Artemisia II (c. 395–351 BCE)

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Artemisia II (c. 395–351 bce)

Carian daughter of Hekatomnus, who was a devoted wife, co-ruler, and the primary patron behind the construction of the Mausoleum—one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. Pronunciation: Ar-te-MIS-i-a. Born around 395; died in 351 bce; oldest daughter and perhaps primary heir of Hekatomnus (Hekatomnos), the first Carian to rule over his native land as a satrap of the Persian Empire; sister of Ada (c. 380–323 bce), Idreus, and Pixodarus; married her full-brother, Mausolus, around 377 bce.

Artemisia helped to secure her family's claim to a more independent Caria, albeit without breaking away from the Persian Empire. With her husband, she helped to frustrate the renewal of the Athenian imperial vision, which took concrete form in the Second Delian Confederacy. After Mausolus' death (353 bce),Artemisia devoted the rest of her life to glorifying his memory. The primary vehicle for this glorification came in the form of the "Mausoleum," a burial compound so large and magnificent that it became one of the most common tourist destinations in the ancient world. So grandiose and bold were the design and decoration of the Mausoleum, that it came to be incorporated into the ancient world's seven acknowledged wonders. Artemisia died of grief over the loss of her husband in 351 bce, her reign as the lone satrap of Caria lasting but two years. When she died, her authority passed without incident to the joint reign of her brother and sister—respectively, Idrieus and Ada, who, like Mausolus and Artemisia, were husband and wife. These were followed on the satrapal throne of Caria by Pixodarus, the youngest of Artemisia's siblings.

Artemisia was the daughter of Hekatomnus, who was probably the first native-born Carian (a district in the southwestern part of modern-day Turkey) to be established by Artaxerxes II, the Great King (c. 392 bce), as the province's satrap (governor), under the authority of the Persian Empire. Before the promotion of Hekatomnus, Caria had been ruled by a Persian appointee of the Great King whose provincial capital had been maintained in the Lydian city of Sardis, to the north of Caria. Hekatomnus seems to have advanced to the position of satrap as a part of a general Persian reorganization of power throughout Anatolia in the late 390s.

So did Artemisia by flutes and cymbals possess for herself what she had in vain endeavored by force to obtain.

—Polyaenus 8.52.4

Artemisia probably was born shortly before her father's advancement, and certainly grew up in his capital of Mylasa at a provincial court, which not only paid political homage to the Persians, but which also was under the considerable cultural influence of the Greek world and concerned with the fluctuations of Hellenic inter-state relations. The Greeks had been established along the Anatolian seaboard long before the arrival of the Persians (c. 550 bce). Although these Greeks had known periods of freedom from the Persians in the 400s under the hegemonies of Athens and Sparta, by the time of Artemisia's birth, the Greeks who lived along the Carian shore had been politically subordinated by the Persians, and, hence, fell under Hekatomnus' authority.

Hekatomnus was a reliable servant of Persians until his death around 377–376 bce, when the mantel of Carian authority passed to his oldest son, Mausolus, who either at this time or shortly thereafter married Artemisia, his full-sister. Although contemporary political documents make it clear that Mausolus was the acknowledged political superior in this marriage, they also indicate that Artemisia wielded public authority at the side of her brother-husband to the extent that she was virtually his co-ruler. Several contemporary fiats and treaties concerned with both domestic and foreign affairs (fragments of which still exist in inscriptional form) make this collegiality manifest, for the public business therein documented was done so under the joint jurisdiction of both Mausolus and Artemisia, albeit with Mausolus clearly indicated as the senior partner. Mausolus and Artemisia are known to have had three (probably younger) siblings: two brothers, Idrieus and Pixodarus, and a sister, Ada . Duplicating the relationship of Mausolus and Artemisia, Idrieus married Ada.

When Mausolus married Artemisia, unions between full siblings were considered scandalous within the Greek world, and (although not unknown) unusual among non-Greeks as well. There is some justification for assuming that such marriages are indicative of a rare matrilineal tradition among the Carians, for anthropologists know of societies in which property (here an entire realm) is bequeathed not from father to son, but from mother to daughter. In many of these societies, the sons who have no legal claim to a family's legacy reclaim a portion of that legacy for themselves by marrying their sisters. Although our record for Caria is largely fragmentary, the mere fact that Caria had had a ruling queen (Artemisia I ) in the 5th century suggests that women both inherited property and participated in the public sphere to degrees virtually unheard of in the world of the Greek city-state. Whether or not Carian dynasts before Mausolus and Artemisia had engaged in brother-sister marriage is not known. However, even if such unions reflect an ancestral matrilineal system of inheritance, it is probable that in the 4th century brother-sister marriages were employed at least as much for contemporary reasons of policy as for tradition. That is, in the 4th century, beginning with the reign of Hekatomnus, the rulers of Caria were attempting to do two things simultaneously: first, they were attempting to establish their local control of Caria under the umbrella of the Persian Empire; and, second, as the family of Mausolus and Artemisia was establishing its unique claim to rule in Caria, family members did so in part by maintaining their uniqueness from every other family in the satrapy and beyond. As a result, exogamy (marriage outside of the group) potentially had its drawbacks, for any families related to the Hekatomnid by marriage would have had at least a share of the status that the Hekatomnids desired to hold exclusively.

