Battle of Salamis, c.497 BC

The battle of Salamis, c.497 BC, was a land and sea battle on Cyprus, won by the Persians on land and the Cypriotes and their Ionian allies at sea.

In 499 the Greek cities of Ionian revolted against Persian authority. Early in the campaigning season of 498 they attacked and burnt Sardis, the capital of the satrapy of Lydia, and although they were then forced to retreat and suffered a defeat near Ephesus (498 BC), the daring attack helped convince other Greek cities to join the revolt. Amongst them were the Greek kingdoms of Cyprus, led by Onesilus of Salamis. After the outbreak of the Ionian revolt he had overthrown his brother Gorgus, king of Salamis, who had refused to risk taking on Persia, and convinced most of the rest of Cyprus to join the revolt. He then began a siege of Amathus, the only important city that hadn't joined the revolt.

Control of Cyprus was essential to Persian naval operations in the eastern Mediterranean. The Persians sent an army and a Phoenician fleet to re-conquer the island. Onesilus responded by sending appeals for help to each of the Ionian cities, and the Ionians decided to sent a fleet to support their fellow rebels.

The result was a land and sea battle, probably fought in the summer of 497 BC. The Persians landed on Cyprus and marched across the island towards Salamis. This probably forced the rebels to lift the siege of Amathus, and they concentrated their forces at Salamis. The Ionian fleet had also arrived, and the Cyprians offered them the choice of where they wanted to fight, on land or at sea. The Ionians chose to fight at sea.

The two battles had very different results. At sea the Ionians won a major victory, with the Samians getting a special mention in Herodotus. This victory eliminated Persian naval power for a few years, and probably played a part in the duration of the revolt.

On land the rebels made a stand on the plain of Salamis. They placed their best troops, from Salamis and Soli, opposite the Persian troops, while the remaining Cyprian troops faced the other contingents in the Persian army. Onesilus deliberately placed himself opposite the Persian commander Artybius.

According to Herodotus Onesilius successfully killed Artybius, while his esquire killed the Persian general's horse. However elsewhere on the field the Cyprian army was undermined by treachery. Stesenor, tyrant of Curium, who commanded one of the larger contingents, turned traitor. He was followed by the war chariots from Salamis, suggesting that Onesilius's control over his own city had never been very secure. With two important contigents of their own army turning against them the rebels suffered a very heavy defeat. Onesilus was amongst the dead, as was Aristocyprus, king of Soli.

This battle gave the Persians the edge on Cyprus. Salamis welcomed Gorgus back into power, and the other Greek cities were soon under attack. The Ionians were unable to offer any more help, while the Persians had the support of the Phoenician cities of Cyprus. The war on Cyprus turned into a series of sieges, ending with the fall of Paphos and Soli (c.497).

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (3 April 2015), Battle of Salamis, c.497 BC , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_salamis_497.html

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