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Salamis 480 BC: The Naval Campaign That Saved Greece [Paperback]

William Shepherd , Peter Dennis
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

10 Jun 2010 Campaign (Book 222)
In 480 BC, the Greek and Persian fleets met in a battle in the strait between Attica and the island of Salamis. Although outnumbered, the Greeks delivered a crushing victory that ended the Persian threat to Greece. This book draws on the findings of archaeological, technological and naval research, as well as on original historical sources to vividly recreate one of the most important naval campaigns in world history.

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Salamis 480 BC: The Naval Campaign That Saved Greece + Plataea 479 BC (Campaign) + Thermopylae 480 BC: Last Stand of the 300 (Campaign): Leonidas' Last Stand
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Product details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Osprey Publishing (10 Jun 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846036844
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846036842
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 18.5 x 24.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 375,943 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

This book is finished to the company's usual high standard, with a series of striking photographs of a reconstructed trireme in support of a very 'three dimensional' text. Excellent. --Miniature Wargames

About the Author

William Shepherd studied classics at Clare College, Cambridge, in the 1960s and then embarked on a career in publishing, which finally brought him to Osprey, retiring from the position of chief executive in 2007. He is author of "The Persian War" (Cambridge, 1982), translated from Herodotus. He has also written reading books for children and articles in the Osprey Military Journal, of which he was joint editor, and makes regular contributions to the Osprey blog. He lives in the Cherwell Valley, north of Oxford.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fine overview. 2 April 2014
By Trajan
Format:Paperback
Salamis chronicles the pivotal naval battle between the city states of Greece and the Persian Empire. Techniques of naval construction and tactics are illustrated as are views of what the battle may have looked like to those who participated. In short doses like this the virtually unpronounceable names and unfamiliar geography of the ancients are easier to understand and digest. Perhaps the reader will be tempted to find a copy of Herodotus to view ancient history as he saw it. These Osprey works, used as references while reading the ancients, can make them more pleasurable and understandable. One may even see that conflict between East and West is far older than 9/11.
This work is highly recommended for those interested in ancient history or the classics.
The perfect companion to this fine work is THE ROMA VICTRIX wine beakerCalix Imperium, Roma Victrix Pewter wine beaker
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lots of pictures 25 Jan 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The battle of Salamis is a fascinating subject for many reasons and Salamis 480 BC is an informative entry level book on the subject. However, it contained a little too many pictures and to little content for my liking.

Great as an entry level read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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I was expecting quite a lot from this title and overall was not dissapointed.

The writing style, plates and sketches are all of a very high quality.

My only concern was that at least two third of the book is actually not dealing directly with the battle itself. The author probably makes a point by wanting to setup the context which is important to understand battles such as Salamis but he does probably too much.
There is a right balance between contextual information and information on the battle or campaign itself but I am not sure if the author get it right in this title.
On the other hand, the long paragraphs dealing with sea warfare are very well written and indispensable to understand the battle of Salamis.

The problem with giving to much contextual information, is that information get repeated in all the Ospreys treating the same overall subject: e.g. Platea, Thermopylae, etc.

As a main "minus", I would say that the author should have focused more on the battle itself.

There is already a very good review posted about this title and I tend to agree on the non-plausibility of the fighting force on each ships that is depicted in the book.
Indeed, the ships are very narrow as suggested by one of the pictures (although this shows the Olympia, a later version of a trireme and thus maybe not contemporary of the Greco-persian war), however, 10+4 men on the greek side on each ship seems very light to fight back the 40 persians fighting crew.

Being no military expert or historian, I was always told at school that the Persians had actually quinquereme (x5 ore) and not trireme and had large defensive structures (towers?) on the deck. I was explained that this was the main reason why the Persians lost.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good summary, but a few surprising glitches 23 Oct 2012
By JPS TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a good, and, at times, an excellent introduction that delivers much more than just the battle of Salamis "the naval campaign that saved Greece". It is, in fact, more of a summary of the "Greco-Persian Wars" up to and including Salamis, to paraphrase the title of Peter Green's book, which started out as "the Year of Salamis" when it was first published in 1971. Surprisingly, this major book on the subject is not even referenced in the bibliography, although Tom Holland's bestseller ("Persian Fire"), which happens to be largely a rework of Peter Green's book, is listed, alongside Barry Strauss' must more serious book on Salamis.

