Amazons were a matriarchy who managed to defeat many of the Greek mythic heroes. Were they a symbol of the fearsome Other? Were they, as evidence is beginning to suggest, actually real? Amazons of yore, we salute you!
Why do we still love Amazons? Why do strong women get called Amazons whether they like it or not? The Amazon of fiction and dream is always noble, courageous, intelligent and – above all – independent. The women who have willingly or unwillingly earned the name Amazon often emulate these qualities. Each, in her own way, has sought and fought to improve the quality of life for herself, her sisters and her children. Some have purposefully sought battle, while others have had battles thrust upon them. Some fit the classical ideal of Amazon. For modern Amazons, the field of battle might be the picket line, the classroom, the hospital, the factory, the science lab and the seats of political power.
Mookychick likes Amazons because they make a fantastic myth – and what’s more, historical evidence points to the chance that you might have been real, as well. Life could only improve if science showed you really did, as American comics suggest, all have invisible planes.
Love Mookychick xxx
Best known for:
Cutting off one breast to draw their bows more easily and being a fierce matriarchy. You may recall Diana Prince AKA Wonder Woman was an Amazon and she had a magical lassoo of truth and an invisible plane. Amazons did not, as a rule, have magical lassoos and invisible planes.
Least known for:
Possibly actually existing and not just being a myth. Amazons are usually classified as legend, not myth – that is, a fictional story with a basis in historical truth.
Love them love them love them. Amazons were all about truth, honour, worshipping the hunt and looking after your friends.
A short history of the Amazons:
Okay, the Amazons may well have been fictional. But the concept of the fearsomely independent Amazon who behaved like a man existed for a reason: For a particular society the Amazon becomes the Other, the being upon whom are projected all of the society’s doubts, fears and prejudices; the Amazon is the exact opposite of what a proper woman should be, her culture is the unnatural opposite of the natural order.
The Amazons were a tribe of female warriors in ancient Greece. Although they have always been said to be mythological, archaeological evidence over the last five years suggests that the women themselves may have actually existed.
In 3000BC the island of Lemnos in the norther Agaean may have been the first Amazon stronghold. Its name means ‘predominated by women’. This is the only area where arrowheads have been found for that period – the Amazons were famous archers. A great number of delicate tools made of bone and metal with finely-shaped needles have been found – obviously used for feminine cosmetic purposes. And the area and forts of Lemnos are covered with vulva-shaped rock monuments and vulva-shaped masonry detailing suggesting a cultural adoration of women.
The Amazon of fiction and dream is always noble, courageous, intelligent and above all independent, and the women who have willingly or unwillingly earned the name Amazon often emulate these qualities. Each, in her own way, has sought and fought to improve the quality of life for herself, her sisters and her children. Some have purposefully sought battle, while others fell into the midst quite unexpectedly. Some fit the classical ideal of Amazon; that is, they fought on the traditional field of battle with pistols and swords. For others, the field of battle is the picket line, the classroom, the hospital, the factory, the laboratory and houses of politics.
The women were said to be fierce warriors, achieving several victories and gaining a formidable reputation as they wielded spear and sword in defense of children and motherland. Clyemne was an Amazon at the Attic war who fought both Theseus and Phaleros in single combat. Her name means, “Famous Might.” Aello was one of Hippolyte’s Amazons. She was the first to attack Herakles when he came for Hippolyte’s girdle. Unfortunately, Herakles now wore the lion skin from his first labor, making him invulnerable. Aello could not kill Herakles and was killed herself. Her name means, “Whirlwind.” Alkaia was one of Queen Andromache’s Amazon generals. Her name means, “Mighty One.” Read of more inspiring Amazons of myth and legend.
It was the Greeks who named them “Amazon” from “a-mazos” (“without a breast”). Legends say that Amazon girls would cut off their right breast in order to shoot a bow with greater ease and that the Amazons were able to tame horses long before anyone in mainland Greece acquired the skill. About the breasts – there is also a possibility that this story is designed to discourage women from taking up archery. This speculation is supported by even the most casual observation of modern day female archers who are more than capable of using the bow with all breasts intact.
After many battles with (and often victories over) the Greek heroes, the Amazons are said to have who finally retreated into the mist-enshrouded mountains of Anatolia and Armenia and Bactria as wave after wave of patriarchal warriors invaded their lands.
The big question is: If Amazons were all women, how did the tribe continue from one generations to the next without baby-making men? Amazons were said to be autonomous (ie. Independent and self-governing) and they maintained their numbers by sleeping with men from foreign lands. Only the female children of these unions remained with the tribe.
The Amazons’ influence can be seen in other cultures of that time. Spartan women, for example, although living in a male dominated culture, were said to have significant political power and were taught basic fighting skills in order to be able to defend themselves. Spartan women were however still generally treated as submissive to men.
Both groups of females worshipped Artemis, goddess of the hunt and protector of women.
If Amazons were real they didn’t look like this. They just didn’t.
It would be grand if they looked like this, though.
An Amazon has a pop at a Greek hero – note her spear and excellent horsemanship. Vase painting circa 4C BC.