|Persians pour arrows into a Greek ship|
Xerxes decided to add 30 of his infantry to each vessel according to Herodotos. The marines were armed as hoplites and the infantry in Persian style one would imagine.
Persian/Median/Iranian infantry were archers first and spearmen second. A proportion carried large shields to screen the rear ranks who would shoot in battle.
|Persian archers behind spearmen|
At sea this model would not really work. It is difficult to see how the large shields could be used in a mobile way. Most likey the ships had shields fixed along the deck rails to provide cover and the archers could shoot from wherever they could come to the rail. After this model each Persian ship now had a dozen heavy infantry and 30 archers aboard. However, Persian archers never presented serious opposition to determined Greek infantry and at sea the landlubbers would be even more inferior in a clash.
|Hoplites enjoy some quality time with their neighbours|
The rest of the trireme crew was unarmoured as far as we know, and largely unprotected. How could this semi-naked human motor not be susceptible to major disruption by a storm of bronze-tipped arrows arcing over from the Persian ships ?
|(Very) Lightly Armoured oarsmen|
We must also bear in mind that the archers did not have an ideal situation to bring their skill to bear. At Agincourt the English created the best possible situation where their archery could be applied. At Salamis almost everything is against the Persians.
|Agincourt : historians can now give a more three dimensional picture of what went on.|
|'Can some of you Johnies kindly move to the other side for a bit ?'|
|Sailors are never sea-sick? Kaiser Bill's men feeding the fishes.|
|Sea sickness can be debilitating...|
Thirdly, the trireme is a long narrow warship. It has a ram which is it principle weapon and this is at the bow. The ship is fighting well when it presents its bow to the enemy. If the ship has its bow to the enemy then the fewest number of archers can see or shoot at the enemy ship.
|i's all dotted and Ts crossed|
Fifthly, the target is not very good. The target presented by an oncomng trireme with, maybe, hoplites protecting the frontal aspect with their shields is a poor one. Each shot is at a different range and the perpective of the target changes rapidly. Assuming one is placed to take a shot and feels like taking it.
|Suddenly,thought Aspathus,the oncoming trireme looked tougher than it had from a distance....|
These considerations argue for the firepower of the Persian troops onboard their fleet to have been tacically negligible. Unless the combatant ships were moving slowly and close to each other Persian bows would have no role in the battle.
If we consider the armament of the troops that maritime nations put aboard their ships we can see that they knew this well. According to Herodotos they were overwhelmingly armed as hoplites, a few with javelins and only the Lycians as archers, with flightless arrows for close range shooting.
|Little bit gay maybe but I just can't shoot well in anything tight..|
(Fab digital art by Kostas Nikellis)