Saturday, 25 September 2021

The mines of Ancient Greece

In 480 BCE, the Persian army defeated the Greeks at the Battle of Thermopylae and invaded parts of Greece. When all seemed lost, Themistocles proposed an unusual plan: the Greeks should not face the superior Persian soldiers on the battlefield, but instead invest in a fleet. In the naval battle of Salamis, the newly-built ships destroyed the Persian fleet.
Without a navy to support their army, the Persians were forced to retreat. The battle of Salamis was a critical turning point. The ships that won the battle of Salamis were paid for with silver from the mines of Laurion. 20,000 slaves worked to provide the silver for the fleet. Without it victory would have been impossible.
After the defeat of Persia, Sparta and Athens waged a long and taxing war. As the silver mines became exhausted, a backwater territory, Macedonia, thrived and became the new power. The gold mines of Macedonia played a critical role. The largest gold mines in antiquity were operating in Macedonia and Thrace and they supported the rise of Philip II and his son, Alexander the Great.