After winning Athens, Xerxes’ folks all say, “Let’s chase ‘em down and attack at sea! We have so many more ships, it’s a given we’ll win. Then you’ll really have the victory.”
All except the lone female on his council, who said, “You did what you came to do. Go home now, while you’re winning. With all due respect, kingy, your desert-dwellers are never going to beat the Greeks at sea.”
Boy, did he wish he had listened to her!
In the straits off the island of Salamis, Xerxes’ large, nimble ships were useless. The compact ships of the Greeks kept ramming them, and those desert-dwellers he used to people his fleet had never learned to swim. Every ship that sank, the sailors drowned, even though they weren’t far from shore and the Greeks all swam back.
After that one disastrous day at sea, Xerxes called it quits and decided he was going home. Was that the only option? No. Could he have won had he mounted another attack? Quite possibly. Could he have won had he just sieged the island and starve them out? Almost definitely. So why . . . well, of course I have my reasons for that too. =)
(Map from the Deparment of History, United States Military Academy)