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Amazons

Updated on April 16, 2012
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The Amazons in Greek legend were members of a tribe of women warriors who lived on the southern shore of the Black Sea.

The Amazons were said to kill or send away their male offspring, keeping only their female children.

One story about them involved the Greek hero Heracles (Hercules). For his ninth labor, he was ordered to obtain the girdle of Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons. Although she gave it to him, the goddess Hera (Juno) caused a misunderstanding and as a result Hippolyta was slain, In another legend, Theseus, king of Athens, attacked the Amazons and carried off their queen, Antiope, When Amazon forces invaded Athens, Theseus defeated them, In the Trojan War a band of Amazons supported Troy and fought bravely until Achilles slew their queen, Penthesilea, Herodotus, the 5th century Greek historian, reported that following one war between Greeks and Amazons, the Greek party set sail with a number of Amazon captives. The women murdered their captors and were blown ashore in the territory of the Scythians. There they seized a herd of horses and rode away, pursued by the Scythians. Eventually, they took Scythian husbands who adopted the hunting, horseback-riding life to which the Amazons were accustomed. Their descendants were the Sauromatae.

While the early legends are largely fictitious, they may have had some kernel of fact. Among early Germanic tribes, women followed their men into battle, bringing food and encouragement to the fighting men. The Mongol armies of Genghis Khan were accompanied by their families. In the 19th century, Hazara women in Afghanistan supported their men in battle, bringing up ammunition and food, and the wife of one khan wore men's clothing and led troops in war, It is thus possible that, in wars with the Greeks, tribal women joined the fighting when their fathers and husbands were hard pressed, thus giving rise to the legends. It is improbable, however, that there was ever a tribe of women warriors.

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