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Andros

Born: 512 BC

Died: 440 BC

City/region: Island of Samos

Affiliation: Greek

Occupation: Shoe maker, Armour craftsman, professional soldier.

Following the Persian conquest of Samos in 517 BC, it was added to the Achaemenid empire and resettled. One of the new citizens was Athenagoras of Ephesus, an artisan who made shoes. He was married to Apollonia and shortly after arriving in 512 BC they had a son, Andros.

Andros was taught the family trade by his father, but struggled to attain the same level of skill. It would be fair to say that his attempts were more functional than desirable.

In 499 BC, when Andros was just 13 years of age, Samos joined the Ionian revolt. In the race to build up their navy there was a great demand for equipment and Andros began making linothorax armour. In this craft functionality won out over style, and there were riches to be made. Over the next couple of years Andros became very skilled in this trade and by early 495 BC, when he was just 17 years of age, he was living a very comfy lifestyle.

So comfortable that he could afford to take a pilgrimage to Delphi, where he was struck by one of the legends inscribed on the wall in ancient Doric: ‘Alongside a pledge often comes disaster.’ This had a great impression on young Andros, who saw it as a timely message from the gods telling him to be very careful about what he committed himself to.

When he returned to Samos he took up arms and, thinking that fighting on land was a sure route to personal harm if a battle was to ensue, contrived to serve as a marine instead. Despite his youth, his skill in armour making ensured him a position aboard the Zeus, a trireme with a compliment of 170 oarsmen, 12 marines and 4 archers hired from Scythia. This seemed to be a good move until, just one year later in 494 BC, he found himself with the Samian fleet alongside Ionian allies, just off the island of Lade.

The Ionians had amassed 353 vessels from the various Ionian states and this was, indeed, a mighty fleet. However they faced some 600 Persian vessels and the mood amongst the Ionians was not good.

Morale was particularly bad on the ships from Samos, with a strong feeling that this would be a one-sided battle and they were on the wrong side! The Persians offered quarter if ships withdrew, and after consideration by the various ships’ captains (influenced, no doubt, by the exhortations of the crew, of which Andros was a particularly vociferous contributor) the Samos fleet decided to withdraw. This signalled a mass withdrawal by first the Lesbos fleet and then a string of other vessels.

For Andros, however, this did not quite go to plan. Eleven of the Samian triremes elected to honour their pledge to fight and the Zeus was one of them. As most of the Samian ships sailed out into the Aegean, Andros, the Delphic words ringing in his head, took up position with his fellow marines on the fighting deck of the Zeus as it headed towards the nearest Persian ship at ramming speed.

The Zeus acquitted itself well and the young Andros discovered he was capable in the art of fighting, but the battle was short. After attacking and sinking the first Persian ship, they fared less well against the second, and Andros found himself clinging to a piece of wreckage heading for the deserted shore.

He and a handful of other survivors eventually made it to the mainland, where they planned to make for home and so headed north. However, along the way they discovered that Samos had surrendered to the Persians and made the traditional gift of earth and water, so they decided to head for Zankle instead. A number of fellow citizens had already fled to this Greek colony in the northeast of Sicily, where they were assisted by the tyant of Rhegium. It also had the advantage of being the other side of the Mediterranean from Persia.

Their route took them via Naxos, arriving in 490 BC only two days ahead of the Persian army. Destitute by this time and unable to get off the island, they offered their services and thus fought alongside the Naxians as the Persians landed. This did not go well, and Andros narrowly escaped enslavement by boarding a fishing vessel heading north for Eretria.

This seemed like a good idea at the time, but the Persians were following close behind. History repeated itself when Andros arrived and soon after found himself fighting alongside the Eretrians in a brutal and ultimately costly 6 day campaign. He again escaped, this time to mainland Greece, accompanied by a collection of refugees of both Greek and Scythian descent. Exhausted, demoralised and virtually poverty stricken, their only option was to offer their martial skills for hire. They spent the next 10 years after the Persians were defeated at Marathon wandering the Greek mainland, fighting for whoever would pay in petty squabbles between states.

But by 480 the Persian army was again on the march, this time under Xerxes seeking vengeance for his father’s defeat. Andros, now 32, together with a few of his remaining companions, happened to be in Magara as they were preparing their fleet for war. Enlisting again as a marine he very quickly found himself facing the Persian fleet at the battle of Artemesium and, one month later, at Salamis. This time his ship did not sink and Andros served with some distinction, on one occasion being the first aboard a rammed Persian vessel.

Andros’ decision to serve aboad this ship turned out to be fortunate in more ways than one. After their decisive victory at Salamis it was one of those that crossed the Aegean with the Athenian fleet in pursuit of the retreating Persians, with the objective of recovering Samos. On discovering that the Persians had fled the island, they sailed to the mainland and found them prepared for battle at Mycale. Andros was deployed alongside the Athenian hoplites, now promoted to ouragos, an experienced soldier placed at the back of a file to keep order. This time on native soil fighting for his home, victory ensued.

After the battle Andros settled once again in Samos. He tried to make a living by following his old trade, but sadly his building skills had not improved. Also after so many years of adventure he found it difficult to settle down. But with all the infighting between the member states of the Delian League, there was plenty of work for a professional soldier, and Andros eventually returned to his true calling as a sword for hire. This sent him travelling once again around the Aegean, and in 458 at the ripe old age of 54, with a pronounced limp and more aches and scars than he would care to discuss, he again found himself in Megara fighting for the Athenians, this time against the Corinthians. Afterwards he went to work for the Athenian navy helping to train marines.

But history had a nasty way of repeating itself for Andros.  In 450 BC at 62 years old he was back at Salamis, and once again facing the Persians. A resounding victory for Athens but an engagement that left Andros with yet more scars and a realisation that war was a young man’s profession.

He returend to Samos with just enough spoils to live a comfortable life, but the old saying on the wall at Delphi came back to haunt him when Samos itself revolted against Athens in 440 BC. Now 72, Andros made one last commitment and offered his services. He was never heard of again. His only legacy is his name inscribed on a monument raised in Samos following the battle of Lade in 494BC, honouring citizens who did not run at the sight of the Persian fleet.

 

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