Drowned in Despair

Drowned in Despair

Artemisia looked at the heavens above as she held the lapis lazuli bowl. The bowl contained wine, which looked darker than usual. She had added her husband’s ashes to the wine. Her husband, Mausolus… her thoughts drifted back to the days of their reign…


377 BC

“I wish Father were still here,” said Mausolus softly.

Artemisia tried to hold back her tears which were threatening to fall.

“Now what do you think will happen?” she asked, her voice slightly trembling, though she knew what was going to happen.

“Well, I will be made King and-” Mausolus sighed. “We will be forced to marry.”

“Can’t you marry the princess of-” 

“No. You know the customs of Caria. Even suggesting the idea to Father’s advisers and courtiers-”

“But you can marry Ada. You know, she’s your sister too,” Artemisia said, in a desperate attempt to change his mind.

“Artemisia,” Mausolus said suddenly, his voice firm, but polite. He took her hands in his and looked at her in her eyes. “Artemisia. Ada is too young to rule. Besides, with your strategic planning, we can expand our kingdom and thwart our enemies’ attempts to attack us. We can rule this kingdom together.”

“Okay,” Artemisia said, her voice barely a whisper. 

Together they sat on the steps of the courtyard, watching the sun slowly rise from the horizon, marking the start of a new period in their lives.


“This is the land we must conquer to improve our-”

“Your Majesty,” said a courtier at the entrance to the room. 

Mausolus and his wife looked up from the map they were keenly studying.

“Come in,” Mausolus said. “We were having an important discussion. Next time you disturb me when I am busy,” His voice was becoming louder and angrier with every word. 

“I apologize, Your Majesty,” the courtier said, his head bowed, trying to mask his fear, “but Athens has called for a Second Delian Confederation. If they are successful,-”

“They will gain control of the Greek cities along the Anatolian Coast, including ours,” Artemisia finished, with shock written all over her face.

“Call the council of my most trusted advisors,” said Mausolus. “We must start discussing this right away.”

“Yes, Your Majesty,” the courtier said and hurriedly went out of the room.

“Halicarnassus,” Artemisia suddenly said, pointing excitedly at the map. 

“Yes, it’s one of our coastal cities. What about it?” Mausolus said, raising an eyebrow.

“We can enlarge it and make it our capital city. With our capital along the coast, we will become almost invincible.”

“Yes, you are right,” Mausolus said, after a long pause. “I wonder why I hadn’t thought of that before?”


Artemisia blinked back tears that threatened to spill out from her eyes. Nothing could save her from the terrible sea of despair she had fallen into after her husband had died. 

She had hastened the process of the completion of the Mausoleum that he had started. Anyone who didn’t oblige was immediately sentenced to death. Artemisia was as much of a tyrant as Mausolus was during his reign, if not more. Now, grieving his death, she was even more feared than her husband.

After his death, she arranged extravagant funeral games, artistic competitions, and detailed rituals for Mausolus. 

Artemisia raised the bowl in her hand and brought it to her lips. It had been a year since her husband had died. Ever since that fateful day, she had mixed a part of his ashes in her wine and drank it, making herself a living tomb. 

Not a single day had passed by after her husband’s death, without her consuming his ashes.

Not a single moment passed by without her mind off her beloved husband. Fate had been so cruel to take him away from her so soon.

She finished drinking and placed the bowl on the table. Grief had consumed her, and Artemisia knew it wouldn’t be long before she joined her husband’s fate.


1639 CE

‘Hmmm. Seriously. Why did she grieve for Mausolus so much? What made her drink his ashes mixed in her wine every day?’ Guido Reni mused as he finished giving his painting the final touches. 

‘It will always remain a mystery, I guess. Anyway, she looks beautiful— a little shadow over there, a fold over here. And yes, she’s a masterpiece. One year of hard work has surely paid off. A mysterious, but intriguing figure in history, she will surely be remembered through my painting.’
Author’s Note:
This painting shows Artemisia II, the co-ruler of the kingdom of Caria, drinking wine mixed with her husband’s ashes. She is believed to have done this every day after her husband’s death. The story I have written is a fictional take based on true events.
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Gayathri Achar
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