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The island’s name is inseparable in the mind from the famous naval battle which took place in its waters in September of 480 bc, in which the fractious alliance of Greek city-states gained over the forces of Persia’s King of Kings a victory, whose ultimate and far-reaching significance even they could not fully comprehend. To a people brought up generation after generation on the tales of the Iliad, the battle of Salamis, won against remarkable odds, was seen as the fulfillment of an almost heroic destiny and it gave the Greeks a confidence without which many of their greatest cultural achievements could not have been possible. The crossing alone to the island through the stretch of water where the battle was fought is a moving and thought-provoking experience, even though to day it is a busy and densely inhabited artery of one of the largest ports in the Mediterranean, lined with ship-yards, warehouses. So close, in fact, is Salamis to the mainland and so integrated into the area’s maritime industry that large areas of it are treated and inhabited as if it were a suburb of Athens, and its sprawling towns have much of the grating featureless nesswhich goes with that. The landscape is unmistakably Attic, with wide treeless slopes, dusty earth and limestone outcrops over much of the island.
Fortunately Salamis is large and of unruly enough a shape to offer unexpected corners of tranquillity and relative beauty, especially along its south coast. Beyond the town of Aiantion—where there are a couple of interesting painted mediaeval churches—stretches a hilly promontory, forested with pines down to the shore at the attractive bay of Kanakia. In the last ten years, an important Mycenaean citadel has been uncovered on the hill overlooking the bay which with good reason can be believed to be the place where Ajax son of Telamon grew up, and from which he left for the siege of Troy, never to return. East of Kanakia along the south coast is the gloomy subterranean cave where Euripides is said to have retreated for peace and inspiration; and not far from it is a well-preserved circular building of the early 4th century bc which may possibly have been a mausoleum or heroon, impressively sited on a promontory commanding views over the Saronic Gulf. The island has attractive corners and plenty of interest, but because of its lack of hotels is probably best visited as a day excursion from Athens. This is easily accomplished since the island is so well connected by ferry at all hours.
Salamis Island is part of the Argosaronic Island Group, Greece.