'The sea battle of Artemision' is the seventh in a series of articles written by Rien de Meij, senior project manager Ships at MARIN. In this first article in a series of four, he describes the Persian invasion of Greece, which ultimately led to the destruction of Athens. An abbreviated version of this article was published in SWZ|Maritime’s July/August 2020 issue. All articles can be read here.
In the period of about 600 – 480 BCE, Ionian colonists emigrated from Attica to the Aegean coast of Asia Minor, which is modern Turkey. There they inhabited a narrow coastal strip from Phocaea in the north to Miletus in the south, including the islands of Chios and Samos. In this narrative, Samos’ role is the transitional stopover, the pivotal point, between Ionia and Hellas.
Persia (c. 540 BCE) conquered the cities of this area and appointed native tyrants [satrápēs
] to rule for them. The rebellion of the colonists against the rule of these tyrants set off a train of events that ended in 490 BCE, when the first Persian invasion of Greece was stopped in a decisive Greek victory at Marathon.
When the news of the Greek victory at Marathon (490 BCE) came to the Persian king Darius the Great, he decided to take revenge and he sent heralds to Hellas, demanding “earth and water” – the usual token of submission – which he received from many cities of Greece (Herodotus, The Histories 7.131.1). He instructed Ionia and the islands to build ships and to enroll their best men for service against Hellas.