Admiral (5th century BC)
Eurybiades was the Spartan general who commanded the Spartan naval forces in the Battle of Artemisium and the Battle of Salamis in 480 BC. Together with the wise Themistocles and the just Aristides they are hailed as the great leaders who orchestrated the victory of the Battle of Salamis during the second Persian invasion in Greece.
Not much is known about Eurybiades’ life. Prior to being chosen as an admiral of the Spartan fleet, he had acquired great naval battle skills as well as experience in the sea. His position imbued great respect and his orders were always followed without hesitation. The first major battle in which he is accounted to have played a decisive role was in the Battle of Artemisium against the Persian fleet, during the second Persian invasion of Greece in 480 BC. The battle resulted into the Greek forces retreating to the island of Aegina after the arrival of the news that the Greeks, led by Leonidas and the 300 Spartans had fallen in the Battle of Thermopylae and the Persians were marching toward Athens.
In Aegina, the council of generals gathered and discussed their strategies. Themistocles proposed that the Greek fleet strike the Persian fleet at the straits of Salamis while the Peloponnesian navarchs objected the idea, insisting on retreating and facing the Persian fleet in Southern Italy. Eurybiades initially objected Themistocles’ plan but was persuaded afterwards, thanks to the later’s eloquence. Prudent as he was, Eurybiades could foresee the consequences of future events as well as understand the genius of Themistocles’ plan.
It was this simple decision that the Greeks united remained in Salamis and fought victoriously against Xerxes’ fleet, rescuing from Persian rule not only Greece but all of Europe. This simple decision, which changed the entire course of history, was the reason Eurybiades was glorified and was awarded an accolade for his bravery, while Themistocles an accolade for his wisdom.
After the Battle of Salamis, Eurybiades lived a peaceful life, choosing not to redeem his glory for a career in politics as did other Spartan generals. He kept a distance from public affairs not to spoil his reputation, at the prize of retaining his eternal glory in one of the greatest battles in history.
- Βολωνάκης. Ἰωάννης. Τῆς Ἀρχαίας Ἑλλάδος οἱ Μεγάλοι Ἠγέται. Εκδόσεις Γεωργιάδης. Ἀθῆναι: 1997. Print.