Sunday, December 30, 2012

Artemisia Purpose within Herodotus' Histories

Artemisia within Herodotus’ Histories:

   Herodotus' Histories are an innovative and extraordinary collection of inquiries that lead Herodotus to be called the "patrem historiae" or "Father of History."[1] This title is justly addressed as Herodotus is the first to compile such a collection of “ἱστορίαι or inquiries." In the Histories' preface, Herodotus documents his purpose in writing this work:


Ἡροδότου Ἁλικαρνησσέος ἱστορίης ἀπόδεξις ἥδε, ὡς μήτε τὰ γενόμενα ἐξ ἀνθρώπων τῷ χρόνῳ ἐξίτηλα γένηται, μήτε ἔργα μεγάλα τε καὶ θωμαστά, τὰ μὲν Ἕλλησι τὰ δὲ βαρβάροισι ἀποδεχθέντα, ἀκλεᾶ γένηται, τά τε ἄλλα καὶ δι᾽ ἣν αἰτίην ἐπολέμησαν

ἀλλήλοισι. (Preface) 1.1.0


The following is the exhibition of the inquiries of Herodotus of Halicarnassus, in order that the things having been done from mankind do not become faded from time, nor both the great deeds and awe inspiring things, the things which having been displayed by both the Greeks and Persians, become unsung, especially on account of which cause they waged a war with one another.[2]


    His cause in writing the Histories appears to be well motivated. He claims to have written the work so that the deeds of mankind are not " ἀκλεᾶ or wiped away" from time; especially the deeds of the Greek and Persians within the context of the Persian War. While this may be his primary purpose: the recording of deeds, stories, battles, and individuals; Herodotus, the father of history, does not simply convey the most important deeds or write with a "Greek" perspective or agenda. His agenda lies in conveying the details from which the Persian War arose and how it came about (without a hidden agenda). He conveys the Histories as a storyteller does informing the reader of all the facts and characters no matter how different, controversial, or queer ; "Heir to the Greek storytelling tradition, however, Herodotus regards the characters of men- and not just the most important men- as a key to history just a the storyteller does for his tale."[3]

    Herodotus does not pass judgment on other cultures: the deeds of foreigners or the sexes, but he simply conveys his observations and inquired facts. As Dewald states, “Herodotus does not disapprove of sexual mores that are quite different from rigidly controlled female sexuality of the Greek model;"[4] this further proves his acceptance and unbiased objectivity towards customs, traditions, or even characteristics that are foreign. “In the Histories, women are not his chief focus of attention. He does not write the Histories in order to prove a thesis about them as social actors; they tend instead to occur incidentally, as part of the background of his main narrative themes. His portrait is for that reason likely to reveal aspects of feminine behavior and social values that more aggressively argumentative accounts neglect;”[5]  Dewald comments on the ability of Herodotus’ work to lend to insight on women. The presence of women within Herodotus' Histories is much different in contrast to other and later Greek historians who are not as accepting of foreigners or women. (As Dewald states that "Herodotus mentions women in the Histories 375 times"[6] and comparatively, Thucydides only mentions women six times.[7]) It is for this reason that the Histories become an useful tool for examining women within the fifth century B.C: "Herodotus' comments about women preserve one well-traveled Hellenic man's observation and assumptions about women's multiple and complex roles not just in Greece but throughout the fifth-century eastern Mediterranean world.[8]" Herodotus does not name several women by name nor does he grant to them individual stories (without cause), but when he does; it is due to the fact that their particular story is of importance, intrigue, or serves to explain characteristics of other individuals that are pertinent to the narrative of the Persian War.

      Herodotus writes to achieve his main purpose and in doing so he recounts several stories and observations that present common themes. Two prominent themes within his narrative are "Men" versus "Women" and "Greek" versus the "Other."[9] This is not to say that Herodotus purposely interjects these themes for his Hellenic audience, as a tool to allude that Greeks are better than Persians or men are better than women. Instead, these themes are common since they appear in a wide array of stories, myths, and history[10]; they do not serve as a political agenda for Herodotus to cater to his Hellenic audience. The themes are often common within the stories of Herodotus' women; since the important women that Herodotus recounts are often female barbarians. These female barbarian women’s stories illustrate the contested theme of “Men” versus “Women” and “Greek” versus “Persians.”

     There are several named women that Herodotus discusses at length; all of which are foreigner who exhibit traits contradicting accepted Hellenic values. However, this does not deter Herodotus from relaying their story and their mark on the Persian War. The names of the most memorable women are Tomyris, Pheretima, Nitocris, Amestris, and Canduales' wife.  These women are all foreigners who all are in a position of power and seek revenge upon a male character(s). Their stories of revenge are famous for both their cunning vengeance and their ruthless actions.

   Tomyris, Pheretima, and Nitocris are all female warrior queens[11] who seek revenge for the death of a loved one (either a son or a brother). Tomyris seeks revenge on Cyrus the Great for the death of her son Spargapises even though he committed suicide. She defeats him in battle and fulfills her promise of " μέν σε ἐγὼ καὶ ἄπληστον ἐόντα αἵματος κορέσω; I will fill you with blood being insatiable[12]" by sinking his decapitated head into a wineskin of blood(1.205-6 & 1.211-14). Pheretima also seeks revenge for her murdered son, but she takes her vengeance out on an entire city, Barke. She wars against them, succeeds in defeating all the inhabitants, and stakes their bodies around the city (4.162, 165, 167, 201, and 205). Nitocris as another vengeful queen seeks her revenge for the murder of her brother, in which she builds an underground chamber, tricks the murderers to enter, and then she floods it and drowns them all. She would later commit suicide; and therefore escaping any retribution for her actions (2.100).

