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Artemisia (in Greek Αρτεμισία) was the daughter of Lygdamis and was set up as the tyrant of Halicarnassus by the Persians, who were at the time the overlords of Ionia, after the death of her husband. According to Herodotus (History Books 7 and 8) Artemisia was of Halicarnassian stock on her father's side and Cretan on her mother's. [1]

She participated in the Battle of Salamis in 480 BC as a Persian ally commanding five ships. At one point in the battle, as she was about to be captured by the Greeks, she rammed and sunk a Persian ship, causing the Greeks to spare her life as they believed she had defected to the Greek side.

She escaped back to the Persians, where, according to Herodotus, the Persian king Xerxes declared “My men [the Persians] have turned into women and my women [Artemisia] into men!” Herodotus had a favourable opinion of her, despite her support of Persia, probably because he was also from Halicarnassus. Artemisia convinced Xerxes to retreat back to Asia Minor after the defeat at Salamis, contrary to the advice of Mardonius, who wanted Xerxes to stay. Xerxes then sent her to Ephesus to take care of his sons. She was also said to have fallen in love with a man named Dardanus, and when he ignored her she jumped to her death into the Aegean Sea from Leucas.

References

  • Herodotus, The Histories, trans. Aubrey de Sélincourt, Penguin Books, 1954.
  • Nancy Demand, A History of Ancient Greece, McGraw-Hill, 1996.

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