300 - Thermopylae and Rise of an Empire - THEMISTOCLES against XERXES

THEMISTOCLES against XERXES (Illustration) Ancient Places and/or Civilizations Archeological Wonders Famous Historical Events Famous People Film Geography Social Studies Medicine Ethics World History

When Themistocles urged the Athenians to spend their new-found wealth (from silver) on ships, the people took his advice.  They built light, fast vessels known as triremes.  This image depicts how those ships likely appeared.  Illustration online, courtesy EDSITEment!


When the Athenians learned what happened at Thermopylae, they knew the road to Athens would be open to Persian invaders. Nearly everyone fled the city before Xerxes arrived.

Some years before, silver had been discovered near Athens. How would this new-found wealth be spent? Themistocles, the Athenian leader, insisted that his city-state must build-up its navy

On the day Xerxes sacked their city, Athenians must have been greatly relieved at that decision. Most fled to the sea where, sitting in Athenian triremes, evacuees watched smoke rise from the acropolis.

Trusting their oracle, and their leader, Athenians gave up their city. Xerxes ordered Athens destroyed and burnt. 

However ... in their lighter and faster ships (this is a virtual battle scene) Athenians, fighting with others at the Straits of Salamis, had a chance to defeat the Persian navy.

Wishing to draw the Persians into a sea battle, Themistocles (it is said by Aeschylus and others) sent an ersatz messenger to tell Xerxes a tall tale. If he wanted to enjoy an easy victory, Xerxes should attack immediately since the Athenians were planning to leave Salamis by dawn.

The Greeks, in other words, were reportedly running away.

Taking the bait, Xerxes and his fleet of slower ships sailed into the bay during the dark of night. By dawn the next morning, the Athenians had not left. Instead, they attacked.

The Persian ships were trapped, thereby losing the naval battle in September of 480 BC. Thermopylae may have been a Spartan defeat, but it directly led to victory at Salamis.

Soon thereafter, the Great King left Greece.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Oct 07, 2013

Updated Last Revision: Aug 27, 2019

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"THEMISTOCLES against XERXES" AwesomeStories.com. Oct 07, 2013. Jan 19, 2020.
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