Artemisia is the name of two female rulers of the ancient region of Helicarnassus or Caria, now part of Turkey. The earlier one is chronicled in Herodotus' account of the Persian invasion of Greece -- she had come to the throne on her husband's death. Her (culturally Greek) nation was a vassal to Persia and had to contribute five ships she commanded herself to the attempted invasion. However, she recommended against trying to conquer Greece and Xerxes of Persia did not listen to her.

When the Greeks and Persians met at Salamis, Artemisia's ship personally disabled that of a Greek-allied king. She continued to advise against the attack and Xerxes finally listened to her and returned to Persia, leaving a trusted general Mardonus to make the best of the Greek situation. Xerxes also gave Artemisia care of his sons. Artemisia was able to return to her own kingdom and rule until her son was an adult. Herodotus says she then fell in love with a younger man and killed herself when he did not return her love. (But the Greeks seem to have been rather scandalized at a woman in military command; this story seems to me like an attempt to make her look bad.)

The second well-known Artemisia lived about one hundred years after her predecessor and ruled in the same area. She was both sister and wife to King Mausolus, who ruled for 24 years before his death in 353 B.C. Artemisia was heart-broken and decided to erect a monument/tomb for him. She spared no expense, and the "Mausoleum" would become one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

On hearing of Mausolus' death, the people of Rhodes sent a fleet to take over Helicarnassus. Artemisia hid her ships in an obscure location, and when the Rhodians disembarked from their own ships to attack, the Helicarnassian ships swooped in, took the empty Rhodian fleet, and towed them out to sea. She put her own soldiers on the ships and sent them to Rhodes. Thinking they were greeting their own victorious army, the people of Rhodes did not defend themselves and were easily captured.

Artemisia lived only a few years after Mausolus' death and was buried with him in the Mausoleum at Helicarnassus which was not completed until after her death.