Artemisia I of Caria

Coinage of Kaunos, Caria, during Artemisia’s reign (470-450BC). Image Credit: Classical Numismatic Group, Inc.

By Gabby Storey

Artemisia I, (5th century BC),  was queen of Halicarnassus (c. 484-460), a Greco-Carian city state in the ancient district of Caria, in what is now southwest Turkey, and of the nearby islands of Cos, Calymnos, and Nisyrus about 480 BCE.

Artemisia ruled during the overlordship of the Persian king Xerxes (reigned 486–465) and participated in Xerxes’ invasion of Greece (480–479) as an ally.  Despite her able command of five ships in the major naval battle with the Greeks off the island of Salamis near Athens, the Persian fleet suffered a severe defeat. According to Herodotus, Xerxes held Artemisia in great esteem and valued her advice in military affairs. After Salamis, when Xerxes had the choice to advance in Greece or retreat, he agreed with Artemisia’s advice to retreat to Asia Minor. 

Wilhelm von Kaulbach, Artemisia, Queen of Halicarnassus, and commander of the Carian contingent, shooting arrows at the Greeks at the Battle of Salamis (1868)

The last we know of Artemisia’s interactions with Xerxes is from Herodotus, whereby he asks her to conduct his illegitimate sons to Ephseus. Artemisia is known to have one son, Pisindelis, who succeeded her as ruler. The circumstances of her death are unknown, although according to legend she died after jumping from a rock in Cape Lefkada, having been told by an oracle it would cure her of her love for a man named Dardanus.

Recommended Reading

Herodotus, The Histories ed. and trans. Robin Waterfield (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008)

Joyce E. Salisbury, Encyclopedia of Women in the Ancient World (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2001).

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