   These three barbarian women all follow Flory’s "Clever Vengeful Queen" motif. They are women of power who seek to correct the wrong that has been done to their family. Their revenge could be looked upon as a noble act, as it would be if they were men; [13] however, due to the fact that they are women- their act is seen to be excessive and ruthless. It is consider excessive by “the gods,” according to Herodotus, as seen in Pheretima’s divinely inflicted death for excessive revenge. Nonetheless, Herodotus does not pass judgment on these women directly from a first person perspective. Therefore, as Dewald stated, Herodotus’ goal is not to comment on women. It is merely to continue his narrative with them serving their purpose as narrative devices. However, it would not be lost to him that his Greek audience would pass judgment on these barbarian women and would begin to stereotype them as such: clever, vengeful, excessively ruthless women.

     Canduales' wife and Amestris are vengeful queens who do not wish to avenge the death of loved one, but a humiliation of themselves. Canduales' wife having been exposed by her husband's pride to Gyges, she seeks to have her husband killed for this violation of her privacy and propriety (1.8-12). While Amestris also exacts her revenge on her husband Xerxes. She realizes that he has taken secretly for his concubine Artaynte (who is his brother’s, Masistes, daughter and his own son Darius' wife), after he could not ascertain the affections of Masistes' wife.[14] Amestris seeks vengeance not through the girl, but through the girl's mother believing it to be the mother’s plot. It is the mother that has to answer for the crimes of her daughter and Xerxes's disregard of human limitations: his hubris. Amestris forces the mother to mutilate herself in public as a punishment to Xerxes’ secret infidelity (9.109-112).

    These two women further show the character of Persian women, and their care to preserving themselves; as Dewald comments: “Women in Herodotus act to preserve themselves and those in their care…They reflect the same social values as men of their culture…[15]” In this quote Dewald reveals a view that Herodotus does not explicitly state.  She is assessing that women, in this case Persian women, act in the same manner that their male counterparts do. Thus, it further reveals that “Women do not passively reflect the values of their culture; they are actively responsible both for creating social conventions and for maintaining them,” [16] and had “full partnership with men in establishing and maintaining social order.” [17] Thus, the actions of these clever vengeful women may be a portion of the Persian culture revealing through them; and therefore, the Greek stereotype stated above proves true that: Persian women are clever, vengeful, ruthless, and protectors of their families and themselves. This would appear to be a polar opposite to the accepted Hellenic view of women, and it would reinforce amongst the Greek audience the unrestraint and imbalance nature associated with barbarian women.[18]

    Herodotus is not in short supply of such stories where a Persian woman avenges an injustice upon a male counterpart. Herodotus appears to be an author with an appreciation and fascination with these types of stories as Dewald states: "Herodotus enjoys reporting on the ease with people of inferior status of either sex succeed in manipulating men in power, often by exploiting their blindness to their own vulnerabilities; such stories also connect to Herodotus' to report ‘ἔργα μεγάλα τε καὶ θωμαστά ' or ‘both great and awe inspiring deeds.’"[19] These "great and awe inspring deeds" for Herodotus are undefinable. It is uncertain if these are great deeds are of wealth, power, adversity, or if awe inpsiring deeds are acts of bravery, heroism, or unusual and ironic ones. Regardless the mere mention of deeds within the narrative qualifies them to be labeled as " ἔργα μεγάλα τε καὶ θωμαστά" by Herodotus. Albeit, Herodotus may have an "enjoyment" for these types of stories; it does not change the underlying fact that the women within his narrative are presented to serve both as a background and a narrative device for accomplishing his main purpose: recounting the great and awe-inspiring deed of the Greeks and Persians especially those which caused the Persian War.

   However, keeping with his trend of stories about women which allow him to report ‘ἔργα μεγάλα τε καὶ θωμαστά;' perhaps the “ἔργα μέγιστα τε καὶ θωμαστά λίην” would be those of Artemisia. Herodotus' finds Artemisia's story worthy of recounting and therefore it is considered a story of " ἔργα μεγάλα τε καὶ θωμαστά." The reason that her story is worthy of recounting is because of its intrigue, irony, curciliality to the war, and its revealing aspects of women. Artemisia has a very interesting narrative that Herodotus recounts within Book VII and VIII. She is the only barbarian woman about whom Herodotus presents his personal opinion.


τῶν μέν νυν ἄλλων οὐ παραμέμνημαι ταξιάρχων ὡς οὐκ ἀναγκαζόμενος, Ἀρτεμισίης δὲ τῆς μάλιστα θῶμα ποιεῦμαι ἐπὶ τὴν Ἑλλάδα στρατευσαμένης γυναικός· ἥτις ἀποθανόντος τοῦ ἀνδρὸς αὐτή τε ἔχουσα τὴν τυραννίδα καὶ παιδὸς ὑπάρχοντος νεηνίεω ὑπὸ λήματός τε καὶ ἀνδρηίης ἐστρατεύετο, οὐδεμιῆς οἱ ἐούσης ἀναγκαίης. (7.99.1)


On the one hand, now, I make no mention of the other commanders since not being compelled (to do so), but on the other hand, of Artemisia whom I make a marvel (awe) at especially; as a woman was marching against the Greek: who, when her husband died, this woman having the power, although her son becoming a young man, on account of both courage and manly spirit she was serving, since for her there was no compulsion.


   Artemisia proves to be an anomaly in respect to the trend Herodotus has made for barbarian women: the “Clever Vengeful Ruthless Queen.” Herodotus, unlike his previous stories of women, blatantly shows his opinion of this woman: admiration and respect. He disregards the other male commanders saying that he “οὐκ  ἀναγκαζόμενος”[20] or “not being compelled.” Therefore, he deems their “ἔργα” unworthy of mention, and therefore worthy to be “ἀκλεᾶ” from time. However, Artemisia’s deeds are not unworthy, but awe-inspiring. He states that she is serving in the military, although she had a grown son, on account of “λήματός τε καὶ ἀνδρηίης” and not by “ἀναγκαίης.”

