4 Amazing Ancient Women Who Ruled

Some all too frequently forgotten leaders from Britain to Palmyra

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There are a handful of women from the ancient world whose leadership is remembered. The most famous is probably Cleopatra VII of Egypt and then you have figures like Boudicca in Britain. But there were so many more women from across Europe and the Middle East who led their people. Here are four of the most interesting.

Originally published in All About History 109


c.1st century CE – c.69 CE

Ruling over a large tribe in northern Britain, Cartimandua relied on the support of Roman invaders, much like many large tribal chiefs of her era, including against her own husband who was co-ruler. The Roman army reinforced her reign on several occasions until the year of four emperors in 69 CE meant they were too preoccupied to send aid and she was finally deposed.

Image credit: Public Domain/ britishmuseum.org


c.240 CE – c.274 CE

Queen of the Roman colony of Palmyra (in modern Syria), Zenobia started out as a client ruler, acting as regent for her young son, but she had greater ambitions. From 269 CE she conquered Egypt and Asia Minor and declared her independence from Rome. She was finally defeated by Aurelian at Antioch and Emesa, before a siege of Palmyra ended her reign.

Image credit: Public Domain/ illusionsgallery.com

Artemisia I

5th century BCE

The queen of Halicarnassus may have been Greek, but she allied with Xerxes in his invasion of Greece and personally led five ships in the Battle of Salamis. While this battle ended in Xerxes’ fleet being repelled, Herodotus credits Artemisia with convincing the great king to retreat rather than overcommit and risk losing what navy he had left.

Image credit: Public Domain/Inigo Jones/ archive.org


9th century BCE

Also known as Sammu-ramat, Semiramis was an Assyrian queen perhaps better known as a legend than as a true historical figure. A stela found at Ashur places her as the mother of king Adad-nirari III, but legend tells of her being the daughter of a goddess who married King Ninus and after his death expanded the empire and built the famous city of Babylon.

Image credit: Public Domain/ aqua-regia009.tumblr.com

Header Image credit: Public Domain/ Fine Art Biblio – Semiramis Building Babylon

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