By and large, the Persian Empire of the 4th century was feudal in its organization and, to a certain extent, decentralized. Individual satraps (provincial governors) usually had a great latitude to act without prior royal approval. They had as well the control of the necessary financial and human resources to do so successfully. Satraps minted coins and collected taxes (some of which stayed in their satrapies), employed mercenaries and occasionally marshalled armies of retainers to maintain order, enforced the law within their provinces, and even maintained diplomatic relations with states beyond the authority of the Great King of Persia. Nonetheless, the extent of their local powers occasionally induced rebellion among these middling potentates, especially if (a) their satrapies were distant from Persis (the heartland of the Persian Empire, located in modern Iran); (b) if affairs were keeping the Great King busy elsewhere; and/or (c) if the competency of the Great King was suspect.

Although Caria generally remained loyal to the rule of the contemporary Achaemenid kings of Persia (Artaxerxes II, 404–359 bce; Artaxerxes III, 359–338 bce), during Mausolus' and Artemisia's tenure in Caria (Mausolus 377–353 bce; Artemisia from the time of her marriage to Mausolus–351 bce), there were times when the domestic situation of the Persian Empire induced the ruling couple to test the political waters with an eye to establishing Carian independence. The first manifestation of unrest in Asia after the accession of Mausolus occurred in the late 370s when a Datames took possession of Cappadocia (a region of difficult access in what is now the east-central part of Turkey). In Cappadocia, Datames established a dynasty that successfully defied the efforts of the Great King to bring him to heel.

Such brazenness stimulated other breakaways, the second attested led by an Ariobarzanes, the satrap of Hellespotine Phrygia (in the northwest of modern Turkey) in the mid-360s. Mausolus, with other loyal allies, initially mobilized against Ariobarzanes at the command of his king, but broke off the campaign after having cut a deal with the Spartans, who supported Ariobarzanes' rebellion, which allowed Mausolus to recruit Greek mercenaries for his satrapal army. It was probably at this time that Mausolus became the xenos (special guest-friend) of Agesilaus, a king of the Spartans and long one of the Greek world's greatest generals and diplomats. Although Mausolus' rationale for breaking off his attack on the disloyal Ariobarzanes can only be guessed, it is nevertheless probable that he took the opportunity to strengthen his army with Greek recruits in the expectation that he might need a force loyal only to himself, as the Great King's control of Asia Minor appeared to be slipping. What Artemisia thought of this development is unknown, but it is likely that in this, as in virtually everything else, she was one with her husband.

A more serious breach between Artaxerxes II and the ruling couple occurred in the great "Satrap's Revolt" of 362, when Mausolus and Artemisia joined with Orontes (who was both the satrap of Armenia, abutting Cappadocia to the northeast and east, and a member of the Achaemenid royal family), Autophradates (the satrap of Lydia, between Hellespontine Phrygia and Caria, and an ally of Mausolus in the aborted campaign against Ariobarzanes), Datames, Ariobarzanes, and the Spartans in a war against the Great King. Less through military reprisals than through a deft manipulation of the maxim, "divide and conquer," this serious threat to the Persian sovereign was overcome when Artaxerxes drove a wedge between his individually ambitious (if momentarily united) underlings and thus destroyed their common revolt.

Mausolus and Artemisia—who perhaps only joined the revolt so as not to be left behind by their neighboring satraps if the uprising were successful—had been among the first to break ranks with the rebels and reconcile with Artaxerxes II. As a result, when the bubble of revolution burst and Artaxerxes' authority was completely reinstated throughout Asia, the Carian dynasts not only suffered no royal retribution for their flirtation with rebellion, but were actually both reaffirmed in their satrapy and allowed to expand their territorial authority at the expense of their neighbors. Thereafter, neither the loyalty of Mausolus nor Artemisia to the Persian king seems to have faltered, even after 357 bce when Artaxerxes II outlawed the maintenance of mercenary armies by his satraps.

