Annual Report FY 2004 - Research at Cornell

20. Barry Strauss, History/Classics

The Battle of Salamis: The Naval Encounter that Saved Greece—and Western Civilization (Simon and Schuster, 2004). For six months in 480 B.C., the course of Western history hung in the balance as Xerxes, leader of the Persian Empire, began to move troops across the Hellespont, eventually taking the Athenian Acropolis. Themistocles, leader of Athens and admiral of its fleet of triremes, devised an ingenious strategy that nevertheless deceived, defeated, and destroyed the Persians, all in one day. This book illustrates how Themistocles planned and set the trap for the Persian ships in the narrow Salamis Strait, and it recounts the astonishing and dramatic battle, which made Athens the dominant power in Greece, thereby setting the stage for the Golden Age of Pericles. Drawing on recent work in archaeology, meteorology, and forensic science, as well as on his own experience as a rower (both navies were oar-powered), Strauss revises our understanding of this singular battle, which is still studied for its tactical genius. The book was named by the Washington Post as one of the best books of the year 2004. It is being translated into five languages.

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