       Λῆμα (or λήματός in the genitive) is a neuter noun which in its meaning comes to mean “good, courage, resolution.[21] The second word is not so easily deciphered. There has been much debate and interpretation of this, but the Liddell & Scott defines it as follows: “ἀνδρεῖος (or ἀνδρηίης in the singular genitive feminine) as “of or for a man, manly, masculine, or strong, vigorous.”[22] However, the definitions provided by this lexicon do not fully capture what Herodotus means by “ἀνδρεῖος.” Powell translates both λήμα and ἀνδρηίη as “courage.” [23] However, this would seem rather redundant for Herodotus and does not fully capture the “ἀνδρ-” root. For this reason, the most suited definition for this word would have to be Hazewindus’ term “manly spirit.”[24] Powell records the use of the ἀνδρεῖος seven times used mainly to describe men, a man’s action, or a nation.[25] There are no other references to women possessing “ἀνδρηίη”[26] in Herodotus’ Histories. Furthermore, it must be questioned on what is mean by a “manly spirit.” It must be ascertained that Herodotus is complimenting Artemisia for being courageous and above the feminine and weak spirit of a woman (γυναικεῖα )[27] by attributing to her “ἀνδρηίη.” Finally, Herodotus praises Artemisia for serving in the Persian War not by “ἀναγκαίης,” but on account of courage and a manly spirit. “Ἀναγκαίης” is related to the verb “ἀναγκαζόμενος” which Herodotus uses earlier in this passage. It is an interesting parallel that Herodotus draws between himself and Artemisia; both being individuals who act not by compulsion, but by a difference force: perhaps “ἀνδρεῖος.”

     Herodotus states the following of Artemisia’s origins: “οὔνομα μὲν δὴ ἦν αὐτῇ Ἀρτεμισίη, θυγάτηρ δὲ ἦν Λυγδάμιος, γένος δὲ ἐξ Ἁλικαρνησσοῦ τὰ πρὸς πατρός, τὰ μητρόθεν δὲ Κρῆσσα. (7.99.2) The name was for this woman; Artemisia, she was the daughter of Lygdamos, in respect to ethnicity from Halicarnassus on her father side, on her mother side of Cretan[28];” thereby she was Cretan or Carian on her mother side and of Halicarnassus on her fathers. Artemisia is considered a Persian woman, but her lineage may suggest otherwise. Herodotus says the following of his home country Halicarnassus: “αἵδε αἱ πόλιες εἰσὶ αἱ ἱδρυμέναι κοινῇ,… Δωριέων δὲ Ῥόδος καὶ Κνίδος καὶ Ἁλικαρνησσὸς καὶ Φάσηλις (2.178.2) The following cities were those having been established/settled jointly… of the Dorian cities: Rhodes, Cnidus, Halicarnassus and Phaselis;” hence he characterizes Halicarnassus as a Dorian city[29] in origin even though it was currently under Persian control.

      The complicated issue of ethnicity arises in Herodotus several times, and in Artemisia case there is no exception. The issue with ethnicity is how it is defined within Herodotus (which is a paper topic or book all unto itself); ethnicity can either be defined by the country of one’s lineage or by the “νομοί” or “customs or conventions” one practices. Therefore, while Artemisia may be Greek in descent; she exhibits qualities that are too foreign or “Other” to be considered proper Greek “νομοί.” The fact that she is Persian (on her mother’s side; at least) within the Herodotus’ Histories does not change the fact that Herodotus shows admiration and pride for his fellow countrywoman. As Munson agrees, “Yet, on the whole, she receives more coverage in the narrative of that expedition than any other individual fighting on the Persian side, after Mardonius. Herodotus must have felt especially inclined to relate interesting information about Halicarnassus and was perhaps even proud of his countrywoman’s exploits”[30] Consequently, Herodotus’ interest in Artemisia must not lie in her deeds alone, but he must be remarking on Halicarnassus as a place itself. As Herodotus’ states near the close of his work, “φιλέειν γὰρ ἐκ τῶν μαλακῶν χώρων μαλακοὺς γίνεσθαι (9.122.3)  For it is customary that from soft lands are born soft men;” he makes it evident a conventional thought: that a land that is weak, small, or inferior will produce inferior people. Accordingly, his acclamation of Artemisia along with his own deeds, may lead one to deduce that he did not believe that Halicarnassus produced anything inferior. That Artemisia and Herodotus are products of their country and praiseworthy, resolute, and unaltered by “ἀναγκαίης.”  Their fatherland may serve as one complementary explanation to Herodotus’ interest, portrayal, and purpose for Artemisia within his work beyond a mere narrative device.

      In the 7.99.1-2, Herodotus introduces one of the most complex and paradoxical characters in Book VIII. Artemisia is unlike the previous barbarian women we have seen, as she does not possess those attributes usually observed in barbarian women. She instead has admirable attributes that compel Herodotus to write about her and not her male allied commanders. As Munson states “Herodotus keeps her remarkably free of those barbaric traits which in the Histories tend to characterize the dominant females of the East. Foreign to bedroom politics and to feminine issues, the Herodotean Artemisia belongs to the “outdoors” and by virtue of her skill both in public council and in war.”[31]   Furthermore, Artemisia is an anomaly in the trend of women, and presents a woman who is virtuous in her counseling and fighting. As an anomaly, Artemisia characteristics and description must not be overlooked, but examined into greater detail to fully understand Herodotus’ purpose in mentioning her beyond simply admiration. 

