Now that we have spoken at sufficient length of the valour of these men we shall
resume the course of our narrative. Xerxes, now that he had gained the passes in the manner we
have described and had won, as the proverb runs, a "Cadmeian victory,"1
destroyed only a few of the enemy, while he had lost great numbers of his own troops. And after
he had become master of the passes by means of his land forces, he resolved to make trial of
contest at sea.
At once, therefore, summoning the commander of
the fleet, Megabates, he ordered him to sail against the naval force of the Greeks and to make
trial, with all his fleet, of a sea-battle against them.
Megabates, in accordance with the king's orders, set out from Pydne in Macedonia
with all the fleet and put in at a promontory of
which bears the name of Sepias. At this
place a great wind arose and he lost more than three hundred warships and great numbers of
cavalry transports and other vessels. And when the wind ceased, he weighed anchor and put in at
. From here he dispatched two hundred triremes, ordering the commanders to
take a roundabout course and, by keeping Euboea
right, to encircle the enemy.
The Greeks were stationed at Artemisium
and had in all two hundred and eighty
triremes; of these ships one hundred and forty were Athenian and the remainder were furnished
by the rest of the Greeks. Their admiral was Eurybiades the Spartan, and Themistocles the
Athenian supervised the affairs of the fleet; for the latter, by reason of his sagacity and
skill as a general, enjoyed great favour not only with the Greeks throughout the fleet but also
with Eurybiades himself, and all men looked to him and harkened to him eagerly.
And when a meeting of the commanders of the ships was held to discuss
the engagement, the rest of them all favoured waiting to receive the advance of the enemy; but
Themistocles alone expressed the opposite opinion, showing them that it was to their advantage
to sail against the enemy with the whole fleet in one array; for in this way, he declared, they
would have the upper hand, attacking as they would with their ships in a single body an enemy
whose formation was broken by disorder, as it must be, for they would be issuing out of many
harbours at some distance apart. In the end the Greeks followed the opinion of Themistocles and
sailed against the enemy with the entire fleet.
And since the
barbarians put out from many harbours, at the outset Themistocles, engaging with the scattered
Persians, sank many ships and not a few he forced to turn in flight and pursued as far as the
land; but later, when the whole fleet had gathered and a fierce battle ensued, each side gained
the superiority in one part of the line but neither won a complete victory, and at nightfall
the engagement was broken off.