A coin series look at the world’s great sea battles debuts with the pivotal ancient Battle of Salamis

A new series from the Mint of Poland, Sea Battles will look at some of history’s greatest naval punch-ups, and what better place to start than the pivotal Battle of Salamis. This battle, way back in 490 BCE, helped end Persian ambitions to take the Greek homeland – a base from which they could have made further incursions into Europe.

It’s another of the Mint of Poland’s flagship 2oz coins, filled with masses of high-relief, an antique-finish, and some fine design. The reverse face depicts the chaos of a battle of the period. A Greek trireme has rammed a Persian ship and the warriors are streaming to board and capture it. Sea battles of the time were basically boarding and fighting, rather than projectile warfare at distance, effectively just a succession of small land battles on the water, and the coin does a great job of depicting it. At the top sits a small Lapacho wood insert with a carved dolphin icon in it. We’ve seen similar inserts with such coins as the Trojan Horse and it looks good.

It’s the obverse where this one shines. We were huge fans of the map placed on the back of the Spartacus and Leonidas coins, and it’s fantastic to see it return here. It shows a simple view of the battle and is a perfect compliment to the reverse face. Just because this coin carries the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II, it doesn’t mean it has to be boring. Top marks.

Boxed with a certificate, this has the usual mintage of 500 pieces and joins what is an expansive selection of similar themed issues with this format. Everyone has their favourites, but as a lover of naval warfare history, this has a bit of extra appeal to me. Your mileage may vary, of course, so feel free to check out our constantly updated guide to the Mint of Poland’s efforts in this genre with this format. Distributed by the Mint of Gdansk, the coin is available to pre-order now, with shipping around the end of next month. We look forward to seeing this series continue.

THE BATTLE OF SALAMIS

Fought between a combined force of Greek city states under Themistocles, and the mighty Persian Empire ruled by King Xerxes, the Battle of Salamis in 490BC, has entered the annals of history as one of the most important naval battles of all time. A decisive Greek victory, it greatly aided the securing of the Greek mainland from further attacks by the Persian Army.

Taking its name from the place it was fought, like most battles, the encounter took place in the straits between Salamis (an island close to Athens in the Saronic Gulf), and the Greek mainland. Despite being heavily outnumbered, superior Greek tactics and a better understanding of the battlefield, carried the day for Themistocles.

Xerxes desired a sea battle to put an end to Greek resistance and allow his fleet full access to the Greek mainland for flanking and raiding. He’d already dealt the Greek alliance some heavy losses at Thermopylae and Artemisium, which had allowed the Persians to occupy Phocis, Boeotia, Attica, and Euboea.

Baiting the Persian fleet into the narrow straits, where its sheer numbers would make manoeuvring difficult, the Greek fleet formed in line and attacked. Unable to bring their greater numbers to bare, the approximately 370 triremes fielded by the Greeks, outfought and chased off the Persian vessels, numbering at least twice as many. A year later, the rest of the Persian army was defeated at the Battle of Plataea, and the Persian navy was dealt a killing blow at the Battle of Mycale. From that point on, Greece went on the offensive.

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SPECIFICATION
DENOMINATION $5 NZD (Niue)
COMPOSITION 0.999 silver
WEIGHT 62.2 grams
DIMENSIONS 45.0 mm
FINISH Antique
MODIFICATIONS Ultra high-relief, Lapacho insert, edge number
MINTAGE 500
BOX / C.O.A. Yes / Yes
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