Ancient History

Full Texts Legal Texts Additions Search Help

Studying History Human Origins Mesopotamia Egypt Persia Israel Greece Hellenistic World Rome Late Antiquity Christian Origins
IHSP Credits

Ancient History Sourcebook:
Artemisia at Salamis, 480 BCE

VII.99: Of the other lower officers I shall make no mention, since no necessity is laid on me; but I must speak of a certain leader named Artemisia, whose participation in the attack upon Hellas, notwithstanding that she was a woman, moves my special wonder. She had obtained the sovereign power after the death of her husband; and, though she had now a son grown up, yet her brave spirit and manly daring sent her forth to the war, when no need required her to adventure. Her name, as I said, was Artemisia, and she was the daughter of Lygdamis; by race she was on his side a Halicarnassian, though by her mother a Cretan. She ruled over the Halicarnassians, the men of Cos, of Nisyrus, and of Calydna; and the five triremes which she furnished to the Persians were, next to the Sidonian, the most famous ships in the fleet. She likewise gave to Xerxes sounder counsel than any of his other allies. Now the cities over which I have mentioned that she bore sway were one and all Dorian; for the Halicarnassians were colonists from Troizen, while the remainder were from Epidauros. Thus much concerning the sea-force.

VIII.68: Mardonius accordingly went round the entire assemblage, beginning with the Sidonian monarch, and asked this question; to which all gave the same answer, advising to engage the Hellenes, except only Artemisia, who spoke as follows:

"Say to the king, Mardonius, that these are my words to him: I was not the least brave of those who fought at Euboia, nor were my achievements there among the meanest; it is my right, therefore, O my lord, to tell you plainly what I think to be most for your advantage now. This then is my advice:

"Spare your ships, and do not risk a battle; for these people are as much superior to your people in seamanship, as men to women. What so great need is there for you to incur hazard at sea? Are you not master of Athens, for which you did undertake your expedition? Is not Hellas subject to you? Not a soul now resists your advance. They who once resisted, were handled even as they deserved. Now learn how I expect that affairs will go with your adversaries. If you are not over-hasty to engage with them by sea, but will keep your fleet near the land, then whether you stay as you are, or march forward towards the Peloponnesos, you will easily accomplish all for which you are come here. The Hellenes cannot hold out against you very long; you will soon part them asunder, and scatter them to their several homes. In the island where they lie, I hear they have no food in store; nor is it likely, if your land force begins its march towards the Peloponnesos, that they will remain quietly where they are---at least such as come from that region. Of a surety they will not greatly trouble themselves to give battle on behalf of the Athenians. On the other hand, if you are hasty to fight, I tremble lest the defeat of your sea force bring harm likewise to your land army. This, too, you should remember, O king; good masters are apt to have bad servants, and bad masters good ones. Now, as you are the best of men, your servants must needs be a sorry set. These Egyptians, Cyprians, Cilicians, and Pamphylians, who are counted in the number of your subject-allies, of how little service are they to you!"

VIII.69: As Artemisia spoke, they who wished her well were greatly troubled concerning her words, thinking that she would suffer some hurt at the king's hands, because she exhorted him not to risk a battle; they, on the other hand, who disliked and envied her, favored as she was by the king above all the rest of the allies, rejoiced at her declaration, expecting that her life would be the forfeit. But Xerxes, when the words of the several speakers were reported to him, was pleased beyond all others with the reply of Artemisia; and whereas, even before this, he had always esteemed her much, he now praised her more than ever. Nevertheless, he gave orders that the advice of the greater number should be followed; for he thought that at Euboia the fleet had not done its best, because he himself was not there to see---whereas this time he resolved that he would be an eye-witness of the combat.

VIII.87: What part the several nations, whether Hellene or barbarian, took in the combat, I am not able to say for certain; Artemisia, however, I know, distinguished herself in such a way as raised her even higher than she stood before in the esteem of the king. For after confusion had spread throughout the whole of the king's fleet, and her ship was closely pursued by an Athenian trireme, she, having no way to fly, since in front of her were a number of friendly vessels, and she was nearest of all the Persians to the enemy, resolved on a measure which in fact proved her safety. Pressed by the Athenian pursuer, she bore straight against one of the ships of her own party, a Calyndian, which had Damasiyourmus, the Calyndian king, himself on board. I cannot say whether she had had any quarrel with the man while the fleet was at the Hellespont, or no---neither can I decide whether she of set purpose attacked his vessel, or whether it merely chanced that the Calyndian ship came in her way---but certain it is that she bore down upon his vessel and sank it, and that thereby she had the good fortune to procure herself a double advantage. For the commander of the Athenian trireme, when he saw her bear down on one of the enemy's fleet, thought immediately that her vessel was a Hellene, or else had deserted from the Persians, and was now fighting on the Hellene side; he therefore gave up the chase, and turned away to attack others.

VIII.88: Thus in the first place she saved her life by the action, and was enabled to get clear off from the battle; while further, it fell out that in the very act of doing the king an injury she raised herself to a greater height than ever in his esteem. For as Xerxes beheld the fight, he remarked (it is said) the destruction of the vessel, whereupon the bystanders observed to him--- "See, master, how well Artemisia fights, and how she has just sunk a ship of the enemy?" Then Xerxes asked if it were really Artemisia's doing; and they answered, "Certainly; for they knew her ensign"---while all made sure that the sunken vessel belonged to the opposite side. Everything, it is said, conspired to prosper the queen---it was especially fortunate for her that not one of those on board the Calyndian ship survived to become her accuser. Xerxes, they say, in reply to the remarks made to him, observed: "My men have behaved like women, my women like men!"


From: Herodotus, The History, George Rawlinson, trans., (New York: Dutton & Co., 1862).

Scanned by: J. S. Arkenberg, Dept. of History, Cal. State Fullerton. Prof. Arkenberg has modernized the text.

This text is part of the Internet Ancient History Sourcebook. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the document is copyright. Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal use. No representation is made about texts which are linked off-site, although in most cases these are also public domain. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source. No permission is granted for commercial use.

© Paul Halsall, August 1998

The Internet History Sourcebooks Project is located at the History Department of  Fordham University, New York. The Internet Medieval Sourcebook, and other medieval components of the project, are located at the Fordham University Center for Medieval Studies.The IHSP recognizes the contribution of Fordham University, the Fordham University History Department, and the Fordham Center for Medieval Studies in providing web space and server support for the project. The IHSP is a project independent of Fordham University.  Although the IHSP seeks to follow all applicable copyright law, Fordham University is not the institutional owner, and is not liable as the result of any legal action.

© Site Concept and Design: Paul Halsall created 26 Jan 1996: latest revision 12 April 2019 [Curriculum vitae]