    Artemisia is a woman possessing a “manly spirit;” she is not the normal barbarian woman seen in Herodotus nor is she resembling a Greek portrait of a woman. She is in an entirely different category of women. For these reasons, she is often attributed to be “gender-bending,” because she rests on the boundaries of what is feminine, masculine, and what is acceptable. She is neither a passive woman nor is she an active man, but she is something in between these two. This, in turn, resolves to label Artemisia as a liminal character who is introduced as a character on threshold between two worlds: men and women. It is ironic that one of the most prominent themes within the Histories “Men” versus “Women” would encompass itself within a single character. (This irony later leads itself to interesting and paradoxical situations that reveal more on Herodotus’ intentions with Artemisia.) Secondly, Artemisia also appears to be on the threshold in respect to her ethnicity. While she may seem clearly Persian; there is some liminality in her actual fatherland. Halicarnassus is under Persian rule, but it is Greek in origin. At the same time, it is literally on the threshold of the Greek and Persian map. This liminality renders Artemisia neither fully Greek nor Persian, but somewhere in between. While she may be a Persian subordinate of the King; she exhibits strong traits that may be seen as Greek. She is wise, prudent, skilled in warfare, proud, obedient, patriotic, and eloquent in speech. Perhaps, Herodotus is writing of a woman who may be seen similar to Athena:  She appears not merely masculine like a wild Amazon, but representative of a straight male world; like a cultured Athena.”[32]

She is a wise warrior queen who with Herodotus’ favor may not simply be categorized into the “Clever Vengeful Ruthless Queens,” but perhaps her actions, words, and portrayal may lead the audience to see a Greek after all. A Greek warrior queen that may be admired instead of disdained.

     Herodotus’ intention will never be known; Artemisia is clearly presented with several qualities that are both respectable and enigmatic. She is liminal in her introduction, since Herodotus presents his audience with many paradoxical facts. However her presence within Book VIII, she begins to transgress this liminality and her own boundaries.  Before the Battle of Salamis, Xerxes has called for opinions of his generals on whether or not he should wage a sea battle; Artemisia has the following to say:

ὡς ἐγὼ τάδε λέγω, οὔτε κακίστη γενομένη ἐν τῇσι ναυμαχίῃσι τῇσι πρὸς Εὐβοίῃ οὔτε ἐλάχιστα ἀποδεξαμένη. δέσποτα, τὴν δὲ ἐοῦσαν γνώμην με δίκαιον ἐστὶ ἀποδείκνυσθαι, τὰ τυγχάνω φρονέουσα ἄριστα ἐς πρήγματα τὰ σά. καὶ τοι τάδε λέγω, φείδεο τῶν νεῶν μηδὲ ναυμαχίην ποιέο. οἱ γὰρ ἄνδρες τῶν σῶν ἀνδρῶν κρέσσονες τοσοῦτο εἰσὶ κατὰ θάλασσαν ὅσον ἄνδρες γυναικῶν. 8.68.a1


That I say the following things: I, not being worst in the naval battle which was at Euboea, nor displaying myself least well. Master, it is just that I reveal my existing/real opinion: the things which I happen to think to be the best in your matters. I say to you the following: Spare of the ships and do not wage a sea battle. For the Greek men are so much stronger/better than your men at sea as men are stronger/better than women.


      There are obviously no records of Artemisia’s speech (and he claims no source); it must be assumed that Artemisia was a warner of the Battle of Salamis, but her direct words are unknown.  She is a tragic warner, whose advice is ignored. As Johnstone presents, "Artemisia argues against the naval battle at Salamis, -presciently but ineffectively. In Herodotus' narrative these figures [warners] function in ways closely related to their counterparts in tragedy- foreshadowing, highlighting rulers' blindness, aphoristically stating universal truths."[33]  She foreshadows the outcome of Salamis along with revealing the fallibilities of Xerxes and finally states unversal truths for her time. [34] Her role as a warner is recognized in this speech, but the authenicity of it is unclear.


    Therefore, the words recorded in the Histories are a combination of Ionian sources along with the author’s personal invention. It is critical to remember that Herodotus is writing from his collected “ἱστορίαι or inquiries;” however there must be reasons to why he chooses to have Artemisia present the following speech. It is clear that Artemisia’s words are cunning. On their face value, she gives herself worth to show her importance and thereby the importance of her words, she advises not to fight at Salamis, and constructs an argument for why the Persian army is no match for the Greek. However, her clever ability (or Herodotus’) to weave words with several layers for this speech is noteworthy. She blatantly reports to the King that his forces are inferior to the Greeks as women are inferior to men. This is a convoluted statement with many insults and paradoxes. She equates the Greek as men and the Persians as women.  She, then, states that women are inferior to men as if a known fact. However, not two sentences before, she praises herself quite proudly in neither being the “κακίστη or worst” in respect to sea battles, nor in “ἐλάχιστα ἀποδεξαμένη or least displaying herself/her actions.” This, therefore, implies that if she was not the worst or the least; some other male general must have been.

     The contradiction of this speech leads the audience to deduce that somehow Artemisia has transgressed the boundaries of “ἄνδρες κρέσσονες γυναικῶν,” but she has done so at the expense of Persian men. Furthermore, she insults all the Persian navy quite severely by calling them women. As Herodotus states “παρὰ δὲ τοῖσι Πέρσῃσι γυναικὸς κακίω ἀκοῦσαι δέννος μέγιστος ἐστι. (9.107.1) It is the greatest reproach among the Persians to be called worse than a woman;” while they were not called “worse than a woman” the utterance of being called a woman is still an insult.[35] It may be her clever, arrogant, and impertinent nature that has most of the Persian generals (if not her gender)[36] indignant towards her: “οἳ δὲ ἀγαιόμενοί τε καὶ φθονέοντες αὐτῇ (8.69.1) Those indignant and jealous towards her.” On the other hand, it may be this clever and arrogant behavior that is veiled in adulation that has the King holding her in high esteem: “κάρτα τε ἥσθη τῇ γνώμῃ τῇ Ἀρτεμισίης, καὶ νομίζων ἔτι πρότερον σπουδαίην εἶναι τότε πολλῷ μᾶλλον αἴνεε (8.69.2)" "Truly, he delighted in Artemisia's opinon, and he considering her still earlier to be worthy of serious attention at that time he was praising her more by far.” Artemisia ,in this speech and throughout her presence within the Histories, exploits the themes of Greek versus Persian or Men versus Women “which are the underlying themes of Herodotus’ narrative history in which he uses stories with these themes to further exploit his ‘investigations’ of how the Persian War came about.”[37] She transgresses these themes beyond the boundaries of other Persian women, which is the reason why her speeches, actions, and role within the Histories are significant.

