doing that the ships had been lost; the end of which matter was, that the Ionian captains were not put to death, and those Phoenicians who accused them were rewarded as I will show. While they yet spoke as aforesaid, a Samothracian ship charged an Attic; and while  p89 the Attic ship was sinking, a ship of Aegina bore down and sank the Samothracian; but the Samothracians, being javelin throwers, swept the fighting men with a shower of javelins off from the ship that had sunk theirs, and boarded and seized her themselves. Thereby the Ionians were saved; for when Xerxes saw this great feat of their arms, he turned on the Phoenicians (being moved to blame all in the bitterness of his heart) and commanded that their heads be cut off, that so they might not accuse better men, being themselves cowards. For whenever Xerxes, from his seat under the hill over against Salamis called Aegaleos, saw any feat achieved by his own men in the battle, he inquired who was the doer of it, and his scribes wrote down the names of the ship's captain and his father and his city. Moreover it tended somewhat to the doom of the Phoenicians that Ariaramnes, a Persian, was there, who was a friend of the Ionians. So Xerxes' men dealt with the Phoenicians.

[link to original Greek text] 91 Rawlinson p337 H & W The foreigners being routed and striving to win out to Phalerum, the Aeginetans lay in wait for them in the passage and then achieved notable deeds; for the Athenians amid the disorder made havoc of all ships that would resist or fly, and so did the Aeginetans with those that were sailing out of the strait; and all that escaped from the Athenians fell in their course among the Aeginetans.

[link to original Greek text] 92 Two ships met there, Themistocles' ship pursuing another, and one that bore Polycritus son of Crius of Aegina; this latter had charged a Sidonian, the same which had taken the Aeginetan  p91 ship that watched off Sciathus, wherein was Pytheas son of Ischenous, that Pytheas whom when gashed with wounds the Persians kept aboard their ship and made much of for his valour;​a this Sidonian ship was carrying Pytheas among the Persians when she was now taken, so that thereby he came safe back to Aegina. When Polycritus saw the Attic ship, he knew it by seeing the admiral's ship's ensign, and cried out to Themistocles with bitter taunt and reproach as to the friendship of Aegina with the Persians.​15 Such taunts did Polycritus hurl at Themistocles, after that he had charged an enemy ship. As for the foreigners whose ships were yet undestroyed, they fled to Phalerum and took refuge with the land army.

[link to original Greek text] 93 Rawlinson p338 In that sea‑fight the nations that won most renown were the Aeginetans, and next to them the Athenians; among men the most renowned were Polycritus of Aegina and two Athenians, Eumenes of Anagyrus and Aminias of Pallene, he who pursued after Artemisia. Had he known that she was in that ship, he had never been stayed ere he took hers or lost his own; such was the bidding given to the Athenian captain, and there was a prize withal of ten thousand drachmae for whoever should take her alive; for there was great wrath that a woman should come to attack Athens. She, then, escaped as I have already said; and the rest also whose ships were undestroyed were at Phalerum.

[link to original Greek text] 94 As for the Corinthian admiral Adimantus, the Athenians say that at the very moment when the ships joined battle he was struck with terror and  p93 panic, and hoisting his sails fled away; and when the Corinthians saw their admiral's ship fleeing they were off and away likewise. But when (so the story goes) they came in their flight near that part of Salamis where is the temple of Athene Sciras,​16 there by heaven's providence a boat met them which none was known to have sent, nor had the Corinthians, ere it drew nigh to them, known aught of the doings of the fleet; and this is how they infer heaven's hand in the matter: when the boat came nigh the ships, those that were in it cried, "Adimantus, you have turned back with your ships in flight, and betrayed the Greeks; but even now they are winning the day as fully as they ever prayed that they might vanquish their enemies." Thus they spoke, and when Adimantus would not believe they said further that they were ready to be taken for hostages and slain if the Greeks were not victorious for all to see. Thereupon Adimantus and the rest did turn their ships about and came to the fleet when all was now over and done. Thus the Athenians report of the Corinthians; but the Corinthians deny it, and hold that they were among the foremost in the battle; and all Hellas bears them witness likewise.

[link to original Greek text] 95 Rawlinson p340 But Aristides son of Lysimachus, that Athenian of whose great merit I have lately made mention, did in this rout at Salamis as I will show: taking many of the Athenian men-at‑arms who stood arrayed on the shores of Salamis, he carried them across to  p95 the island Psyttalea, and they slaughtered all the Persians who were on that islet.

[link to original Greek text] 96 The sea‑fight being broken off, the Greeks towed to Salamis all the wrecks that were still afloat in those waters, and held themselves ready for another battle, thinking that the king would yet again use his ships that were left. But many of the wrecks were caught by a west wind and carried to the strand in Attica called Colias;​17 so that not only was the rest of the prophecy fulfilled which had been uttered by Bacis and Musaeus concerning that sea‑fight, but also that which had been prophesied many years ago by an Athenian oracle-monger named Lysistratus, about the wrecks that were here cast ashore (the import of which prophecy no Greek had noted):

"Also the Colian dames shall roast their barley with oar‑blades."

But this was to happen after the king's departure.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 That is, probably, "dwellers on the heights." All pre‑Dorian inhabitants of Hellas are "Pelasgian" to Herodotus.

2 In VII.142.

3 Hdt.'s description (say How and Wells) is accurate and obvious. The ascent was probably made by a steep cleft running under or within the N. wall of the Acropolis; the western entrance of this cleft is 'in front,' facing the same way as the main entrance of the Acropolis. μέγαρον here = ἱρόν.

4 Athene created the olive, Poseidon the salt pool; Cecrops adjudged the land to Athene.

5 The images of Aeacus and his sons; cp. V.80.

6 N. W. of Athens, from which Eleusis is about 15 miles distant. Plutarch says that this vision was seen on the day of the battle of Salamis, which would thus have been fought on September 22 (20th of Boedromion); for it is assumed that the vision coincided in date with the standing date of the Eleusinian festival.

7 Demeter and Persephone.

8 In ch. 46, where, however, six states are mentioned.

9 A track (later made into a regular road) leading to the Isthmus along the face of Geraneia: narrow and even dangerous for some six miles, and very easily made impassable.

10 That is, there was no longer any excuse for their not coming. Cp. VII.205.

11 For a brief notice of controversy respecting the operations off Salamis, see the Introduction to this volume. The locality of Ceos and Cynosura is conjectural.

12 There were temples of Artemis both at Salamis and at Munychia on the Attic shore.

13 cp. 64.

14 Perhaps from old Persian var, to guard, and Kshayata, king; or, as Rawlinson suggests, from Khur sangha (Zend) = worthy of praise or record. (How and Wells' note.)

15 Polycritus cries to Themistocles, "See how friendly we are to the Persians!" Polycritus and his father had been taken as hostages by the Athenians when Aegina was charged with favouring the Persians (VI.4973).

16 The temple stood on the southern extremity of Salamis. If the Persians at the outset of the battle were occupying the ends of the whole strait between Salamis and the mainland, it is not clear how the Corinthians could get to this point.

17 A narrow headland 2½ miles south of Phalerum; just where ships would be driven from the battle by a west wind.

Thayer's Note:

a VII.181.

Lendering's Notes:

α If the Troezen stele is authentic, which is contested, there is evidence that the evacuation of Attica was planned earlier.

[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 9 Dec 18