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Artemisia is the main antagonist of the 2014 film 300: Rise Of An Empire. She is the merciless and brutal leader of the Persian Navy and battles a Greek fleet at the same time the 300 Spartans make their last stand at Thermopile. She is very loyal to Xerxes and seems to be goading him to wage war with the Greeks but also has feelings for her Greek counterpart Themistocles, leading to a forbidden attack on them. Her character is based on the real life historical figure of the same name.
In her young age, her family was slaughtered by Greek hoplites. Artemisia was taken captive and suffered terrible physical and sexual abuse at the hands of the Greeks. Left for dead on the streets, a Persian official found her and took pity on her. She was subsequently raised and trained by the Persians, and the young girl proved to be a capable warrior. She grew in favor of the Persian King, Darius, when she effortlessly murdered his enemies. Upon hearing of Darius injury at Marathon, Artemisia arrives in time to hear his final words to his son Xerxes. He advises him to end the campaign in Greece, declaring that only the gods can defeat the Greeks. Hearing these words, she pulls the arrow from Darius' chest, seemingly to end his suffering, but actually to end his speech. Artemisia still lusts for vengeance against the Greeks, and subsequently twists these words. She advises Xerxes that he must become a God-King in order to invade Greece.
Once Xerxes has completed his transformation, Artemisia secretly murders all of Xerxes' closest allies so he will trust only her. She watches gleefully as Xerxes appears before his people and announces to them that he shall make war on Greece.
Meeting with Themistocles and First Battle
Artemisia is seen in command of the Persian fleet. When a Persian commander fails to impress her, she has him killed and thrown overboard. During the battle with the Greeks, she appoints Artafernes as her second in command. After General Bandaris failure, she has him thrown into the sea tied with metal bracelets, and replaces him with General Kashani. Artemisia realizes that she has found a worthy opponent in Themistocles and sends her troops to request Themistocles' presence. He accepts and the two meet on neutral waters. Artemisia compliments him on his strategies and recent victories, and offers him a place at her side as her lieutenant. Themistocles seems intrigued, and the two have violent sex with one another in the process, but he still rejects her offer nonetheless. Artemisia angrily sends him away, promising him retribution.
The next day, she is seen firing arrows with deadly accuracy at the Greeks, and ends up killing Scyllias. She soon sets the Greek ships ablaze when she orders her men to pour oil into the sea. When she looses a fire arrow at Themistocles' ship, she presumes him dead in the resulting explosion.
While Artemisia is with Xerxes in Athens, Xerxes gloats that Themistocles was weak. Artemisia bitterly disagrees, stating that had Themistocles joined her, she could have laid the whole world at Xerxes' feet. Ephialtes arrives and informs Xerxes of the Greek fleet gathering at Salamis. Artemisia inquires as to who is leading them, and learns that it is none other than Themistocles. She immediately prepares for battle. Xerxes however cautions her, fearing it may well be a trap. Artemisia indignantly replies that she is more experienced in naval warfare, while Xerxes angrily retorts that it was he who achieved victory at Thermopylae and destroyed Athens. Artemisia dismisses these victories, stating that killing the Spartans made them martyrs, while razing Athens simply destroyed the only thing of value in Greece. Xerxes strikes her to the ground for her insolence. Artemisia is seemingly shocked for a moment, but she regains her feet and calmly assures him that she will conquer the Greeks. Xerxes reprimands her as he is the King, but she replies that it was she who provided him the safety and success of his reign.
Final Battle and Death
At the Battle of Salamis, Artemisia leads her troops into battle and slays many Greeks. Eventually, she is confronted by Themistocles. He tells her that he still refuses to join her, and she angrily fights him. However, Themistocles forces her onto the defensive, parrying her blows and punching her in the face. Impressed, Artemisia renews her attack and wounds his leg. The two are then locked in a stalemate with their swords at each others' throats.
While they converse, she sees the arrival of the Spartans, and Themistocles disarms her. He warns her that she has lost, but she replies that she is ready to face death. He then offers for her to surrender, but she rejects him and tries to fight him. She is subsequently impaled in the stomach by Themistocles, and dies from this wound. But just before she dies, she sees that Xerxes abandon her to save himself.
Though Xerxes is the Big Bad of the 300 films, Artemisia is the main antagonist of Rise of an Empire because she has bigger plans than Xerxes. Since Artemisia is responsible for Xerxes' transformation into God-King, she is the Bigger Bad of the series, as her actions resulted in the events of the film series.
In real life, Artemisia was against engaging the Greeks at Salamis, but Xerxes ignored her advice. She survived the battle, and was made Xerxes' chief advisor. She convinced him to return to Persia and leave his general, Mardonius, to oversee the rest of the war.