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The indomidable marine: Pytheas (480 B.C)

31/10/2011

After the Persian forces crossed the Tempi valley in 480 B.C. the Greeks decided to block Thermopylae pass and stop the Persian fleet near the cape Artemision in the North Evoia straights. They had sent three triremes near the island of Sciathos as their vanguard. One trireme was from Athens, another from Troezen and the third from Aegina. Their mission was to give early warning when the Persian fleet approached the area. But the Persians managed to surprise them. The Athenian ship run aground by the Thessalian coast and the crew made good their escape inland. The Troizenians did not managed to escape. The Phoenicians rammed them and then boarded their vessel. After capturing it, they sacrificed the most handsome prisoner to their gods. But on the Aeginitan ship whose master was Asonides, a very bitter fight took place. A marine, named Pytheas, son of Ischenoos held his post valiantly, ignoring his wounds. He only stopped fighting when he feinted from blood loss. The Persian commander admired his courage so much, that after preventing the Phoenician marines from killing him, brought a doctor to dress his wounds and kept him in honorary captivity. Pytheas was released from his captivity when his relative Polykritos boarded successfully his captors ship and freed him.

In the picture Pytheas holds a sword based on the Marathon findings (British Museum), and 5th century grieves (National Archeological Museum – Athens). His armor is based on contemporary pottery. His shield rim is based on fragments from Jena University Museum. The Phoenician is wearing a conical helmet common in Middle East (Archeological Museum – Olympia) and his gilded sword (Metropolitan Museum of New York) denotes an officer. The sail would normally be removed and stored during battle but perhaps the surprise was such that it was neglected.

Source:  Herodotus «History»  7.179 – 181 και 8.91

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