Sunday, June 22, 2008


Queen of Halicarnassus

Named after Artemis, the Goddess of Hunting, Artmesia was the daughter of Lygdamis, a wealthy Greek Halicarnassian and a Cretan mother.

After the death of her husband and till her young son was old enough to rule in his own right, Artemisia was Queen-Regent of Halicarnassus (modern day Turkish Bodrum). Though a culturally Greek kingdom, Harlicarnassus lay within the bounds of the great Persian Empire and thus owed allegiance to Xerxes. As a vassal of Persia, Artemisia was obliged to recruit her own small force when Xerxes invaded Greece (c480 BC) - in fact, Artemisia commanded five ships in her own right.

Artemisia alone of his commanders, advised Xerxes against a naval battle with the Greeks. But Xerxes, however, chose to follow the advice of his male advisors, and met the Greeks on the sea in the channel of Salamis> on 20th September 480 BC. Artemisia was not an idle spectator, she was actually aboard one of her ships, commanding their movements. After the initial confusion, the Persians took the offensive.

Though she only had one ship left, Artemisia herself disabled the ship of King Damasithymus of Calynda, with whom she may have had a personal grudge. Artemisia was so successful on the sea that the Athenians offered a prize of 10,000 drachma to any who captured her - not necessarily alive, for she embodied the spirit of the Amazons, whom the Greeks had defeated once before. Although the victor, Xerxes wanted to end the war with the Greeks, but foremost he wanted to save face.

At a council, Artmesia spoke her mind - she had opposed the war from the beginning and opposed its continuation. Artemisia advised Xerxes to leave his trusted commander Mardonus to pursue the Greeks whilst Xerxes himself return home. He would still maintain his dignity, whether in victory or defeat. For her wisdom, Xerxes entrusted Artemisia with the care on his sons, and returned home to a kingdom racked by rebellion and conspiracy, to which he ultimately became a victim.

Artemisia is said to have returned to Halicarnassus and ruled till her own son was of age, her kingdom prospering from her good relations with Persia. Artemisia's popularity and fame was such that many of the wives of the Kings of Halicarnassus were named after her till well into the 4th century BC.

1 comment:

coinman said...

Good post. Artemisia was a great women.