Ancient Greek History

Do You Know How the Athenian Navy Was Formed?

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Everything changed for the Ancient Athenian city-state after the Persian Empire tried to conquer Ancient Greece. The empire had its sites set on conquering Ancient Greece and despite their large numbers, the Ancient Greeks were able to stop them from conquering Greece during what we know of as the First Persian Invasion that took place starting in 492 B.C. One of the aftermaths of this war is that the there were those in Greece, especially in Athens, who thought they would be back. This ultimately set the Athenian city-state on a course that would eventually lead to them forming their navy. Here’s more information:

Themistocles Knew They’d Be Back

There was one individual in particular who had a feeling that the Persians would come back and make another attempt at conquering Greece. It’s important to note that at the the time, Athens was operating as a full democracy, where the voting citizens had a say in every decision that was made. Politicians such as Themistocles had to make speeches and convince the people that their point of view was the correct one. After that, the new laws needed to be voted on by the people. Once he understood that it was highly likely that the Persians would return, he set out to convince the Athenian citizens that this was, in fact, the case.

Convincing Athens to Form a Navy

Ultimately, he realized that the Athenian city-state had something to offer that other areas of Ancient Greece didn’t have. Athens was in a strategic location since it had access to the sea. They were also sitting on vast silver deposits, which means that they had the wealth in order to make the changes needed to protect Athens and the rest of Ancient Greece from attack. After making a series of speeches, Themistocles effectively convinced the Athenian citizens to form a navy and the silver was to be used to fund this effort.

Building the New Navy

Once the decision was made to form the navy, the Athenians had their work cut out for them. They needed to construct the ships, known as triremes. They also needed to hire and train the soldiers who would man the triremes. Each member of the navy was responsible for his own oar and each side of the boats had multiple oars. The naval members needed to move as a cohesive unit so that they ships could be as efficient as possible. Not only that, but the fleet was filled with a lot of ships and each ship needed to learn how to maneuver and execute battle plans. Each solder who was a member of the navy was paid a wage and anyone from Athenian society could join. This is the first document instance of an ancient military paying its soldiers an actual wage.

The Persians ultimately did return and after Athens was done developing its navy, it was quite effective. History tells us that the Athenian Navy was far superior to the Persian’s navy. The Athenian Navy experienced a major victory at the Battle of Salamis during the Second Persian Invasion. Ultimately the Persians left Greece and never tried to conquer again.


Developing the Athenian Navy

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This post was written by Greek Boston

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