n Acta Classica : Proceedings of the Classical Association of South Africa - Themistocles and the supposed second message to Xerxes : the anatomy of a legend

Volume 38, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0065-1141
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Themistocles' deceptive message to Xerxes on the eve of the battle of Salamis was the most famous of all the stratagems attributed in antiquity to that wily operator. All the sources agree that it had the effect of inducing Xerxes to undertake the naval engagement within the narrow straits between Salamis and mainland Attica, and that this afforded the numerically inferior Greek navy an advantage which they were able decisively to exploit.

Our sources also mention another message, supposedly sent by Themistocles to Xerxes after the battle of Salamis was over. However they differ very considerably over the circumstances, purpose, and details of this second message. The purpose of this article is to examine the various versions of the story, as it is presented in the sources, to explain how these versions developed, and to assess the historicity of the story itself.

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