Artemisia I

Queen of Halicarnassus, Artemisia ruled during the overlordship of the Persian king Xerxes (reigned 486–465) and participated in Xerxes’ invasion of Greece (480–479). Despite her able command of five ships in the major naval battle with the Greeks off the island of Salamis near Athens, the Persian fleet suffered a severe defeat.

She was a clever tactician.  Wikipedia gives the details:

An Athenian ship pursued Artemisia’s ship.  She was not able to escape because in front of her were friendly ships. She ordered the Persian colors to be taken down and then charged a friendly ship on which was King Damasithymos.  In a bit of a twist, it is noted that Artemisia had previously had some disagreement with this king. (I’m hoping it was an argument about military tactics.)  Herodotus says “I am not able to say whether she did this by intention, or whether the Calyndian ship happened by chance to fall in her way.”  King Damasithymos died when his ship sank.

When the captain of the Athenian ship, Ameinias, saw her charge against a Persian ship, he turned his ship away and went after others, supposing that the ship of Artemisia was either a Greek ship or was deserting from the Persians and fighting for the Greeks.

Herodotus believed that Ameinias didn’t know that Artemisia was on the ship, because otherwise he would not have ceased his pursuit until either he had captured her or had been captured himself, because “orders had been given to the Athenian captains, and moreover a prize was offered of ten thousand drachmas for the man who should take her alive; since they thought it intolerable that a woman should make an expedition against Athens.”

Polyaenus in his work Stratagems says that Artemisia had in her ship two different standards. When she chased a Greek ship, she hoisted the Persian colors. But when she was chased by a Greek ship, she hoisted the Greek colors, so that the enemy might mistake her for a Greek and give up the pursuit.

Polyaenus also tells the story of how she conquered Latmus.  She placed soldiers in ambush near the city and she, with women, eunuchs and musicians, celebrated a sacrifice at the grove of the Mother of the Gods, which was about seven stades distant from the city. (A stade, from which we get the word “stadium,” is about 600 feet.)  When the inhabitants of Latmus came out to see the magnificent procession, the soldiers entered the city and took possession of it.

Sun Tzu’s Art of War is a popular book with business owners and managers, but I wonder if Stratagems would be just as interesting and useful.


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