Artemesia I of Cara – Greek Queen and Persian Ally
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In an era of far more rigid gender roles than we have today, Artemisia I stands out as a ruler, military strategist and political thinker. Artemisia I ascended to the throne after the death of her husband. After her 484 BC coronation, she ruled Halicarnassus for 24 years. Earning the respect of her contemporaries, including the Persian King Xerxes I, and the famed Greek historian Herodotus, Artemisia I fought for the Persians at the Battle of Artemisium and at the Battle of Salamis.
About Artemisia I
Artemisia I was born around 520 BC into a politically connected family. Her Carian-Greek father, Lygdamis I, governed Halicarnassus, located in what is today Turkey. Her mother was from Crete. History has long forgotten the name of the husband whose throne Artemisia I rose to, but she is among the most famed of the Halicarnassus rulers.
She was even mentioned in the Suda, a 10th-century Byzantine encyclopedia cataloging ancient history. Artemisia I was a key element in the ability of the Lygdamid dynasty to continue and make its mark on history. When her husband died, her son Pisindelis was too young to successfully take and keep the throne, but Artemisia I’s political savvy and strength ensured that her son had a throne to inherit.
Even more unusual than being a female ruler in a period of time when that was rare, Artemisia I was also a hands-on naval commander. Artemisia I personally commanded the five battle ships she brought to the battles of Artemisium and Salamis. She played an active role in both strategy and battle, impressing friend and foe alike with her courage and skill.
Fighting for Persia, under King Xerxes I and against the Greeks, unsurprisingly, she was the only female commander on either side. The Greeks, insulted by Xeres I sending a woman to fight them, offered 10,000 drachmas for her capture.
The Persian King Xerxes I publicly acknowledged Artemisia I’s bravery and skill on several occasions. In one instance, he rewarded her with a complete suit of Greek armor, while gifting the captain of her ship a distaff and spindle, traditionally women’s tools used in the spinning of thread for the making of cloth.
While he was often pleased with her valor, he was less pleased with his men for not performing as well as she did. Artemisia I earned respect, so much that, according to Herodotus, even Xerxes I sought her military and political advice. Xerxes I valued her intelligence, loyalty and reliability so much he entrusted her with the care of his illegitimate sons.
Numerous ancient historians recorded her parts of her history. Even today, her name is still known. While the Persians as a kingdom no longer exist, one of the modern countries that took their place, Iran, named a naval ship, a destroyer, after her. Gore Vidal has written about her and movies have been made featuring her as a character. Artemisia I’s fame lives on.
Categorized in: Ancient Greek History
This post was written by Greek Boston