      While Artemisia’s speech may at moments seem disparaging to the Persians; it is imperative to remember that she alone is the one that recommends the proper course of action.  Beyond attempting to convince Xerxes that his forces are inferior, she attempts to reason with him personally. “Oὐκ ἔχεις μὲν τὰς Ἀθήνας, τῶν περ εἵνεκα ὁρμήθης στρατεύεσθαι, ἔχεις δὲ τὴν ἄλλην Ἑλλάδα ;( 8.68.a2) "Do you not have Athens, on account of which you began to make a war? Do you not have the whole of Greece?” she is quite direct in her questioning in reminding Xerxes of his original purpose. She attempts to appeal to him logically, showing he has nothing further to prove and ultimately he has achieved his goal. Obviously, she is a warner, who foresees the impending doom and attempts to stop it. She may foresee the doom on account of two reasons. Herodotus chooses to show that she is extremely well skilled in warfare and strategy so much so that she is superior to all other commanders and the King. If this were the case, she would be used as a narrative device to show the Persian inferiority to a woman’s advice. Furthermore, she is smarter in the realms of war than the King; this serves to show Xerxes fallibility and disregard of human limitations. On the other hand, Herodotus may be choosing to display Artemisia as a warner for a different reason. The warner figure may even be reminiscent of the Pythia, as Munson argues that “She appears not merely masculine like a wild Amazon, but representative of a straight male world; like a cultured Athena.”[38] This correlation would further endorse Munson’s argument of Herodotus’ ploy to make her seem almost Greek through several inferred references (Athena, Amazons, Oracle, etc.). Artemisia’s role as a warner is not uncommon, but for Artemisia the complexity of Herodotus’ intention is byzantine.

        Regardless of Artemisia’ wise advice, Xerxes does not heed her warning or logic. He praises her (8.69.2) for the advice, but follows the opinions of the majority[39]: to wage a sea battle. The Battle of Salamis occurs, but Herodotus does not recount it in full detail, but merely says :

κατὰ μὲν δὴ τοὺς ἄλλους οὐκ ἔχω [μετεξετέρους] εἰπεῖν ἀτρεκέως ὡς ἕκαστοι τῶν βαρβάρων ἢ τῶν Ἑλλήνων ἠγωνίζοντο· κατὰ δὲ Ἀρτεμισίην τάδε ἐγένετο, ἀπ᾽ ὧν εὐδοκίμησε μᾶλλον ἔτι παρὰ βασιλέι. (8.87.1)


Concerning the others, I cannot say exactly how [certain one among] each of the Barbarians or each of the Greeks were fighting, but concerning Artemisia the following things happened, from which she earned honor still from the King.


   Similar to her introduction at 7.99.1, Herodotus disregards all others and focuses on Artemisia's actions at Salamis. Although she knows that it is doomed for anyone to fight at Salamis; she patriotically follows her King into an ill-fated battle. The following events are recorded by Herodotus at 8.87.2:

ἐπειδὴ γὰρ ἐς θόρυβον πολλὸν ἀπίκετο τὰ βασιλέος πρήγματα, ἐν τούτῳ τῷ καιρῷ ἡ νηῦς ἡ Ἀρτεμισίης ἐδιώκετο ὑπὸ νεὸς Ἀττικῆς· καὶ ἣ οὐκ ἔχουσα διαφυγεῖν, ἔμπροσθε γὰρ αὐτῆς ἦσαν ἄλλαι νέες φίλιαι, ἡ δὲ αὐτῆς πρὸς τῶν πολεμίων μάλιστα ἐτύγχανε ἐοῦσα, ἔδοξέ οἱ τόδε ποιῆσαι, τὸ καὶ συνήνεικε ποιησάσῃ. διωκομένη γὰρ ὑπὸ τῆς Ἀττικῆς φέρουσα ἐνέβαλε νηὶ φιλίῃ ἀνδρῶν τε Καλυνδέων καὶ αὐτοῦ ἐπιπλέοντος τοῦ Καλυνδέων βασιλέος Δαμασιθύμου. (8.87.2)


When the affairs of the King were in chaos, in this time the ship which was Artemisia’s was being chased by an Attic ship; and it was not able to escape, for other friendly ships were also in front of it, but her ship happened to be especially near the enemies, it seemed best to her to do the following thing, which also was beneficial her doing it. For being pursued by an Attic ship , driving she rammed a friendly ship, both the men of Calynda and the king himself of the Calynda: Damasithymus.


  This incident has had much discussion of the reasons that lead Artemisia to do such a thing. While, it may be understood on some level that no one wishes to die, and she rammed Damasithymus’ ship for her own life. It seems unlikely for a character that Herodotus describes, as “ἀνδρηίη.”  Thus, Herodotus provides some theories on why this incident may have occurred:


εἰ μὲν καί τι νεῖκος πρὸς αὐτὸν ἐγεγόνεε ἔτι περὶ Ἑλλήσποντον ἐόντων, οὐ μέντοι ἔχω γε εἰπεῖν οὔτε εἰ ἐκ προνοίης αὐτὰ ἐποίησε, οὔτε εἰ συνεκύρησε ἡ τῶν Καλυνδέων κατὰ τύχην παραπεσοῦσα νηῦς.(8..87.3)


If indeed some quarrel had happened against him when they were still around the Hellenspont, however I cannot say, nor if she did these thing from forethought/intention, nor if the ship having fallen along hit the Calyndas by chance.


