Coin with profile

Coin with profile

Artemisia of Caria (Ancient Greece, c. 480 BCE) was the daughter of the king of Halicarnassus, Lygdamis I, and a Cretan woman whose name is unknown. After the death of her husband, she took the throne as regent because her son was not yet of an age to rule. As queen, Artemisia was infamous for aiding the Persian emperor, Xerxes, in a war campaign against many Greek city-states.

Artemisia commandeered fleets of ships for the benefit of Xerxes, as she was a skilled naval commander and tactician. As Xerxes had managed to get an extremely large number of soldiers for his campaign, it wasn’t necessary that Artemisia fight. The decision to fight for and aid Xerxes was therefore her own. Due to her victories in naval battles against the Athenians, a large price was placed on Artemisia’s head to bring her to heel. Her performance garnered the admiration of Herodotus, an Athenian captain who extolled Artemisia in his accounts of the few battles in which he had faced her. Although he was her enemy, he respected her courage and her status as a strategist. During the battles, she used disguise maneuvers and tactics. Her ship carried the standard of both Persia and Greece. When she was giving chase, she would hoist her Persian flag. When she was being chased, she would hoist her Greek flag, in order to make the other ship cease its pursuit of her. This worked many a time, and she used it to her advantage. Xerxes’s forces suffered a great loss at the Battle of Salamis, and the Persians were defeated. Mardonius, another Persian tactician, suggested that he remain behind with 300,000 in order to subdue the Greeks, while Xerxes and the rest of the naval force returned to Hellespont (where they had other forces waiting). In order to come to a conclusion, Xerxes asked Artemisia’s advice. She said that he should take Mardonius’s plan as the other man’s achievement would be Xerxes’s achievement in the end. And in the case that it should fail, Xerxes would not be in danger nor at fault.

In order to honor her, Xerxes sent her a suit of Greek armor and heralded her as a fine strategist.

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