On Land and Sea
We Are All Greeks

I have been consumed with proving the validity of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s contention, “We are all Greeks. Our laws, our literature, our religion, our arts, have their root in Greece.” I have visited Greece twice. There isn’t a tourist site that I have not seen on the mainland and on several islands. I taught art history for many years and have even posted a lecture on my website for Donald the Dumb. I have taught history at the college level also and have a great love for the Greeks and their culture. Without them, we wouldn’t be who we are today.

The most important battle in all of Western civilization occurred in 480 BCE. It was the Battle of Thermopylae. King Leonidas of Sparta and his 300 Spartans and an assortment of 1000 other Greeks held off the Persians commanded by Xerxes I from advancing in a narrow pass between the mountains and the sea.

Xerxes amassed his army consisting of force between 100,000 to 500,000 depending on the estimates of various historians. Xerxes told Leonidas to surrender or die. It was obvious that Leonidas knew that he could not stop the overwhelming force of the Persian army. However, Leonidas replied, “Moλωυ λαβε (molon labe),” which means “Come and get them.” It wasn't until the third day that the Greeks were finally overwhelmed.

Nevertheless, Leonidas delayed the Persians for nearly three days, which allowed the Greek navy time to get ready for the Persian navy at the Battle of Salamis. The Greeks beat them. However, the Greeks used a narrow and shallow strait of Salamis to defeat the Persians. It was a similar technique that Leonidas used at the Battle of Thermopylae to delay the Persians. Xerxes was never able to conquer Greece. Those two battles actually saved the basis of all Western civilization.

The Battle of Salamis

Therefore, when I happened to come across several essays on the discovery of an ancient Greek ship that was 2,400 years old, I was drawn to the story. I wondered whether it was a ship that could have been involved in the Battle of Salamis.

Oldest ancient Greek ship ever found and perhaps the oldest ship ever found intact

It was built around the time of the Battles of Thermopylae and Salamis, but it was found off the coast of Bulgaria about 1.2 miles deep. It was thought to be a ship 75 ft. long ship used for trading. Many naval historians believe that this ship was the oldest ship ever discovered relatively intact. Interestingly, the reason was due to the waters being anoxic, which means that the waters contained no oxygen. Scientist call waters like this a dead zone. Had the waters contained oxygen, marine life forms would have destroyed much of the ship that the waters hadn’t eroded.

A model of 2400 year old intact ship

This is a model of what the scientist and researchers found off the coast of Bulgaria.

The oldest ship from 2400 years ago

While I was hoping for a battleship involved in the Battle of Salamis, historians were delighted to find that newly discovered Greek ship substantiated the design of ancient Greek ships like the one the Siren Vase.

The ancient Greek trireme

Siren vase

In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus was desirous about what the song of the Sirens sounded like. Circe told Odysseus that he was on a fool’s errand. Nonetheless, Odysseus concocted a plan, which would enable him to hear the Sirens. He told his sailor to put beeswax in their ears as a means of protecting from the allure of the Sirens’ song. However, Odysseus wanted to hear their singing, which meant that he instructed the sailors to tie him to the ship’s mast.

Siren vase

It is believed by some scholars that the Sirens would die if anyone was able to endure their singing and sail on. If someone was successful, the Sirens would dive into the waters and drown.

In truth, I was tempted to put a PPP lecture together for Donald the Dumb about this essay. However, I doubt whether he could locate Greece on a map. Nonetheless, the more the rest of us learn about the Greeks; the more we learn about us. We can win the battles of our lives with courage and persistence.

This video is of the Battle of Thermopylae. http://www.wolverton-mountain.com/articles/we-are-all-greeks.html

This video is of the Battle of Salamis.