Salamis (Greek: Σαλαμίνα Salamína, Ancient and Katharevousa: Σαλαμίς Salamís), is the largest Greek island in the Saronic Gulf, about 1 nautical mile (2 km) off-coast from Piraeus and about 16 kilometres (10 miles) west of Athens. The chief city, Salamina, lies in the west-facing core of the crescent on Salamis Bay, which opens into the Saronic Gulf. The island’s main port, Paloukia, in size second only to Piraeus, is on the eastern side.
Salamis is mentioned in Homer’s writings. Some sources say it was named after the nymph Salamis, according to legend the mother of Cychreus, the first king of the island. Another theory, that is supported by modern linguistics, considers “Salamis” to come from the root Sal- (meaning salty water) and -amis (meaning the middle); thus Salamis would be (the place) amid salt water.
Salamis was probably first colonised by Aegina and later occupied by Megara, but became an Athenian possession in the time of Solon or Peisistratos, following the war between Athens and Megara around 600 BC. According to Strabo, the ancient capital was at the south of the island; in classical times it was to the east, on the Kamatero Peninsula overlooking the Strait of Salamis; in modern times it is on the west.
Salamis island is known for the Battle of Salamis, the decisive naval victory of the allied Greek fleet, led by Themistocles, over the Persian Empire in 480 BC. It is said to be the birthplace of Ajax and Euripides, the latter’s birth being popularly placed on the day of the battle. In modern times, it is home to Salamis Naval Base, headquarters for the Hellenic Navy.
The oldest known counting board was discovered on Salamis Island in 1899. It is thought to have been used by the Babylonians in about 300 BC and is more of a gaming board rather than a calculating device. It is marble, about 150 x 75 x 4.5 cm (2 in), and has carved Greek symbols and parallel grooves.
During the German invasion of Greece in World War II, the harbor was bombed by the Luftwaffe on April 23, 1941, sinking the Greek battleships Kilkis and Lemnos.