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Warrior women - Amazons - Greek Mythology

Updated on November 7, 2013
Trojan War
Trojan War

Few Facts about Amazons

In 1542, when a group of Spanish soldiers led by Francisco de Oreliana was on expedition in Brazil, they faced something truly extraordinary and amazing. On the shores of the river appeared a group of strange and unusual warriors. The leader of warriors was a woman, tall and muscular, beautiful and wild, wearing only a small piece of fabric. In memory of this meeting, this river was called River of the Amazons (Amazon).

The myth of the Amazons, is one of the most fascinating mysteries of antiquity, which still captivates the mind of many people. Various testimonies of their existence are found in different nations and eras. Chinese chroniclers speak of countries along the Caspian Sea and neighboring India, which were commanded by women. Histories of rich warrior women are traditions in Kurdistan and in Baltic countries. Amazon tribes were found in Ethiopia and Zimbabwe as well. The myths of the Amazons dominates Minor Asia starting from the Caspian and reaching the Black Sea. After Homer, there are countless historians and poets who spoke about the nation of female warriors that equaled men in strength.

TV series Xena
TV series Xena

Amazons Graveyard

One more archaeological expedition that took place on the border of Russia and Kazakhstan near the city Pakrovka, found a series of fifty vaulted tombs dated from the 4th century BC. In the female graves, archaeologists found jewellery, gems and weapons such as arrows and different military emblems. Beside the female skeletons there were also the symbols of the power: necklaces, sacred stones and objects of religious ceremonies.

Many skeletons had skewed legs as all typical "professional" riders do, but specifics did not stop there. More skeletons, such as of infants were found, near the male graves. Neither male or infant skeleton was found buried beside the women, which indicates that the upbringing of the children was exclusively male obligation. Herodotus, speaking of the Amazons, identified their territory westward, in today's Southern Russia along the Sea of Azov.

The area that skeletons were found didn't fit Herodotus's indicated location, but probably these graves belonged to the new race (Scythian and Amazons) - people who lived around the 4th century BC. The area is enclosed by the rivers Volga and Don which according to Herodotus was the area where descendant of Amazons came from.

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Amazons in Greek Mythology

Greek historians who lived in the 5th century BC, described the battle between the Greeks led by Hercules and the Amazons. At the end of the war, soldiers destroyed the capital of Amazons, Themisyra, and captivated many warrior women.They placed survived amazons into their ships but women never reached the Athens. During the journey amazons managed to break free and capture the ship. All men were killed or thrown away into the sea. As amazons never traveled via sea they knew nothing about the navigation, so they placed their faith into hands of waves and winds. At last, ships landed at the coast of Minor Asia.

The intermarriage between Scythian (local population) gave birth to a new race of people. However, the young Amazons did not abandon their warlike habits. A historian Herodotus stated that every time, women dynamically claimed equally rights to participate in wars just like their Scythian companions. "We are mistresses of bow and arrows, we are horse riders, women's chores are not the amazon ways. Your Scythian wives, however, did not go hunting or anywhere else, except only moving within carriages and spend their time in the housekeeping. " According to some other sources, women of the new created race fought alongside with men and were not allowed to marry unless they have killed at least three enemies in the battle. In nomadic traditions such customs were justified as well.

As it is explained by Janine Davis Kimball, the obligations of women in nomadic tribes were more complex than those of men. They had to prepare food, to raise children and look after the animals, also learn how to ride and handle weapons in battle. Some of them also took the positions of leader, shaman or authority.

There are many evidence of gender equality in Eurasian tribes. Women-warriors were mentioned long before Herodotus. Homer's Iliad includes Amazons into the list of those who sided with the Trojans against the Achaeans. There are many legends about them. One of the most discussed and widely reported legend states that in order to handle the bow better, the amazons cut off one breast. According to historians, the misunderstanding comes from the etymological analysis of the name 'Amazon' which means' a-mazos ", translated from the Greek language as "one who misses a breast". The correct etymology of the word was rather different and probably derives from "amazosai": "those who live together," just as did the women warriors.

The Amazons as a part of Greek mythology were described as mythical female warriors, perfect huntresses, directly descended from the god of war Ares himself and the nymph Harmonia also called goddess Athena. In ancient times there was a legend of a nation consisted only by women, who lived in Minor Asia between the rivers Phasis and Thermodonta.The ancient Greeks imagined Amazons as gorgeous women, organized in a strict military system, perfect equestriennes with savageness in wars and battles. There is a high probability that Amazons are mythological transformation (echo) of the people of the Hittites.

