Herodotus – The Histories, Book 8, “Urania” [1-39] – Naval Battle off Artemisium

  1. The Greeks also made naval moves. There were 127 Athenian ships, 40 Corinthian, 20 MEgarian, 20 Chalcidean, 18 Eginetan, 12 Sicyonian, 10 Spartan, 8 Epidaurian, 7 Eretrian, 5 Troezenian, 2 Styrean, 4 Cean & 7 Locrian.
  2. This fleet of 271 triremes was now at Artemisium, with the captain, Eurybiades of Sparta. The 10 Spartans would never serve under anyone but a Spartan.
  3. From the beginning, there’d been talk of allowing the Athenians of running the fleet but the allies didn’t like it & they didn’t press the issue. They knew fighting would not only break up the army, it would lead to Greece’s destruction. They used this to their own advantage in a later war.
  4. The Greeks, when arriving at Artemisium, saw how many barbarian ships there were anchored near Aphetae & the number of troops. They were disappointed in how things didn’t go badly because of the storm & the Battle of Thermopylae. They thought about withdrawing to the interior of the country. The Euboeans didn’t like that & went to Eurybiades & asked him to give them a few days to move their families. That didn’t work so they went to the Athenian commander, Themistocles. They bribed him with 30 talents of silver to convince the others to stay & fight to defend Euboea.
  5. Themistocles succeeded in keeping the fleet where it was by bribing Eurybiades with 5 of the talents he had gotten from Euboea. Themistocles chided those who wanted to leave but promised more money for staying than the Persians would for abandoning one’s friends. He bribed 2 captain with 3 talents each & he kept the rest.
  6. So, the Greeks stayed & fought. The Persians showed up at Aphetae early in the afternoon & saw a small Greek fleet at Artemisium. The Persians were eager to fight but didn’t think it’d be smart to make a bee-line because it would spook the Greeks enough to make them run.
  7. The Persians took 200 ships aside & sent them around the island of Sciathos, around Euboea by Caphareus to reach Euripus to enclose the Greeks on all sides. While this was going on, they would refrain from attacking until they knew the 200 ships were on the other side.
  8. The Persians had a diver named Scyllias. He was used to recover a lot of the treasure lost at Mt. Athos, keeping some for himself. He had been wanting to go over to the Greek side but until that time hadn’t had the chance. While the Persians were maneuvering their ships, he found a way to reach the Greeks. He dove into the sea at Aphetae & swam underwater 10 miles to Artemisium. I don’t believe this happened. He probably just took a small boat on the sly.
  9. The Greeks decided they’d stay put in their moorings & then at midnight they’d go out to sea & fight the ships making their way around the island. They say that nobody was fighting them, they decided to try their luck with the main part of the fleet using skill & tactics.
  10. When the Persian commanders saw the Greeks & their tiny fleet approach them, they thought they’d gone crazy. So they went out to meet them, thinking they could swat them away easily. Since the Greeks’ number were so small, they were able to sail better. The Ionians, who were only serving under the Medes under duress, became distressed because they knew the Greeks had the advantage. But because they were still a fight & a bounty was placed on the first captured/sunken Athenian ship they fought hard.
  11. The Greeks lined the prows of their ships all pointed toward the Persian ships & then closed in on them. They fought & captured 30 Persian ships & took famous prisoners. The night brought the battle to an end. The Greeks sailed back to Artemisium & the Persians to Aphetae. Only one Greek who fought for Xerxes deserted – Antidorus of Lemnos.
  12. By nightfall, down came the rain. All the damaged ships & dead bodies floated towards Aphetae. The day had not gone well for the Medes.
  13. But those who were sailing around Euboea had it even worse. Around the hollows of Euboea, the wind drove the ships against the rocks & this part of the fleet was completely destroyed.
  14. The Persians were quiet at dawn. However, 53 ships from Attica reinforced the Greek fleet. Their arrival & news of the Persian ships sinking off Euboea. They attacked at the same time as they day before. They fought Cilician vessels & sank them, & when the night came, they went back to Artemisium.
  15. On the 3rd day, the Persians advanced on the Greeks mostly out of fear of Xerxes’s anger for sitting still. These battles happened on the same days as the Battle of Thermopylae.
  16. Xerxes’s fleet moved towards the Greeks, who remained still at Artemisium. They spread themselves out to black the Greeks from escaping. The Greeks saw this & moved out to engage. Xerxes’s navy was so large that vessels could not move without chaos happening – often running into one another. The crews of the Medes felt so confident against a smaller force. While the Greeks suffered losses, the Persians suffered much worse.
  17. The Egyptians fought well, taking 5 Greek ships, while the Athenians did well for the Greeks, especially Clinias.
  18. The 2 sides were happy to go back to their anchorages. But the Greeks won the day & held power over the dead & the wrecked ships. Greeks who had survived the wrecks saw to shore & went into the interior of the country.
