A Tribute to Womanhood
Welcome to "I Am Woman"...a tribute to all those women who had the courage and perseverance to stand up and fight for their rights. Thanks to those who came before us we enjoy a freedom unknown to women not too long ago. But, sadly, in many parts of the world, women continue to be repressed. In fact, even in this country there are women living today under the threat of violence...completely controlled by a violent spouse. Some may make it; others won't. Hopefully, one day ALL women will be free. May that day come soon.
(A brilliant military strategist and commander who advised Xerxes I during the Persian Wars)
She was born in the late 6th century b.c.e.in Haaalicarnassus, a Greek state on the west coast of what is now Turkey; the exact date of her birth is not known. She was the daughter of Lygdamus and a Cretan woman whose name is unknown but it is believed she came from Crete. Artemisia was named after the Goddess Artemis, and she is the only woman that the historian, Herodotus attributes with the virtue of courage...and almost impossible quality for a women to possess in those days.
She married the King of Halicarnassus in about 500 B.c. just prior to the Ionian Revolt that helped trigger the war between Greece and Persia. When her husband, whose name has been lost to history, died, only a few years later, and although women were not the ideal choice as ruler, Artemisia took the throne herself upon his death. Persian cities preferred for their rulers to be men, but she was not your typical woman, and when the Persian king, Xerxes invaded Greece, one of his allies was Artemisia who joined him with five warships.
Her major claim occurred during the naval engagement of Salamis when the Persian and Greek navies met in a decisive battle. Now, prior to the fight, Artemisia had against a naval battle and argued that he would lose his fleet, but Xerxes chose to follow the advice of chief admirals; then, on September 20, 480 b.c.e., the Persians met the Greeks on the sea in the channel of Salamis. Artemisia herself was aboard one of her ships, commanding their movements. The Greeks shattered the Persian attack, and Artemisia managed to escape with the Greeks bearing down on her ship...her escape route blocked by a confused melee of ships.
She realized now that the cause was lost and that it was time to look for her own survival, so she planned her escape. Suddenly, Artemisia's ship picked up speed and headed straight for the other ships; if a collision was inevitable, she was going to make sure it was on her terms. At full speed, she rammed her ship into into one of the Persian ships. It was recorded that Xerxes, watching from the beach, thought that she had destroyed an enemy ship, praised her for her bravery, and, on the other hand, the Athenians stopped chasing her because her action had convinced them that she was one of their allies.
In an era where the dominant culture limited the role of women to wife and mother, Artemisia not only successfully ruled a kingdom, but also led troops in battle. And, although we know nothing of her death, the very fact that her grandson later ruled Halicarnassus, suggests that her rule was stable. It is so sad that far too often historians have tended to generalize about the role of women in the ancient world, but the accounts of Artemisia serve to show that exceptional women could attain and hold power.