Battle of Artemisium summary
The Battle of Artemisium, or Artemision was a series of naval engagements over three days during the third Persian invasion of Greece (when counting people usually omit the first invasion). The battle took place simultaneously with the more famous land battle at Thermopylae, in August or September 480 BC, off the coast of Euboea and was fought between an alliance of Greek city-states, including Sparta, Athens, Corinth and others, and the Persian Empire of Xerxes I.
- The Greek allied fleet was stationed at Cape Artemisium to obstruct possible Persian fleet manouvers to bypass their land defencive position at Thermopylae.
- On the first day the Persians saw the Greek fleet rowing towards them and decided to seize the opportunity to attack, even though it was late in the day.
- Outnumbered the much smaller Greek fleet turned the bows on to the enemy probably on a crescent formation, with the wings drawn back to prevent the Persian ships sailing around the Allied line.
- Having assumed their chosen formation the Greek ships moved suddenly outwards rowing into the Persian ships and catching them off guard. (Something similar had happend at Marathon land battle).
- Surprised the Persians could not use their advantage in number and better seamanship (it took some time for the Greek to become the best seamen in the Eastern Mediterranean and people usually forget that it was not always that way). The Persianslost the encounter with 30 of their ships captured or sunk.
- During the night, a thunder-storm broke preventing the Greeks from setting off southwards to counter a Persian detachment sent around their positions. However, the storm also hit the Persian ships, driving them off course and onto the rocky coast of Euboea. Due to this strom the Persian fleet lost many ships.
- On the second day, which was also the second day of Battle of Thermopylae, the Persian fleet, now recovering from two storms, declined to attack the Allies, and instead attempted to make the fleet seaworthy again. The Greeks received a reinforcement of 53 ships from Athens.
- Late afternoon, the Greeks attacked a patrol of Cilician ships, destroying them, before retreating as night fell.
- On the Third day the Persian attacked the Allied lines in full force. The Greeks attempted to block the Straits of Artemisium as best they could.
- The Persians formed a semicircle of ships, and tried to enclose the Allied fleet, upon which the Allies rowed forward and joined battle. The battle raged all day long.
- When the fleets finally disengaged at nightfall, both sides had suffered roughly equal losses. However, the smaller Greek fleet could could not afford such losses. Half the Athenian ships (the largest contingent in the fleet) were damaged or lost. Then a liaison ship from Thermopylae arrived and told the Allies of the destruction of the Allied rearguard at Thermopylae. Since holding the Straits of Artemisium now no longer held any strategic purpose, and given their losses, the Allies decided to evacuate immediately.