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Naval warfare


Subject History » Military History

Key-Topics navy

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631168485.1994.x


Warfare at sea is marked by characteristics of a very special kind. It takes place on an uninhabited, neutral element, no part of which can be either occupied or lost. Its strategy is aimed at the control of sea routes in the interests of trade, commerce-raiding or mere piracy, or again, of combined operations, which can be on widely differing scales. In Antiquity, this strategy reached a remarkably high level of development. In the Egypto-Homeric period, the purpose of the earliest fighting ships was to prevent pillaging of coastal areas by the ‘sea people’. From the beginning of the Greek classical period, Greek cities maintained what can be properly called navies, which were intended for carrying out or repulsing small-scale raids or large amphibious operations. The era of great sea battles, carried out with the help of carefully prepared tactics, began in the fifth century BC. The Battle of Salamis (480 BC) marked the thwarting of a huge combined operation aimed at the subjugation of Greece; the destruction of the armada of the Persians led to their defeat in the following year at Plataea, and to their evacuation of Greece. Simultaneously, the Battle of Mycale allowed the Greeks to undertake the liberation of their cities in Asia Minor. During the Peloponnesian War, Athens used her supremacy at sea to carry out repeated raids on her enemies’ coasts, and large scale operations ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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