Queens of Caria

Three powerful female rulers who challenged the norms of their time

by Ros Woodham
Words Edel Cassidy

In the ancient region of Caria, now part of modern-day Türkiye, three exceptional queens had a lasting impact on history and were instrumental in shaping the destiny of their kingdoms. They serve as a reminder that powerful and capable female leaders have existed throughout history, leaving a legacy of strength and resilience.   

Ancient painting detail depicting a female leader
Artemisia at the Battle of Salamis, 1868, detail, Wilhelm von Kaulbach. Maximilianeum Foundation, Munich. Oil on canvas.

Queen Artemisia I

Artemisia I was the queen of Halicarnassus (now known as Bodrum), a powerful and wealthy city-state in Caria. She ruled during the mid-5th century BC and was known for her exceptional leadership during the Greco-Persian Wars. 

Her father, Lygdamis I, tried to maintain an all-male line of succession by passing power to Artemisia’s husband after his death. However, her husband died a short time into his reign and Artemisia claimed the throne. 

She played a significant role in the naval Battle of Salamis (480 BC), where she fought alongside the Persian forces. Her strategic acumen and courage earned her praise, even from her adversaries. According to historical accounts, the Persian king Xerxes considered her one of his most trusted advisors.

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