Artemisia, named after the sister of Apollo, is the only woman Herodotus attributes with the virtue of 'andreia' (courage). Nothing is known of her birth or childhood, but c. 500 BC, just prior to the Ionian revolt that triggered the Persian invasion of Greece, she married the king of Helicarnassus. When he died a few years later, she took the throne.
Intelligent enough to recognize the odds, Artemisia sided with Xerxes during the second Persian invasion of Greece in 480 BC. And she took a personal role, commanding the Helicarnassian contingent of five or six ships. By all accounts, she performed skillfully in the three-day naval battle of Artemisium; although a tactical stalemate, it was a Persian strategic victory as the smaller allied Greek fleet withdrew to Salamis. When the Persians approached the reinforced Greek forces under Themistocles, she was the only Persian commander to advise against attacking, urging patience instead.
As Xerxes watched from his golden throne, the Persian fleet sallied into the straits … there to be decisively defeated. Despite her reservations, it appears that Artemisia performed brilliantly, if ruthlessly. Finding her ships trapped between the deadly Greek triremes and the disintegrating Persian fleet, she was determined to break out. Pursued by enemy triremes, she calmly rammed a Persian ship blocking her path and made her escape. Believing her an ally, the Greeks dropped their pursuit while Xerxes, believing her to have sunk an enemy and exasperated at his own admirals, declared “My men have become women, and my women men.”
After the battle Artemisia advised Xerxes to himself return to Asia, and Herodotus wrote that she transported his sons from Greece to safety in Ephesus. After that, she disappears from the historical record.