Artemisia II of Caria Ἀρτεμισία Artemisia was a commander and naval strategist, sister and wife of Mausolus, ruler of Caria in the Achaemenid Empire. She ruled Caria for two years after his death, succeeding him as satrap, before some of the coastal cities and islands in the Achaemenid Empire revolted against her, on the basis […]
Artemisia II of Caria
Artemisia was a commander and naval strategist, sister and wife of Mausolus, ruler of Caria in the Achaemenid Empire.
She ruled Caria for two years after his death, succeeding him as satrap, before some of the coastal cities and islands in the Achaemenid Empire revolted against her, on the basis of her being a woman. She successfully led her fleet against the one sent by Rhodes, managed to capture their ships without damage and then proceeded to send them back, filled with her men, to capture the island.
Another clever piece of warfare she’s famous for, is narrated by Polyaenus in his Stratagems: wanting to conquer Latmus, a naturally well-protected city between Muğla and Aydın in current Turkey, she organized a great ceremony and lured the inhabitants out to see the show, while her soldiers took the chance to enter the city and conquer it.
According to what Pliny writes in his Natural History, she also was a botanist and the plant Artemisia, used to cure malaria, owes its name to her and was previously called parthenis.
The thing she’s most famous for, however, is her extraordinary grief for her brother and husband, from which the word Mausoleum comes.
When Mausolus died, she called to build an extraordinary monument in his honour at Halicarnassus, a building that would become one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. She also indicted a competition among rethors to see who would be most fit to deliver a eulogy and, amongst them, there were Theodectes, a tragic poet from Lycia, and Theopompus, a historian. It is said that the latter won the competition and later bragged about being better than his master Isocrates. At which point, at least according to Mademoiselle de Scudéry, Artemisia proceeds to call for Isocrates himself.
Her other famous deed, for which she’s often portrayed in art, is the slow poisoning she prepared for herself: she mixed his husband and brother’s ashes into her drink and slowly consumed them daily until she finally died.
This act caught the imagination of many artists: Giovanni Boccaccio dedicates her chapter 57 of his Mulieribus Claris (famous women) and defines her «a lasting example of chaste widowhood and of the purest and rarest kind of love».
Mademoiselle De Scudery has her writing to Isocrates and the effect she imagines for her letter is that the virtuous queen obtains what she wants: for Isocrates and Theopompe to speak at Mausolus’ funeral.
Toy par qui l’Architecte employé tant de veilles,
Lors que ton cher Époux se vit privé du jour;
L’on met ton Mausolée, au nombre des merveilles,
Mais pour moy, j’y mets ton amour.
Tomorrow we’ll see her in some more paintings.