The Athenians Resist (pages 40 - 41)

Battle of Salamis

How do we know what happened? Herodotus' informants could only have been young rowers at the time. Aeschylus was there - but a poet writing a drama.

For the propaganda war by both sides before the battle see website: http://www.the-persians.co.uk/xerxes4.htm

Temples: Note that Xerxes is already showing less tolerance than his father; he was to burn other temples, including the Temple of Athena on the Acropolis in Athens.  This was to be an important motive (or excuse) for Philip of Macedon's plan to punish the Persians on behalf of the Greeks – the mission taken up by his son Alexander.

Tuna: Aeschylus seems to be referring to the traditional method of tuna fishing in the Mediterranean – the 'mattanza'. The tuna shoal is driven into a circular trap of nets, the fishermen close in and the killing begins. Follow up here: http://www.bestofsicily.com/mag/art125.htm

Artemisia Ionian Greek queen of Halicarnassus, Herodotus' birthplace. No space for her story on the book - but very interesting to discuss her actions. See web page for details. Is it likely to be true? What was the status of women in the Persian Empire (compare Atossa)?What does the story tell about attitudes?

Aeschylus' Persians.

The only other tragedy we know of with a contemporary setting was called "The capture of Miletus" (see Ionian revolt). Its author was fined for "reminding Athens of her troubles". Euripides had the Melian massacre in mind, but he wrote The Trojan Women, not Women of Melos.

Other information not in the book.

The Athenians waited behind the promontory called the dog's tail, the Corinthians sailed north to give the impression that the Greeks were trying to escape by the western outlet. The Egyptians were dispatched to head them off, while, fatally, the main Persian fleet entered the narrows on the east of the island, thinking they were chasing a retreating fleet. The Greek ships were bigger and heavier (influence of the Armada often induces people to think the opposite!)

 

Follow up

Imagine you are Atossa, mother of Xerxes. Invent a conversation with him after he got back to Susa. (And perhaps then find out what Aeschylus makes her say in his play).