Evidences of Amazon Existence

There are many evidence of gender equality in Eurasian tribes. Women-warriors were mentioned long before Herodotus. Homer's Iliad includes Amazons into the list of those who sided with the Trojans against the Achaeans. There are many legends about them. One of the most discussed and widely reported legend states that in order to handle the bow better, the amazons cut off one breast. According to historians, the misunderstanding comes from the etymological analysis of the name 'Amazon' which means' a-mazos ", translated from the Greek language as "one who misses a breast". The correct etymology of the word was rather different and probably derives from "amazosai": "those who live together," just as did the women warriors.

The Amazons as a part of Greek mythology were described as mythical female warriors, perfect huntresses, directly descended from the god of war Ares himself and the nymph Harmonia also called goddess Athena. In ancient times there was a legend of a nation consisted only by women, who lived in Minor Asia between the rivers Phasis and Thermodonta.The ancient Greeks imagined Amazons as gorgeous women, organized in a strict military system, perfect equestriennes with savageness in wars and battles. There is a high probability that Amazons are mythological transformation (echo) of the people of the Hittites.

Queens of the Amazons

Myrina

She marched towards Minor Asia and crushed the Atlanteans and destroyed their capital Ephesus.

Hippolyte ( 430 BC)

Daughter of Ares and Amazon Otriris, the mythical queen of the Amazons, she was associated in mythology with the adventures of Hercules and Theseus. The mythical belt was given to her by Ares. For Amazons, it was a symbol of power. She was killed in a battle by Hercules.

Antiope

She was "kidnapped" by Theseus with the help of other heroes (Peirithos, Forvanta etc.) and brought to Athens. Later she became a wife of Theseus and gave a birth to a son, Hippolytus. Antiope died fighting in Athens alongside with Theseus against the other Amazons, who had invaded Athens to revenge Theseus for grabbing their queen Antiope. Amazons never knew that Antiope loved Theseus and "kidnapping" wasn't so bad after all for Antiope.

Penthesilea (520BC)

After the death of Hector, the Trojans were in a desperate situation so they had to ask the help of the Amazons despite their hostile relationships. Amazons have accepted the invitation and sent a capable force, led by the queen Penthesilea, to help king Priam.

Thalistris

According to Greek myth, the queen of the Amazons brought 300 amazons to Alexander the Great hoping to breed new race of children as strong and intelligent as the conqueror himself. According to the legend, she stayed with Alexander for thirteen days and nights in a hope that great commander would become the father of her daughter. No data were ever presented to confirm the birth of the children.

Wars, Amazons are mentioned to participate.

Always as equestrians they fought in the Trojan War on the side of the Trojans under the leadership of their famous queen Penthesilea. An amazon princess who was loved and killed by Achilles.

Homer says that Amazons fought against Bellerophon who destroyed them, Pindar adds as well that they were killed by arrows, thrown from above with help of flying horse Pegasus.

The legend of the beautiful Amazons had covered huge area of the ancient world. One of the myths of ancient times says, that Hercules in order to fulfill the wish of Eurystheus (to get Hippolyte's belt and transfer it to Mycenae), reached Amazon Land. But the Amazons got mad and fiercely fought Hercules, who achieved his goal after all , by killing the queen Hippolyte and taking her belt.

River that took name after Amazons

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    • limpet profile image

      Ian Stuart Robertson 2 years ago from London England

      The Amazon river, we were taught was so named by the conquistador Oranella because he observed semi naked women armed with spears watching as their boat passed. In about the same era the Scottish theologian John Knox wrote 'First blast of the trumpet' describing the number of Queen's Regnant on the thrones of Europe at the time as the monstrous regiment of women. This perturbed the Queen of England at the time but he kept his head as Elizabeth I did not reign over Scotland.

      In this day and age we have Amazon Warriors in the U.S.A. as well as the Ukraine who have normal day jobs and relationships but head into the woods in their spare time to practice the Amazon creed.

    • mts1098 profile image

      mts1098 4 years ago from InsideTheManCave

      I enjoyed this...cheers and thanks

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