[Eva Green as Artemisia, Patrick Whitaker & Keir Malem-Whitaker Malem, Archive of Movie Costumes, source: Flickr]
We know little of her beyond her military activity. She presumably took over as ruling queen when her husband died. When Xerxes invaded Greece, Artemisia followed, bringing with her five ships and the soldiers and sailors to man them. Herodotus tells us that of all Xerxes’ allies, she gave the best advice. After the Persians took Athens, he asked his commanders whether he should fight the Greek fleet. Artemisia was the only one to advise against it, telling him that the Greeks were far better fighters at sea than his own people. The risk was not worth it when he had already accomplished so much. He should fight, rather, on land, where the Greeks would not be able to stand against him.
Contrary to the hopes of her enemies, Xerxes praised Artemisia’s good advice rather than punishing her for it. Even so, he didn’t listen to her and paid the price for it. The Persians went on to lose the Battle of Salamis rather spectacularly. The story goes that she survived the battle, avoided capture by the Greeks, and earned her king’s admiration by ramming an allied ship and sinking it. The Greeks thought she was a Greek, while Xerxes thought she had sunk an enemy ship. Artemisia, meanwhile avoided capture by the Greeks, who were out for her blood since she, a woman, had dared go against them militarily.
After the battle, Xerxes once again asked for her advice. Should he stay in Greece and continue to fight or should he return to Persia and leave command in the hands of one of his generals? She told him to leave, since success would then bring him glory, while failure would reflect only on the general he left behind. Artemisia left as well, on an errand to escort Xerxes’ illegitimate sons to Ephesus. What happened to her after that is unknown. Presumably though, her son ruled after her.