THE PERSIAN WARS - The Size of Persian Fleet

The problem of the size of the Persian army can be illuminated by considering the size of the Persian fleet, since there must have been a proportion between the two forces. Herodotus reports that the fleet consisted of 1207 triremes and 3000 lesser fighting ships and supply ships (VII 89, 184). The figure of 1207 triremes is itemized by specifying the number of ships contributed by the several subjects and allies of the Persian Empire (VIII 89-95). Nobody has succeeded in proving that any of these partial figures is questionable; the contributions made by the Greek subjects of Persia corresponds to what we know to have been their naval strength in other episodes of Greek history. Herodotus' figures are confirmed by several other sources. The historian Darius (XI 3) states that the triremes were 1200 at the time of the muster at Doriskos; the orator Lysias (II 27) mentions an initial force of 1200 triremes, whereas the orator Isokrates mentions 1300 triremes at the beginning of the campaign (VII 49) and 1200 on the eve of the battle of Salamis (IV 93); Plato (Laws, III 699 B) speaking in general terms refers to "one thousand ships and more." In order to find a trace of disagreement it is necessary to refer to the narrative of the historian Ctesias, as summarized by the Byzantine writers of the ninth century, Photios; in this text the figure of the triremes is given as 1000, but the text contains such an accumulation of obviously wrong information that either Ktesias or Photios must be dismissed as totally unreliable.

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