SALAMIS BAY, GREECE – The Greek Ministry of Culture has announced that the site of the ancient sea battle of Salamis Bay has been discovered. This is a pretty significant find, one that came out of an archaeological investigation into Salamis Bay that launched in November of last year, headed by a number of Greek universities and funded by the British Horon Frost Foundation. According to the Ministry, “This is the first systematic underwater reconnaissance to be initiated by Greek institutions in a severely polluted marine environment, yet in a crucial area of historical importance…Following aerial photography, photogrammentric processing, topographical and architectural documentation, the first visible map of the region came to surface.”
The investigation came to fruition in the form of an ancient military harbor near the island of Salamis. Experts believe this was the spot where the Battle of Salamis Bay was fought. It’s a small harbor, but mighty nonetheless.
“It is the commercial and probably war port of the classical and Hellenistic period of the city-state of Salamis. It is also the region where a portion of the united Greek navy had gathered on the eve of sea battle in 480 BC… It is the pool part of the united Greek fleet on the eve of the great battle of 480 BC, which is adjacent to the most important monuments of the Victory: the Polyandreion (tomb) of Salamis fighter and the Trophy on Kynosoura.” – Greek Ministry of Culture.
The team of 20 archaeologists conducting the survey of the area found the remains of port structures, military fortifications, and several other buildings that all date back to about 500-400 BC, around when the Battle of Salamis Bay was fought. The entire area is bounded on the south by a man-made jetty that’s about 200 feet long. At the end of the jetty, the ancient Athenians built a round tower similar to towers archaeologists find in other Greek harbors. Archaeologists have also found breakwaters, several moles (a type of large stone structure), and another 100-foot long wall with an attached tower.
“This evidence,” Yannos Lolos, professor of archaeology at the University of Ioannina and president of the Hellenic Institute of Marine Archaeology said, “supplemented by the information from ancient historical and literary sources, leaves no doubt about the role of the bay as the main assembly and launching point of the Greek fleet in close proximity to the theater of the sea battle in the straits.”
Yannos Lolos believes that the fortification of the northwestern section of Salamis Bay is “prime evidence for the identification of…the main military zone for the harbor of Salamis”.
The Battle of Salamis Bay
We know the story of the Battle of Salamis Bay from the Greek historian, Herodotus. This naval battle is considered to be one of the most decisive battles of all time. In August of 480 BC, Greece was made up of a bunch of little city-states, and these city-states were under attack from the great ancient Empire of Persia. Following a defeat at the pass of Thermopylae, the Greeks knew they needed to hold off Persia’s navy at Salamis Bay if they had any chance of winning the war.
As history has it, 378 Greek triremes squared up against the much larger Persian fleet. They lured the enemy into the small bay. The bay was so small, in fact, that only about a hundred Persian ships could fit into the bay at one time. The Persian ships were slow and large – no match for the light, agile Athenian triremes. The Greeks bottle-necked them through the bay, sunk 200 Persian ships, and trapped the Persian army in Greece. Their king, Xerxes, fled back to his own country, losing his entire army in the process. In one battle, the Greek city-states had made it clear: they were a force to be reckoned with.
The archaeological survey is hoping they can find more evidence of this ancient naval battle in Salamis Bay. The investigation is projected to continue until the end of 2018.