Little is known about what happened to Artemisia I of Caria after her successful battle at Salamis.
Did she disappear protecting King Xerxes children or die by her own hands? Should we care what happened to her in 480 B.C.? A resounding yes for one simple reason: history matters because it has the power to show us where we’ve been and to shape where we are headed.
Yesterday we met Artemisia, another warrior woman like Ching Shih or Queen Ka’ahumanu. What happened to her after the Battle of Salamis is a mystery. Perhaps, she secretly became the King’s counsel or trained men in strategic naval warfare? Or what if her advice changed the course of Persian history? Conversely, what if she was killed because she was a woman and threatened the male status quo?
Our understanding of Artemisia’s life matters because it matters we should respect all life but also because her recognized achievements shape the context of our perspectives and the legacy of change that follows.
For example, we know Artemisia withdrew from Greece after King Xerxes agreed that a prolonged battle with the Greeks would be a losing one.
But Artemisia’s unique legacy as a woman willing to stand apart from the crowd was important because she challenged the advice of other officers and did so as the only woman in a sea of men.
One historical account suggests Artemisia was asked to escort Xerxes’ illegitimate children to safety in Ephesus, but sadly, the account ends there. Did Artemisia suddenly disappear or was she murdered because she had exercised more manliness than the other naval officers and shamed the other men? Don’t forget it was King Xerxes who said, “My men have turned into women and my women into men!”
Another contradictory account suggests Artemisia committed suicide after falling in love with a younger man. Finding her love unrequited, she killed herself in anguish. Does this fit with what we know about her character? A scene in the 2014 movie, 300: Rise of an Empire, shows Artemisia surrounded by her attackers and cleverly outwitting them by raising a Greek or Persian flag (whichever was needed) and fooling them into thinking she was fighting alongside them.
There is nothing to prove or disprove either of these theories but we know, according to Herodotus, that the Greeks offered a reward of 10,000 drachmas for Artemisia’s capture.
Fortunately, her story lives on and she is remembered as one of the most powerful Persian women in history.
Artemisia’s leadership and survival instincts are not unlike this week’s modern woman making history, Shermin Kruse. You’ll meet Shermin tomorrow, another warrior woman. In her 2014 book, Butterfly Stitching, Shermin Nahid Kruse traces the lives of a mother and daughter in Iran from the time of the Shah to present day in the United States.
Shermin uses these stories to vividly reflect the drastically changing roles of women throughout this tumultuous time, and we are quickly immersed in the intricately woven journey of their family. In this mesmerizing narrative, Kruse provides a sensitive exploration of the evolving Iranian culture set against the poetry that Shermin began writing as a child in Iran and in the aftermath of the revolution and the Iran-Iraq war.
You can purchase Shermin’s celebrated book, Butterfly Stitching by clicking here on WomanScape. If you’re shopping early for meaningful gifts as the holidays draw near, consider wrapping another book for a friend in this beautiful Persian art scarf. It’s a Parsi Eshgh Miniature Shawl By Mahmoud Farshchian that comes in four colors, with love poetry scrolled on the back.
But if you’re looking for something a little larger and warmer, this DANA XU Pure Wool Women Winter Large Scarf Pashmina Shawl (96”x43”) is made of lambswool and sure to keep you warm.