      Herodotus offers the explanation of “κατὰ τύχην;” for her destroying an allied ship. However, his narrative in 8.87.2 portrays her more active in her choice: “ἔδοξέ οἱ τόδε ποιῆσαι, τὸ καὶ συνήνεικε ποιησάσῃ.” Therefore, the reason of κατὰ τύχην” seem dubious. Herodotus, also, offers as an excuse that she was intending to do this from the beginning: “ἐκ προνοίης.” However, it should be questioned why she would have this premeditated thought. Strauss offers a solution that “Artemisia had foreseen the Persian catastrophe at Salamis; she might even have planned the attack in advance.”[40] Thereby, Herodotus may have been offering the scenario that  Artemisia knew the Persians were doomed and was resolved to ram whoever in order to escape and live another day.  These two reasons portray Artemisia cowardly or inadequate in respect to seafaring[41]; but, the first reason that Herodotus offers is intriguing: “τι νεῖκος.”  It is the first and most mysterious reason that he offers, but he does not go into details or speculations. Macan remarks that “Herodotus has lost a golden chance!” since Herodotus does not even speculate what the quarrel may have been about. Macan offers various scenarios saying “There are all the elements of a romance, a tragedy, or at least a melodrama, behind this passing allusion.”[42] Macan speculates that the subject may have been “too well handled to retouch,” and so Herodotus can only provide broad reasons and a lack of information: “οὐ μέντοι ἔχω γε εἰπεῖν.” However, this rationale of "too well handled" does not stop Herodotus from giving reasons at other points in his narrative. Therefore, it must be assumed on some level that Herodotus chooses not to pass judgement nor take a stance on his fellow countrywomen due to his own inclination. In spite of  his paradoxical reasoning, he does not cast a negative judgement on Artemisia directly. He will not admit her to any of the reasons and therefore he does not render her “sly, stupid, or cowardly”[43] in her actions.

       Herodotus does not tell us which reason he consider most probable; he only tells us the result of her actions:

 τοῦτο μὲν τοιοῦτο αὐτῇ συνήνεικε γενέσθαι διαφυγεῖν τε καὶ μὴ ἀπολέσθαι, τοῦτο δὲ συνέβη ὥστε κακὸν ἐργασαμένην ἀπὸ τούτων αὐτὴν μάλιστα εὐδοκιμῆσαι παρὰ Ξέρξῃ….Ξέρξην δὲ εἰπεῖν λέγεται πρὸς τὰ φραζόμενα «οἱ μὲν ἄνδρες γεγόνασί μοι γυναῖκες, αἱ δὲ γυναῖκες ἄνδρεςταῦτα μὲν Ξέρξην φασὶ εἰπεῖν.(8.88.1-3)


On the one hand, such a thing happened for her as an advantage that she both escaped and she did not die, but on the other hand it happened so that she having performed a wicked thing from these things she especially gained honor from the King…It is said that Xerxes said to the things having been said “ On the one hand my men have become women, and on the other hand my women men” They say Xerxes said these things.


     Artemisia, according to Herodotus, has made an advantageous decision in ramming Damasithymus :“εὐτυχίῃ χρησαμένη διπλᾶ ἑωυτὴν ἀγαθὰ ἐργάσατο(8.87.4), "Employing for herself good fortune, she performed double good for herself.” She has both escaped the Attic ship that was pursuing her, and she had gained good repute from Xerxes: “ἀπὸ τούτων αὐτὴν μάλιστα εὐδοκιμῆσαι παρὰ Ξέρξῃ.” Herodotus’ presentation of this incident is very paradoxical. He states that she has “κακὸν ἐργασαμένην" or "performing a bad thing,” but yet he began his introduction of her claiming her “λήμα τε καὶ ἀνδρηίη.” This bad deed fully contradicts Herodotus’ comment; even more so that he is writing the Histories after already knowing all her deeds and mishaps. Regardless of his foreknowledge, he still (ironically) praises her as Xerxes is also (ironically) praising her. Perhaps the notion of λήμα τε καὶ ἀνδρηίη” are present in the fact that she does not desert her King nor retreat home, but she remains within the Persian camp. However, it is not the actions of Artemisia that are the central point anymore, but the words of Xerxes. Xerxes, in 8.88.3, utters one of the most ironic phrases in Book VIII.  He says “«οἱ μὲν ἄνδρες γεγόνασί μοι γυναῖκες, αἱ δὲ γυναῖκες ἄνδρες.» On the one hand, my men have become women, and on the other hand my women men;” it is this sentence that may reveal the most on Artemisia’s role in the Histories.

    Herodotus knows that Xerxes is incorrect in his praise for Artemisia, but he includes the sentence within his Histories with only a “φασὶ” as a source. It is a curious statement that elevates Artemisia fully to the role of a man, which would have been a compliment and honor, while at the same time it disgraces all the Persian men within the army.  Herodotus makes it apparent as in 9.107.1 and 9.20.1 that being called worse than a woman or a woman is clearly an insult; yet this is an insult hurled by the King to all his men. Accordingly, it is all the worse: “Xerxes , without realizing it, confirms what Artemisia had said about his force (8.68.a1).From the point of view of intellectual achievement, then, Xerxes ironically indicts himself above all: he has been the major cause of the Persian defeat by proving inferior to a woman in strategy.”[44]

     Therefore, Artemisia serves as a narrative device to show the failings of Xerxes: “Herodotus repeatedly calls attention to Xerxes foolishness and lack of foresight. Though Xerxes preparations lack nothing in terms of physical extravagance and even magnificence, he fails for example, to realize specific warnings… Xerxes (and Candaules) are but two of many "foolish men who always fail"… given the motif of female success and male failure… he ought, more specifically, to encourage his men to think like women.”[45] These failures of Xerxes do not infer that he is necessarily foolish, but instead they are full indicators of his disregard of human limits.