Nonetheless, this was not the end of Mausolus' and Artemisia's diplomatic ambitions, although henceforth their initiatives generally were turned westward. To understand Carian policy after 357 bce in the west, however, it is important to chronologically retrace events to the very beginning of Mausolus' reign. The year 377 bce not only witnessed the elevation of Mausolus in Caria, it also marked an attempt by Athens to regain the glory of that city's past, which had been dealt a serious loss when Sparta won the great Peloponnesian War in 404 bce In short, in an effort to check the growing diplomatic and military arrogance of Sparta, in 377 Athens resurrected an alliance of Greek maritime states. Today this league is known as the "Second Delian Confederacy" to distinguish it from the previous Athenian-led union that Sparta had disbanded after its victory in 404. The very idea of an Athenian-led league, however, aroused anxieties in many states—including those Athens would have invited to join the new confederation—because the first such alliance, although initially a voluntary league formed to expel Persia from the Aegean, had all too quickly evolved into an "Athenian Empire," through which Athens had come to dominate its allies. Despite the nervousness a revived Delian League generated among those asked to join, many enlisted after taking precautions to limit Athens' ability to exploit the union, since Sparta was seen as a greater threat to local autonomy in the 370s than the Athens, which had been humbled and had requested a renewal of friendship.

Mausolus and Artemisia were among the non-members who were very worried by the resurgence of a Second Delian Confederation for, when the First Delian League had been strong, the Greek cities of the Anatolian coast, including those in Caria and currently under Mausolus' and Artemisia's authority, had been controlled by Athens. The implicit threat of a regeneration of Athenian imperial aspirations along the Carian coast seems to have led Mausolus and Artemis to take significant steps. The first of these saw the Carian capital moved from the interior city of Mylasa to the "refounded" and greatly enlarged coastal city of Halicarnassus. The second reaction was the construction of a 100-ship navy, which gave the Carian dynasts a fleet as large as that deployed by Athens. This large navy under the command of a Persian satrap seems to have been unprecedented, but it apparently was tolerated by the Great King since the defense of the Anatolian coast was in his interest as much as it was in the interest of Mausolus and Artemisia. Though the expansion of Carian authority along the coast came at the expense of neighboring Persian officials, again the Great King seemingly permitted this because the resulting naval power prevented the Athenians from adding the Greek cities of the Anatolian coast to their resurrected confederation.

Greater financial and military demands came upon the Second Delian Confederation with the rivalry for control of the eastern Aegean heating up and with Athens' ambitions in Europe. Although restraints had been built into the renewed alliance, ambitious Athenian politicians did what they could to scuttle these so that the old master-servant relationship could be restored. As time went on, alarm grew until this exploded into a rebellion, known today as the "Social" (from the Latin word socius, meaning "ally") War against the renewal of Athenian imperialism. In 357 bce, Byzantium, Chios, Cos, and Rhodes, prompted by Mausolus and Artemisia (who promised the requisite support against Athens), broke away from the Second Delian Confederation—effectively shattering it and destroying forever the imperial dreams of Athens. Perhaps the biggest winner in this conflict was Philip II of Macedon, who took advantage of the Athenian pre-occupation with maintaining control of its Delian League to establish himself firmly in Macedon, which, once achieved, led to Macedon's domination of Athens, all of Greece, Caria, and the entire Persian Empire within three decades.

Though Mausolus and Artemisia fought to stave off a political resurgence of Hellenism in Asia Minor, they (with many others in the western Persian Empire) enthusiastically embraced at least the external rudiments of contemporary Greek culture. During the generation of Mausolus and Artemisia, despite the social problems that had led to prolonged and wide-spread warfare throughout the Greek world, Greek artists continued to be without peer in a variety of disciplines and were extensively employed beyond the limits of Hellas. Over a wide swath of territory encompassing most of the eastern Mediterranean virtually everyone (regardless of ethnicity) with money and social prominence eagerly employed the greatest Hellenic masters in an effort to reinforce social status and political authority. Most of Mausolus' and Artemisia's efforts along these lines were focused upon their window on the Aegean—their new capital, Halicarnassus, itself a city with an ancient Greek heritage.

The most modern city planning available was exploited in rebuilding Halicarnassus, which was developed into a grandiose seat worthy of ambitious oriental potentates. Not only were streets straightened and a grid system laid for a more cosmopolitan arrangement of public space, but also, on a more private level, a palace complex with an access to a restricted harbor was constructed to provide the requisite security for figures who must have appeared almost regal to the local inhabitants. But as much of an opportunity as the reconstruction of the city generally provided, it is clear that from a very early date the nucleus of all was intended to be the space that would come to be filled by the world-famous Mausoleum—a sepulcher first used to bury Mausolus (whose personal name thereafter entered the public domain as a synonym for "tomb"), which was so marvelous as to be included amid the "Seven Wonders" of the ancient world.