The first part, called "Origins of the Campaign", describes in fact the origins of the war, going back to the conquest of Lydia and the Ionian Greeks by Cyrus in 546 BC. This turns out to be one of the book's strengths because it allows the author to provide a lot of context. It also allows him to paint a much more realistic portrait of the Persians and their Empire and present what has, since the early 1990s, become the modern view. Contrary to all of the propaganda developed by the Greeks and relayed by at least some historians in the past, the Persian Empire was the superpower of the time. It was certainly not decadent, neither were the Persians and their subjects effeminate and soft. Moreover, as the book also explains very well despite its limited size, the Ionian Greeks, supposedly groaning under the Persian oppression and presented as "slaves" by Herodotus, seem to have been rather prosperous before their revolt.
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Connecting the missing dots on Herodotus 13 Oct 2010
By R. A Forczyk - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Salamis 480 BC is another Osprey take on an ancient classic, in this case Herodotus. The epic clash at Thermopylae has already been covered in Campaign 188, so this volume adds in the equally important naval dimension of the Greco-Persian War. If you've already read Herodotus, the main value is the maps and artwork, along with some of the author's insight on how the battle played out. Herodotus did not provide modern, detailed descriptions of events but employed a literary style that leaves many military issues vague. The author seeks to connect these missing dots with the best available logic. If you haven't read Herodotus, this volume is either a useful introduction (now go and read Herodotus) or your one-stop-shopping event for knowledge about this campaign. Most of the volume really focuses on the nature of the Greek trireme and is actually similar to a New Vanguard series approach. The author has numerous photos of the modern Greek reconstructed trireme, the Olympias, which is more interesting than the photos of bottle stoppers and pottery fragments that grace the pages of many Ancient era titles. Overall, this an erudite, well-thought out narrative on the campaign, although the style is plodding at times and the actual battle of Salamis is covered in just six pages of text. I found that when I put this volume down that it became harder to pick up each time - it's a very attractive volume, just not that engaging. The author is writing on a scholarly level but that is the audience that has likely already read Herodotus, while general audiences are likely to fret that they have to wade through half a volume discussing the intricacies of Greek boat construction before any action occurs.

The volume begins with an introduction that explains how the revolt of the Ionian Greeks against the Persians, led to war between the major Greek states (led by Athens, Sparta and Corinth) against the expanding Persian Empire. A short section then discusses opposing commanders, which mainly serves as an introduction for the Greek Themistocles. The 15-page opposing forces section discusses the Greek and Persian fleets, including tactics, in some detail. One thing that would have been useful here is a color plate depicting the various ramming maneuvers. Opposing plans are covered in a brief 4-page section. An intermediary section, `the Campaign to Salamis,' discussing the Persian invasion, the indecisive naval battle at Artesium (and how it related to the simultaneous Battle of Thermopylae) and the Persian capture of Athens.

The actual battle of Salamis is covered in the final one-third of the volume. On the one hand, there is not exactly a lot new here on the battle but on the other hand, the author makes a valiant effort to connect the dots on events that Herodotus left vague. In essence, this is an effort to transform an ancient literary account of the battle into a coherent narrative that explains the actual course of the battle. It is a very good effort, although the human drama element - the fact that Greece was fighting for survival - seems covered up with wooden beams at times. The volume has three impressive battle scenes by Peter Dennis, along with one 3-D BEV map (less than the normal two or three) and five 2-D maps. I was surprised that there was no mention of modern underwater archaeological surveys of the Salamis battlefield, which have been going on for several decades.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Strauss Lite 12 July 2010
By lordhoot - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Salamis 480 BC by William Shepard proves to be a well written and well researched book based on Osprey's Campaign series. The book goes into good details on the campaign of Salamis without getting bogged down by previous events already written about in other books like Marathon and Thermopylae. He make good use of the modern reconstruction of the Greek trireme Olympias and the trials that ship under went to describes how it must have been back during the days of the ancient Greeks. It was interesting to note that it took these modern day Greek cadets only a few weeks to get the hang of the rowing system so it must have been bit faster in the ancient days. The book comes well equipped with photographs, drawings and pretty decent although not great maps. I thought there could be a clearer maps of the actual battle and the movement of the fleets prior. The photos of the trireme Olympias proves quite useful in his narrative. On the downside, maybe he spent bit too much on that and not enough on the campaign at hand. But that is more subjective to your taste. But here lies the strength of the book while the campaign narrative doesn't get too original from the original sources and Barry Strauss.

