Artemisium: The Hunt for a "Red October"

Artemisium was the series of naval battles that took place in parallel with the land battle at Thermopylae. There are also signs of intentional incompetence associated with this element of the Persian campaign.

Rather than divide the massive Persian naval alliance of over a thousand ships, the decision was made to keep them all together. Consequently they could not seek the shelter of natural harbors, but were all moored in open water during an intense three-day storm. About four hundred of the ships were said to have been lost. The disaster was attributed to Boreas, a Greek equivalent of Ishkur/Adad (Egyptian Horus the Elder/Judah). In other words, it was Xerxes himself who was responsible (or irresponsible, if you will) for destroying the ships.

After the storm, a deserter from the Persian side conveniently tipped off the Greeks as to the next movement of the Persian fleet. Only then would 200 ships be broken off from the main fleet and sent south of Thermopylae. However, the Greeks somehow knew to let the 200 go and engage the main force late in the afternoon. The Persian fleet obligingly surrendered its numerical advantage by forming a loose ring around the Greek navy. The Greeks easily fought their way out of the "noose" and back to their shelter of Artemisium. They also received the gift of one of the Persian ships coming over to their side.

The Persians had no light to regroup and had to head for the less protected harbor of Aphetae where they were racked again that night by another storm, one that also ruined the 200 ships headed south. The next day the Greeks attacked once again late in the day and retired. Early on the following day, the Persian ships threw themselves pell-mell at the superior Greek defensive position at Artemisium assuring further losses. It was a strategy they would "refine" at Salamis.