THREE ANCIENT QUEENS THAT YOU SHOULD REALLY KNOW ABOUT

The Jubilee celebrations may be coming to an end, but that doesn’t mean we have to stop our royal interest there. Let’s pretend that time machineds exists and that we are ready to travel back in time to learn more about three ancient queens (some of whom were also warriors) who, while you may be unaware of their existence, played an important role in shaping the world map as we know it.

Hatshepsut Queen of Egypt

Hatshepsut, daughter of King Thutmose I, became queen of Egypt when she married her half-brother, Thutmose II, at around 12. As pharaoh, Hatshepsut extended Egyptian trade and oversaw ambitious building projects, most notably the Temple of Deir el-Bahri, Hatshepsut remained quite unknown to scholars until the 19th century. 

Hatshepsut fought to defend the legitimacy of her consolidation of power, citing her royal ancestry and claiming that her father had appointed her as his successor. She sought to reinvent her image, and she directed that she be depicted as a male pharaoh with a beard and large muscles in statues and paintings of the time.

Hatshepsut most likely died around 1458 B.C. She was buried in the Valley of the Kings (which also housed Tutankhamun). Early in Thutmose III’s rule, he had almost all evidence of Hatshepsut’s reign removed, potentially to erase her example as a powerful female leader.

As a result, scholars of ancient Egypt knew little about Hatshepsut’s existence until 1822, when they decoded and read the hieroglyphics on the walls of Deir el-Bahri. A team of archaeologists discovered her mummy in 2007 after introducing a new search in 2005; it is now housed in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. A life-size statue of a seated Hatshepsut that escaped the destruction of her stepson is on display at New York’s Metropolitan Museum.

Cartimandua Queen of Brigantes

Cartimandua was a 1st-century Celtic leader who reigned as Queen of the Brigantes from 43 to 69 AD. The Brigantes were a Celtic people who lived in Northern England, centred in what would become Yorkshire, and were the largest tribe in Britain. Cartimandua rose to power during the Roman invasion and conquest. Cartimandua, like most of the Celtic aristocracy, made numerous deals and alliances with the Romans in order to keep her throne. 

Cartimandua’s loyalty to Rome was put to the test in 51AD. Caratacus, the British king, had led the Celtic resistance against the Romans. After attacking the Romans in Wales, he was defeated by Ostorius Scapula and sought refuge with Cartimandua and the Brigantes, along with his family. Rather than sheltering him, Cartimandua had him chained and handed over to the Romans.

Cartimandua further outraged the Celts by divorcing Venutius in 57AD.  Venutius used the Celts’ anti-Roman perception to incite rebellion against the queen. Much more popular among the people than Cartimandua, he set about forming alliances with other tribes in preparation for an invasion of Brigantia. The Romans dispatched contingents to defend their patron queen. Caesius Nasica arrived with the IX Legion Hispana and defeated Venutius. Cartimandua was fortunate to escape capture by the rebels thanks to the intervention of Roman soldiers.

Venutius waited until 69AD when Nero’s death triggered a period of great political turmoil in Rome. Venutius took advantage of the situation to launch another attack on Brigantia. When Cartimandua requested assistance from the Romans, they could only send supplementary troops. She fled to the newly built Roman fort of Deva (Chester) and left Brigantia to Venutius, who ruled briefly before being deposed by the Romans.

It is unknown what happened to Cartimandua after she arrived at Deva.

Artemisia I. queen of Halicarnassus

During the Persian Wars (499–449 BCE), Artemisia I of Halicarnassus (c. 520–460 BCE) ruled the city of Halicarnassus. Halicarnassus fought against the Greeks as a Carian colony of Persia. Herodotus, the Greek historian (484–425 BCE), was also a Carian, born there during Artemisia’s reign. Artemisia was most likely born in Halicarnassus, near what is now Bodrum, Turkey, around 520 BCE. As the daughter of Lygadimis, a Carian, and his wife, a woman (unnamed by Herodotus) from the Greek island of Crete, she was a member of the city’s Lygdamid dynasty (520–450 BCE).

During the reign of the Persian emperor Xerxes I, also known as Xerxes the Great (ruled 486–465 BC), Artemisia inherited the throne from her unnamed husband. Her kingdom included Halicarnassus as well as the nearby islands of Cos, Kalymnos, and Nisyros. Pisindelis, Artemisia I’s son, ruled Halicarnassus after her between roughly 460 and 450 BCE.

Artemisia was the only woman among Xerxes’ commanders when he went to war against Greece (480–479 BCE). According to Herodotus, Xerxes chose Artemisia to lead a battle group to humiliate the Greeks, and when the Greeks learned about it, they offered a reward of 10,000 drachmas (about three years’ wages for a workman) for capturing Artemisia. No one was able to claim the prize.

Following his victory at Thermopylae in August 480 BCE, Xerxes assigned Mardonius to speak with each of his naval commanders individually about the upcoming battle of Salamis. Artemisia was the only one who advised against a sea battle, alerting Xerxes. While he was pleased that she offered a different perspective, Xerxes chose to ignore her advice in favour of the majority opinion.

Xerxes admired her bravery, saying, “My men have become women, and my women, men.”

Following the failure at Salamis, Xerxes abandoned his invasion of Greece, and Artemisia is attributed with persuading him to do so. Xerxes rewarded her by sending her to Ephesus to care for his illegitimate sons.

Published by ilektra

Hey, it's Ilektra. I'm a greek born marketing graduate who thinks and writes even before speak. I've lived in Manchester since 2018 and I have hundreds of unfinished drafts. You can definitely say I'm the most chaotic organised person that you have ever met. I question everything around and I'm always looking for new adventures.

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