  19. Themistocles thought he could separate the Ionians & Carians from the rest of the Persian fleet. This plan was to take away Xerxes’s most valuable assets. He also told them the Euboeans to slaughter their cattle & eat it before the Persians did.
  20. The Euboeans had not paid attention to what the Oracle said about falling under the yoke of a foreigner & now looked likely to fall to the Persians.
  21. The scout who’d been posted to Trachis came to Artemisium. The Greeks had 2 scouts. Polyas was put near Artemisisum with a rowboat ready to go where he was needed to inform those who needed to know news. Abronychus was put near Leonidas read to inform others of what was going on on the mainland. He sent word of what happened between the Persians & Spartans at Thermopylae. At this hearing, Themistocles suggested the fleet move.
  22. Themistocles had inscriptions written on rocks as messages to Ionians: Ionians, you’re wrong to fight your brethren & helping to enslave them. We ask that if you can’t come over to our side, just try to stay aloof in the battles, & persuade the Carians to do the same. If you can’t do that, fight lightly against us. Remember you are Greek & you’re the reason why we’re fighting the Persians. I think either he didn’t think Xerxes would ever find them or to drive a wedge between Ionians & Persians, & stir up mistrust of them.
  23. A man from Histiaea went to Aphetae & told the Persians that the Greeks had left Artemisium. The Persians didn’t believe it & imprisoned him. They sent their fastest ships to find out what happened. It turned out he was right & the Persians moved to Artemisium & then on to Histiaea. They took the city easily & then overran villages.
  24. While they were there, a herald from Xerxes told them that 20000 Persians had died at Thermopylae. He invited all men to watch how he dealt with those who wish to fight his armies.
  25. It was hard for them to find a boat to go look at the dead. The men realized that almost all the dead were Persians & went back to Histiaea while Xerxes marched on.
  26. There were a few deserters from Arcadia to the Persia army, mostly because they had no food or money. The Persians quizzed them on what the Greeks were up to. They answered that they were competing at the Olympic Games & that the prize for winning was an olive wreath. Artabanus & co. couldn’t believe the men competed purely for honor.
  27. Just after Thermopylae, a herald was sent by Thessaly to Phocis who had not been friendly with each other since the Thessalians invaded Phocis many years before in a battle that left 4000 Thessalians dead & gave a large amount of money to the Phocians that they gave a portion to the Oracle in thanks for advance notice.
  28. The Phocians had also done damage to the Thessalian cavalry. The Phocians dug a trench & filled it with empty wine jars & made it look like normal ground. The Thessalians rode their horses over the land & broke their horses’ legs.
  29. Thessaly had 2 beefs against Phocis, & sent a herald to Phocis, saying: “We’ve always fought with one another over things between us but now we believe that you are only choosing sides in this war to oppose us in our choice of sides, only to spite us. But we are willing to let bygones be bygones. A little bit of money sent our way would help us get passed our past tiffs.”
  30. The Phocians were the only people in this area not to support the Medes. I agree that the Phocians would support the Medes if the Thessalians supported the Greek cause. The Phocians said they wouldn’t pay anything & would never betray Greece.
  31. This answered pissed the Thessalians off so badly they offered to guide the Persians into Phocian territory. Despite the anger, neither the Persians nor Thessalians plundered Locris, their neighbor.
  32. From Doris into Phocis they marched. But most of the locals ran off to Parnassus near Neon, taking most of their possessions with them. Many also went to the area of the Ozolian Locrias & put their belongings in the city of Amphissa. Phocis itself was overrun & the land was destroyed.
  33. The army marched on burning towns left & right. They plundered a temple to Apollo & captured a bunch of Phocians.
  34. They passed Parapotamii into Panopeis, where the army split in 2. The larger was led by Xerxes towards Athens by way of Boetia. The Boetian had joined the Persian caused. The Boetian towns were held by Macedonian garrisons sent by Alexander to cozy up to Xerxes.
  35. The other part of the army went to the temple of Delphi, laying waste to large parts of Phocis. They went there to sack the temple & plunder its riches to bring to Xerxes.
  36. When the Delphians heard what was coming their way, they asked the Oracle what they should do with all the treasure. The Oracle said the god could defend himself. So the Delphians sent their families to Achaea across the gulf. The city was empty except 60 men & the priestess.
  37. When the Persians arrived, the prophet, Aceratus, picked up Apollo’s sacred armor – no one’s allowed to touch it. He went to tell the Delphians who’d stayed behind his news about the Persians coming. Many strange things happened. The armor had left the temple on its own. When Persians reached the chapel of Minerva, a thunderstorm broke out & 2 crags from Mt. Parnassus fell, crushing many soldiers. A war cry also came from the temple.
  38. These scared the shit out of the barbarians. They were so stunned, that the Delphians came out of hiding from Mt. Parnassus & killed all the Persians there. Apparently, 2 superhumans chased those left away & killed them.
  39. These 2 men are said to be the heroes, Phylaeus & Autonous, each of whom as a sacred precinct near the temple. The 2 stones that fell now sit to where they fell, in the area of Pronaia.

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