The battle of Salamis affords an interesting example of
naval tactics in antiquity. The trireme was regarded as a missile to be hurled
with sudden violence against the opposing ship, in order to disable or sink it.
A sea fight became a series of maneuvers; and victory depended as much on the
skill of the rowers and steersmen as on the bravery of the soldiers. The
Persians at Salamis had many more ships than the Greeks, but Themistocles
rightly believed that in the narrow strait their numbers would be a real
disadvantage to them. Such proved to be the case. The Persians fought well, but
their vessels, crowded together, could not navigate properly and even wrecked
one another by collision. After an all-day contest what remained of their fleet
withdrew from the strait.
The victory at Salamis had important results. It so
crippled the Persians that henceforth they lost command of the sea. Xerxes
found it difficult to keep his men supplied with provisions and at once
withdrew with the larger part of his force to Asia. The Great King himself had
no heart for further fighting, but he left Mardonius, with a strong body of
picked troops, to subjugate the Greeks on land. So the real crisis of the war
was yet to come.