Ancient Greek History

Developing the Athenian Navy of Ancient Greece

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One of the things that Ancient Athens is most known for is its formidable navy. However, it wasn’t always this way. The Athenian navy was relatively nonexistent until slightly before the Second Persian Invasion, and it was developed to safeguard Ancient Greece from the Persians. They had come close to being conquered by the Persians and rather than feel relief, there were those who assumed the Persians would be back to try again.

Those who thought the Persians would b back weren’t wrong. Greece was invaded once again by the Persian Empire about ten years after their first attack. Total, the Persian Wars spanned from around 499 B.C. to 449 B.C. At the end of the war, the Greeks were victorious and many credit the well-trained Athenian navy as making the biggest difference in this war. This is especially true since the Greeks won at the Battle of Salamis, and this is said to have been an important victory in that war.

However, the navy had to have been built first. Here’s more information about how the Athenian navy was initially developed:

Developing the Athenian Navy

Themistocles, who was alive from 524 to 549 B.C., was largely responsible for developing the Athenian navy. One of the most interesting things about Themistocles is that he didn’t originally come from the Athenian elite. He had a rather simple upbringing, and he later rose to prominence because of his military skill, especially during the Battle of Marathon, and his prowess as a politician. He essentially brought the Athenians together with one common purpose – to make sure that when Persia did return, they wouldn’t successfully invade Greece.

He desired to make Athens great and he did this by exploiting what he perceived to be one of Persia’s biggest weaknesses – their navy. He proceeded to talk the Athenians into the value of building the navy. They agreed, and their legend was born. Athens used money generated from their silver deposits to build ships and train the soldiers who would fight in the navy.

Being in the Athenian Navy was a paid position. This meant that everyone had a chance to make a living in Athens regardless of rank. The navy grew stronger and when the time came, Themistocles proved to be correct. The Athenian Navy was far superior to the Persian Navy.

Battle of Salamis Proved the Navy’s Worth

In many ways, the Battle of Salamis was the biggest test concerning whether or not all the hard work Themistocles put into developing the Athenian navy actually paid off. There were many heroic moments that took place during the Second Persian Invasion, and the Battle of Salamis was one of them. Although the Persian naval fleet was larger in size, the Athenians had the advantage when it came to strategy.

The straight near the island of Salamis was the perfect battle ground to secure the victory. The trireme boats that were used by the Athenians were fast and they effectively executed Themistocles’ battle strategy to security the Greek victory. Not too long after the battle, which took place in September of 480 B.C., the Persians left Greece, never to return again.Over time, the navy helped turn Athens into a prominent city-state and it all started with the vision that Themistocles had after the Ancient Greeks had driven out the Persians during the First Persian Invasion.

If the Persians had been successful, the world may have looked a lot different because it was after the Greco-Persian Wars that Ancient Greece truly began to thrive. However, the growing strength of the Athenian navy ultimately led to some problems and conflicts within Greece, especially with Sparta. This would take a while to develop, though.


Wikipedia – Trireme

Wikipedia- Battle of Salamis

Wikipedia- Themistocles

Wikipedia – Greco-Persian Wars

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This post was written by Greek Boston

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