    Herodotus’ Histories present several strong barbarian characters whose stories help to serve the narrative and preserve the underlying themes. Herodotus presents several stories of barbarian queens who are very successful in their plans and deeds. They are cunning characters who are not rash in their revenge; they seek it carefully to attainment: “In Herodotus, therefore, we associate acts of delayed but extravagant vengeance with women and we expect success. Xerxes' vengeance fails because the intelligence- or rather the stupidity- that guides it is male instead of female.”[46] This is a harsh observation on Flory’s part, but perhaps there is something noteworthy in his statement. Xerxes does lose the battle of Salamis, because he did not heed Artemisia’s advice. Hence, it would seem that in the Histories that “barbarian” women devise better than men. It does not lend to extreme view that barbarian women are smarter than men; nor should it imply that Herodotus is intending this commentary. Instead, Herodotus is presenting a subtle theme that barbarian women tend to plan, devise or even scheme more thoroughly than men.  It is this ability of very detailed and careful planning that permit them to attain their goals.  As Dewald states “Artemisia (and Tomyris) takes the pains to articulate the moral and political basis for their actions. Both see, as their male counterparts do not, that human power has its limitations, both predict defeat for the Persian (King) if he oversteps these bounds.[47]” Artemisia is highly capable in respect to explaining, understanding, and planning in line with human limits.

     Beyond the complexity of ironies, Artemisia also serves to continue a line of “Clever Warrior Queens” who are successful in their actions due to their understanding of humanity’s limits. It is this understanding that Xerxes lacks and which Artemisia attempts to advise him, but he disregards it. Xerxes’ disregard of human limitation[48] is a continuous theme in books VII-IX. It is the act of disregard, indifference, and neglect for limitation that exhibit his vulnerability and weaknesses. It is Artemisia’s actions and words that make this absence of human limitations reach an apex.    Previously, Xerxes’ weakness (which some would characterize as foolishness) was seen in situations dealing with other men, omens, nature or even the divine; however, this time a woman is exposing it. This is a turning point for Xerxes; his navy is devastated, his army given to Mardonius, his eunuch unrestrained and causing havoc, and amongst all these: he heeds the advice of a woman to return home. Xerxes has admitted defeat, he has lost faith in his army, and he is fearful. The Battle of Salamis, the actions of his men, and the deed of one woman have brought him to this road. Xerxes, at this point, is not glorious, brave, or even commendable; he is weak and has finally realized the limitations of being human. This is where Herodotus’ portrayal of Artemisia has lead Xerxes. She serves, as Tomyris and Amestris do, as a narrative device to exhibit the human limits of the Persian King. The relevance of this function allows Herodotus to portray the Persian King nearer to his actual character and not the idolized character that the Persian sources may acclaim him to be.

     Therefore Artemisia portrayal further serves to reflect the social values of her culture; which at times appears very foreign and yet, has hints and subtle allusions to the culture of strong Greek women (Oracle, Amazon, Athena,etc.). These subtle allustions are seen in her appitude with warefare and stragedy are reminence of the Amazons, her advising against  Salamis' inevitable doom is suggestive of the Pythia, and lastly Artemisia, according to Munson, is recollective of the wise, prudent, warrior goddess Athena. Artemisia, therefore, becomes an embodiment of contradicting characteristics and qualities that neither completely renders her “Greek” or “Persian.” She is a liminal figure who is both and neither, but at the same time; she goes beyond and puts herself outside the realm of them. She claims in her speech at 8.68.a1 that women are inferior to men, but she praises herself for not being the worst or least at the naval battle at Euboea. She is therefore transcending the standards of gender by not including herself as a “weak woman;” nevertheless, she states her culture’s view of women's inferiority to men, because she is part of Herodotus’ world: “Although Artemisia seems to break through them (the standard patterns of gender) in her actions, she remains part of that world. This makes it understandable that she herself utters statements according to the same prejudices as men.”[49]

      As Dewald stated, “Women do not passively reflect the values of their culture; they are actively responsible both for creating social conventions and for maintaining them.[50]” Artemisia and the other barbarian women are no exception to this reflection of values. They help serve Herodotus’ Histories by supporting stories of “ἔργα μεγάλα τε καὶ θωμαστά;” as he only mentions stories worthy of his Histories. All the women in his narrative are marked; they are important, in the fact that there are not many stories about women. Their purpose is complex and they each serve a different function in Herodotus’ narrative. There are many things that can be said about Artemisia. Concisely,  Artemisia's purpose within the Histories is complicated. She has many functions within narrative. She is a reflection of her society both Greek and Persian, she is a narrative device that grants Xerxes' realization of human limitations, and she is a unqiue figure who transgresses society's limits to become an anomaly within the Histories. She is an enigma of qualities and traits, it is her liminality that make neither fully Greek, Persian, womanly or manly. She is none of these themes, but she has trangressed them. It is this transgression that leads her to be enigmatic. She has no clear ethnicity nor given a conventional sex; Artemisia is simply a Halicarnassian individual who possessed a character of “λήμα and ἀνδρηίη.”This appears to be the manner that Herodotus wrote her, as an anomaly of a woman being praised for her “active” role, words, and actions within the Persian War.