The author however made it clear that he owes a great deal of debt to Barry Strauss and his book, Battle of Salamis. In many ways, this book is more like the lite beer version of the full body beer of Strauss. So depending on what you like, less filling or more body taste, this book may be subjective in that nature. But I thought it read quite well and it may proves to be a good introductory to Barry Strauss' book that is more in details. For those who like these Campaign books like I do, I thought this book was a worthy addition to the the other two books relating to this war (Marathon and Thermopylae).
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fine account of the battle at Salamis--and what led up to it 9 Oct 2010
By Steven A. Peterson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Nice addition to the "Campaign" series, yet another of those Osprey series publications that provide a quick and dirty look at the subject. The focus here is the critical naval battle of Salamis, which turned back the Persian forces that had broken through the thin Spartan line at Thermopylae.

The book begins by describing the background to Xerxes' invasion of Greece. Then, the book traces the invasion route, culminating in the sacking of Athens. The Greek forces then turned to their fleet to protect them from the Persian host.

The book then turns to describing the naval battle, in which the Persian fleet was wrecked and Greece saved. The book finishes by noting some of the key leaders on both sides (including the female admiral on Xerxes' side--Artemesia.

Nice brief description of a major battle. . . .
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good summary, but a few surprising glitches 23 Oct 2012
By JPS - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is a good, and, at times, an excellent introduction that delivers much more than just the battle of Salamis "the naval campaign that saved Greece". It is, in fact, more of a summary of the "Greco-Persian Wars" up to and including Salamis, to paraphrase the title of Peter Green's book, which started out as "the Year of Salamis" when it was first published in 1971. Surprisingly, this major book on the subject is not even referenced in the bibliography, although Tom Holland's bestseller ("Persian Fire"), which happens to be largely a rework of Peter Green's book, is listed, alongside Barry Strauss' must more serious book on Salamis.

The first part, called "Origins of the Campaign", describes in fact the origins of the war, going back to the conquest of Lydia and the Ionian Greeks by Cyrus in 546 BC. This turns out to be one of the book's strengths because it allows the author to provide a lot of context. It also allows him to paint a much more realistic portrait of the Persians and their Empire and present what has, since the early 1990s, become the modern view. Contrary to all of the propaganda developed by the Greeks and relayed by at least some historians in the past, the Persian Empire was the superpower of the time. It was certainly not decadent, neither were the Persians and their subjects effeminate and soft. Moreover, as the book also explains very well despite its limited size, the Ionian Greeks, supposedly groaning under the Persian oppression and presented as "slaves" by Herodotus, seem to have been rather prosperous before their revolt. On the other hand, and following in the footsteps of Peter Green who was one of the first to emphasize this point some 40 years ago, the book also makes clear that about 30 cities in Greece out of at least several hundred actually fought against the invaders. The Macedonians, the Thessalians and the Thebans (and many others) sided with the invaders whereas the Argives remained "neutral" and were ready to join the Persians if only because Sparta was on the other side. So William Shepherd is perfectly correct to emphasize that Greek cities, despite their shared identity, spent more times warring against each other, and may even have preferred siding with third parties against their hated neighbour city.

