Humanities › History & Culture Women Rulers of the Ancient and Classical World Share Flipboard Email Print "Boadicea and Her Army" 1850 Engraving. Print Collector / Hulton Archive / Getty Images History & Culture Women's History Important Figures History Of Feminism Key Events Women's Suffrage Women & War Laws & Womens Rights Feminism & Pop Culture Feminist Texts American History African American History African History Ancient History and Culture Asian History European History Genealogy Inventions Latin American History Medieval & Renaissance History Military History The 20th Century View More By Jone Johnson Lewis Women's History Writer B.A., Mundelein College M.Div., Meadville/Lombard Theological School Jone Johnson Lewis is a women's history writer who has been involved with the women's movement since the late 1960s. She is a former faculty member of the Humanist Institute. our editorial process Jone Johnson Lewis Updated March 24, 2019 Though most rulers in the ancient world were men, some women wielded power and influence as well. These women ruled in their own names, and some even influenced their society as royal consorts. The ancient world's most powerful women leaders hailed from countries across the globe, including China, Egypt, and Greece. Artemisia: Woman Ruler of Halicarnassas Naval Battle of Salamis September 480 BCE. Adapted from an image by Wilhelm von Kaulbach / Hulton Archive / Getty Images When Xerxes went to war against Greece (480-479 B.C.E.), Artemisia, ruler of Halicarnassus, brought five ships and helped Xerxes defeat the Greeks in the naval battle of Salamis. She was named for the goddess Artemisia, but Herodotus, born during her time of rule, is the source of this story. Artemisia of Halicarnassus later erected a mausoleum that was known as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Boudicca (Boadicea): Woman Ruler of the Iceni "Boadicea and Her Army" 1850 Engraving. Print Collector / Hulton Archive / Getty Images Boudicca is an iconic hero of British history. Queen of the Iceni, a tribe in East England, she led a rebellion against Roman occupation in about 60 C.E. Her story became popular during the reign of another English queen who headed an army against foreign invasion, Queen Elizabeth I. Cartimandua: Woman Ruler of the Brigantes Rebel King Caractacus and members of his family, after being turned over to Roman Emperor Claudius. Hulton Archive / Getty Images Queen of the Brigantes, Cartimandua signed a peace treaty with the invading Romans and ruled as a client of Rome. Then she dumped her husband, and even Rome couldn't keep her in power. Because the Romans ultimately took direct control, however, her ex didn't win either. Cleopatra: Woman Ruler of Egypt Bas relief fragment portraying Cleopatra. DEA PICTURE LIBRARY / Getty Images Cleopatra was both the last Pharaoh of Egypt and the last of the Ptolemy dynasty of Egyptian rulers. As she tried to maintain power for her dynasty, she made famous connections with Roman rulers Julius Caesar and Marc Antony. Cleopatra Thea: Woman Ruler of Syria Crocodile-god Sobek and King Ptolemy VI Philometor, bas-relief from Temple of Sobek and Haroeris. De Agostini Picture Library / Getty Images A number of queens in antiquity bore the name Cleopatra. This Cleopatra, Cleopatra Thea, was less well known than her namesake. The daughter of Ptolemy VI Philometor of Egypt, she was a Syrian queen who exercised power after her husband's death and before her son's rise to power. Elen Luyddog: Woman Ruler of Wales Gold solidus of Magnus Maximus, c383-c388 AD. Museum of London / Heritage Images / Getty Images A shadowy legendary figure, Elen Luyddog has been described as a Celtic princess married to a Roman soldier, who later became the Western Emperor. When her husband was executed after failing to invade Italy, she returned to Britain and helped spread Christianity. She also inspired the building of many roads. Hatshepsut: Woman Ruler of Egypt A row of statues of Hatshepsut as Osiris, from her Temple at Deir el-Bahri. iStockphoto / BMPix Hatshepsut was born about 3500 years ago, and when her husband died and his son was young, she assumed the full kingship of Egypt. She even dressed in male clothing to reinforce her claim to be Pharaoh. Lei-tzu (Lei Zu, Si Ling-chi): Woman Ruler of China Silk weaving in China, using historic methods. Chad Henning / Getty Images The Chinese have historically credited Huang Di as being the founder of both China and of religious Taoism. He also created humanity and invented the raising of silkworms and spinning of silk thread, according to Chinese tradition. Meanwhile, his wife, Lei-tzu, discovered the making of silk. Meryt-Neith: Woman Ruler of Egypt Osiris and Isis, The Great Temple of Seti I, Abydos. Joe & Clair Carnegie / Libyan Soup / Getty Images The third ruler of the first Egyptian dynasty united upper and lower Egypt. Known only by name, there are also objects linked to this individual, including a tomb and a carved funeral monument. But many scholars believe that this ruler was a woman. Unfortunately, we don't know much about her life or her reign. Nefertiti: Woman Ruler of Egypt Nefertiti Bust in Berlin. Jean-Pierre Lescourret / Getty Images Chief wife of Pharaoh Amenhotep IV who took the name Akhenaten, Nefertiti is portrayed in Egyptian art and may have ruled after her husband's death. The famous bust of Nefertiti is sometimes considered a classic representation of female beauty. Olympias: Woman Ruler of Macedonia Medallion depicting Olympias, queen of Macedon. Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images Olympias was the wife of Philip II of Macedonia, and the mother of Alexander the Great. She had a reputation as both sacred (a snake handler in a mystery cult) and violent. After Alexander's death, she seized power as regent for Alexander's posthumous son and had many of her enemies killed. But she didn't rule for long. Semiramis (Sammu-Ramat): Woman Ruler of Assyria Semiramis, from De Claris Mulieribus (Of Famous Women) by Giovanni Boccaccio, 15th century. Fine Art Images / Heritage Images / Getty Images Legendary warrior queen of Assyria, Semiramis is credited with building a new Babylon as well as a conquest of neighboring states. We know her from works by Herodotus, Ctesias, Diodorus of Sicily, and Latin historians Justin and Ammianus Macellinus. Her name appears in many inscriptions in Assyria and Mesopotamia. Zenobia: Woman Ruler of Palmyra Zenobia's Last Look on Palmyra. 1888 Painting. Artist Herbert Gustave Schmalz. Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images Zenobia, of Aramean descent, claimed Cleopatra as her ancestor. She took power as queen of the desert kingdom of Palmyra when her husband died. This warrior queen conquered Egypt, defied the Romans, and rode into battle against them, but she was eventually defeated and taken prisoner. She's also depicted on a coin of her time.