    She would be a individual that the audience (Greek or Persian) could find some deed laudable. To the contemporary audience, she was a woman not to praise (at least not aloud) for her mannerism. For the Greeks, her ability to deceive the King and have him utter such an ironic phrase “οἱ γὰρ ἄνδρες τῶν σῶν ἀνδρῶν κρέσσονες τοσοῦτο εἰσὶ κατὰ θάλασσαν ὅσον ἄνδρες γυναικῶν;” would be entertaining and commendable. For the Persians, her ability to fight and her advice may have been seen as a significant counsel that unfortunately Xerxes did not heed. To modern readers, she appears to be one of the first women who are comparable to quotidian women. She inspires hope that women innately are strong beings who can thrive and excel in a male-centric world.  For her deeds were not those of a weak, scared, and foolish individual even if Herodotus fabricated some for his narrative. So, Artemisia may be created character in many respects to Herodotus’ free invention, but the truth woven within still invokes the reader to consider Artemisia “λήμα and ἀνδρηίη” for a woman of her time.


Bowie, A.M ,Herodotus’ Histories Book VIII (Cambridge University Press, New York) 2007.158

Cicero De legibus

Dewald, Carolyn, Women and Culture in Herodotus’ Histories Women Studies. Volume 8. (Gordon and Breach Science Publishers, Great Britain) 1981. 94,100,111-2

Dewald, Carolyn, Appendix U. On Women and Marriage in Herodotus in “The Landmarks Herodotus” (A Division of Random House, Inc., New York) 2007. 838,840

Flory, Stewart, The Archaic Smile of Herodotus (State University Press, Detroit) 1987. 44-5,52

Hazewindus, Minke, When Women Interfere: Studies in the role of women in Herodotus’ Histories (Amsterdam: J.C Gieben, Publisher), 2004.27-32

Herodotus, Histories Book VII, VIII, IX
Johnstone,Steven, A History of Trust in Ancient Greece (University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London) 2011. 119

Lateiner, Donald ,The Historical Method of Herodotus (Univ. of Toronto Press, Toronto) 1989. 838

Liddell, Henry George and Scott, Robert, Oxford Greek-English Lexicon (Clarendon Press ; New York;Oxford University Press) 1996. 53,65,170,471

Macon, Reginald Walter, Herodotus, The Seventh, Eighth, & Ninth Books with Introduction and Commentary Perseus Project

Munson, Rosaria Vignolo, Artemisia in Herodotus Classical Antiquity  Vol. 7, No. 1(University of California Press) Apr., 1988.9,92,94,102

Powell, J. Enoch, A Lexicon to Herodotus (Hildesheim [Ger.] G. Olms,) 1960.25

Strauss, S. Barry, The Battle of Salamis: The Naval Encounter That Saved Greece- and Western Civilizations (Simon &Schuster, New York) 2004.158


[1] Cicero 1.5
[2] The translations are my own, unless otherwise stated or cited.

[3] Flory, 1987, 52

[4] Dewald, 2007, 840
[5] Dewald, 1981, 94
[6] Dewald,1981, 94

[7] Lateiner,1989,140

[8] Dewald, 2007, 838
[9] It is possible to argue that the "Women versus Men" theme is simply a subtype of "Greek or the Familiar" versus the "Other/Unknown."
[10] If one recalls the Odyssey, Iliad, Myths of Hesiod, and so on; these themes are common within Greek literature.
[11] Pheretima is not a queen, but she did hold power on a counsel for her son. 4.162
[12] This notion of being insatiable is also seen in Xerxes's disregard of human and his own limitations.
[13] I refer to Book 22: Odysseus’ revenge upon the suitors for wronging his family and home.
[14] Xerxes, as King, is allowed mistresses- however as the queen, Amestris should be informed.
[15] Dewald,1981,112
[16] Dewald, 1981, 100
[17] Dewald, 1981, 94
[18] Although, this perhaps not Herodotus' intention- he is merely relating a story that serves the bigger purpose of narrating the Persian War
[19] Dewald.2007.840
[20] Liddell & Scott . 53 (ἀναγκαζω- Meaning 1. To force, to compel.)
[21] Liddlell & Scott . 471 (Λῆμα- Meaning II.1)
[22] Liddell & Scott.  65( All Meanings)
[23] Powell.1960. 25
[24] Hazewindus. 2004. 27
[25] Powell 1960. 25

[26] “The occurrence of the word ἀνδρεία in Sohocles’ Electra, 983, also shows that it is not exclusively used for men.(Hazewindus.2004. 31)

[27]  γυναικεῖα” meaning of, belonging to a women, feminine, womanish, effeminate. Liddell & Scott 170
[28] While it is known that the Cretans are in fact Dorian; what Herodotus is referring to here is the fact that Artemisia’s mother was from Caria which was perhaps settled by Cretans (1.171.5).
[29]  He also attributes Halicarnassus as a Dorian city at 7.99.3
[30] Munson, 1988 ,92
[31] Munson , 1988, 9
[32] Munson, 1988,94
[33] Johnstone, 2011, 119
[34] In this case, the universal truth is that men are better than women.
[35] Refer to the Persians insulting the Greeks by calling them women (9.20.1)
[36] Bowie, 2007,158
[37] Munson,1988,92
[38] Munson,1988, 94
[39] Perhaps his insatiable want of victory, land, and death also factors into this decision: this insatiable want is reminiscent of his great grandfather Cyrus the Great.
[40] Strauss 182
[41] This probably not the case, since in 8.68.a1: she praises her own skill at the sea battle at Euboea; along with Herodotus crediting her to supplying the best ships only after the Sidonians (7. 99.3)
[42] Macan Perseus 8.87
[43] Hazewindus, 2004, 29
[44] Munson,1988,102
[45] Flory,1987, 45
[46] Flory, 1987,44
[47] Dewald, 1981,111
[48] Disregard of humanity’s limitation in not properly handling his insatiable want, natural omens, and Artemisia's and Artabantus advice.
[49] Hazewindus, 2004, 32
[50] Dewald.,1981,100

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