Probably begun in 355 bce (two years before Mausolus' death), the Mausoleum's construction accelerated under Artemisia's sole rule (353–351) and was completed sometime not long after her death. Although the Mausoleum was certainly a tomb, it appears to have been much more for the inhabitants of Halicarnassus and Mausolus' political heirs. As the "founder" of a new Halicarnassus, Mausolus became the city's oikist, or, officially designated founding "hero." Custom throughout the Greek world (and apparently in Caria too) rendered such figures chthonic honors, which meant that certain religious rituals were offered to the memory of the oikist and to his entombed remains. Although of a religious nature, these honors were not the same as those given to the gods of life and the sky. Rather, heroes were more akin to Christian saints in the medieval world. That is, they were considered to have been so special in life that a bit of their unique potency remained even in death. The power that continued to be associated with the remains in the grave was thought an important source of protection for the locality in which these remains lay, as well as a continuing source of strength for those who aspired to the hero's political legacy.

Given the prominence of the Mausoleum's site, it was probably intended from the first to be a heroon, or temple-like structure to mark the burial place of a dead hero. Although heroons and heroic worship were known before the time of Mausolus, his sepulcher and the rituals staged in his honor after death were nevertheless so extravagant that their very magnitude foreshadowed the age that began with Alexander the Great (born 356 bce), in which living men, even before their deaths, received not merely chthonic, but full-fledged worship—just as if they were immortal gods.

The Mausoleum was designed by two of the era's most famous architects, Pythius and Satyrus. It occupied a central location within the city of Halicarnassus and was of impressive size: its perimeter was 440 feet in circumference and it was, in all, over 140 feet tall. Its lowest three courses (themselves as tall as a five-story building) were rectangular and tiered, and atop these was a temple-like structure surrounded by 36 columns. Capping this story was a pyramid-shaped roof leading to a platform upon which was set a mammoth marble four-horse chariot with rider. Even more impressive than the Mausoleum's size, shape, and surmounting quadriga, however, were the sculpted figures and friezes that graced the lower levels and were integrated into its overall scheme. The four most renowned sculptors of the period each carved the figures adorning the four faces of the lower reaches: Scopas sculpting the eastern facade; Bryaxis the northern; Leochares the western; and Timotheus the southern. Each artist seems to have considered his work on the Mausoleum as his life's greatest achievement. Indeed, whether true or not, it is reported that when Artemisia died before the monument was completed, each artist stayed in Halicarnassus to complete his contribution to the Mausoleum without pay, believing that his reputation through time would depend upon what he there produced.

That Artemisia closely supervised the construction of the Mausoleum, especially after her husband's death, we can be sure. In fact, the only military episode with which she can be directly associated is linked to the building of the Mausoleum. Needing massive amounts of marble to complete the project, but with the only local supplies of a suitable quality found on Mt. Latmus (to the north of Halicarnassus), which was then controlled by a population independent of her authority, Artemisia warred upon these people to secure access to their quarry. Initially unsuccessful in besieging their town, Artemisia resorted to a ruse. Near both the town and the coveted quarry was a sanctuary to a local goddess for whom Artemisia arranged a magnificent ritual celebration, complete with a procession of devotees so grandiose that the inhabitants of Latmus—not used to seeing such magnificent spectacles—came out to wonder at the sight. Distracted by the religious celebrations staged for their benefit, Artemisia sprung an ambush as soon as the Latmians were far enough from their town for the trap to work. Artemisia was thereby able to win her marble quarry by the "marshalling of flutes and cymbals," when before she had been unable to do so with soldiers under arms.

Artemisia's enthusiasm for the construction of the Mausoleum was genuine, as was her grief at the passing of her husband and brother, Mausolus. Her pain at this loss was noted by contemporaries, who not only cited her piety in fostering the completion of the Mausoleum, but who also marked the extravagant funeral games (including athletic competitions, in the Greek manner, to celebrate the uniqueness of human life in the face of death) and artistic competitions (attracting such orators as Isocrates and Theodectes by the size of her purses); the extraordinary rituals she offered to the memory of Mausolus; and her own death from the intensity of her grief (which she never attempted to conceal), after only a two-year reign. Indeed, one story (albeit probably not a true one) maintained that she was so attached to Mausolus that she literally mixed his cremated ashes into her wine, which she then drank. Given her documented reaction to the death of Mausolus, it is inconceivable that she had been anything but his intimate when he was still alive. Thus, it is virtually certain that the diplomatic policies, which the extant literary sources credit to Mausolus, were congenial to Artemisia as well.


Diodorus Siculus. Universal History. Books 15 & 16. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1952.

suggested reading:

Hornblower, Simon. Mausolus. London: Oxford University Press, 1982.

Scarre, Chris. "A Tomb to Wonder At," in Archaeology. Vol. 46, no. 5. 1993, pp. 32–39.

William S. Greenwalt , Associate Professor of Classical History, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, California