Monday, 28 April 2014

Women Warriors - Artemesia

I think I first found out about the Battle of Salamis from a children's encyclopaedia called The Living World of History - lots of full colour pictures, in this case of triremes crashing into each other in exciting fashion. There was the Oracle at Delphi giving the Athenians advice about how they should defend themselves against the Persians with the cryptic phrase "Put your faith in the wooden walls!" Some Athenians decided this meant barricades, but Themistocles realised that he needed to defeat the Persian fleet.
On land, the 300 Spartans fought and died at Thermopylae - and in Hollywood, someone decided that there ought to be a sequel to the film 300, and set the wheels in motion to produce one. I haven't seen it yet, but I was surprised when I heard that there was a major part for a woman in it. Although I'd known about the Battle of Salamis since I was about ten, I don't think I'd ever come across any mention of Queen Artemesia.
She brought five ships from Kos and Halicarnassus - the Turkish city which is now called Bodrum, but at the time was part of the Greek world. I lived on Kos for almost a year, and took tourists across to Bodrum on the ferry once a week in the holiday season, which meant that I learned a bit about the history - for instance, Alexander the Great passed through, and so many people gathered to see him that a bridge collapsed and killed some of them. The only queen I heard about was the widow of Mausolus, for whom the Mausoleum was built - the ruins of it are open to the public, though most of the stone was taken after an earthquake to build the Crusader castle on the harbour. Nobody talked about Artemesia.
Perhaps it was because she brought her five ships onto the Persian side of the battle....

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