One point which he did not perhaps emphasize is that there were political rivalries and power plays between various factions, all of which were headed by aristocrats, even the ones that were backed by the less wealthy citizens. This included both Athens and Sparta and, in both cases, some of the "losers" could and did seek refuge within the Persian Empire. Although he does not insist on this particular point (the cities were divided within and between themselves), the author does, however, a good job in showing that Marathon was, from the Persians viewpoint, a minor setback and Thermopylae a costly victory, but a victory all the same. The parallel drawn with more recent events when mentioning the storming of the Athens' acropolis ("Mission accomplished") is somewhat superficial. While Xerxes certainly did send a triumphant despatch back to Susa announcing that Athens was duly chastised and punished, he knew perfectly well that this was not "game over" on sea or on land. As the author clearly shows, the Persian King of Kings was well aware of the need to defeat the allied fleet before assaulting the Isthmus and refused a plan suggesting to bypass it. Contrary to what the author claims (page 41) in a rather sweeping statement, the decision not to pursue this course was not "a fatal failure of vision and nerve". It was tactically and strategically a sound and prudent decision, especially after Artemission. The chronology also contains a little typo. As the text makes clear twice throughout the book, Xerxes was assassinated in 465 BC, the year after the defeat of the Eurymedon and not, as indicated by mistake in the chronology, in 455 BC.

The initial size of the Persian fleet, its losses during the two-year campaign and its size at Salamis have been discussed by historians for decades. In this book, the author has chosen to dismiss the huge losses mentioned by Herodotus because of bad weather (some 600 triremes) as a wild exaggeration and reduce by about the third the initial number of 1207 that is mentioned, considering that this is more probably the grand total for the whole of the Persian Empire. While the first point is very probably correct - it is somewhat rare for a fleet to be entirely destroyed in a storm and even rarer for this to happen twice in a few months - the second point is no more than a guess. It also does not account for the two bridges across the Hellespont that the Persians built. If these were pontoon bridges made with ships tied together, several hundred ships would have been needed for each of them.
The description of the battle itself is great.

The plates, maps and diagrams are very helpful in understanding what happened, especially since both Herodotus and Aeschyle, our two main sources and the ones closest to the event, tend to describe the battle from the viewpoint of individual participants rather than providing us with the "full picture". The explanation regarding to role of the Corinthians and what was probably a feigned flight is particularly interesting, since they came back to attack the Phoenician squadron either in the flank or in the rear. A minor omission is the absence of any discussion of two episodes, one before and one at the end at the battle, that Herodotus reports at length and uses to emphasize the role of Aristides, one of the leaders of the aristocratic and conservative faction and the faction from which Herodotus seems to have obtained most of his (somewhat slanted and anti-Themistocles) information.

Then there are a couple of technical points which are somewhat questionable. The author mentions at one point when describing a "Greek" trireme, based on the reconstruction of the Olympias, that he is essentially describing an Athenian trireme as it was around the beginning of the Peloponnesian War, some fifty years later. He mentions that both the ships and their hoplite complement may have been somewhat different at the time of Salamis, with more than what became the standard complement of 10 hoplites and 4 archers in the heydays of the Athenian navy. Despite this, when describing the battle itself further on in the book, he essentially assumes that this was the complement on all the Greek ships at Salamis, which is rather implausible. The battle was to be fought in the narrow straits where swift manoeuvring was less important than boarding. The Persians had at least 40 fighting men per ship and the Allies had several thousand hoplites in addition to the complement of 10. It is somewhat difficult to believe that they would have chosen to be deliberately outnumbered three to one when fighting each boarding action when they had the means to at least minimize this disadvantage.

A related point is the author's statement, backed by the plates that the hoplites on board were unarmoured in order to avoid hindering their movements and drowning if they fell overboard. This is also implausible. While they would be unlikely to wear metal armour for the reasons mentioned above, they would still very much need some protection against the superior archery of the Persians. They could therefore very well have worn leather cuirasses which would have offered the most logical compromise between these various constraints.

Because of the glitches, this book is worth four stars, but not five. It is, however, an excellent introduction to the battle of Salamis and to the Greco-Persian wars, more generally, although it is a pity that the author did not see fit to include Peter Green in his sources, something that would have completed his bibliography.
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent study! 9 Mar 2014
By Cornell Carr - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A wonderfully researched study of the famous battle. The maps were very clear and made it so easy to follow the action.
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