For centuries, the Amazons– a fearsome tribe of warrior women — were dismissed as little more than myth and legend.
Now, however, new investigations and discoveries have proven that the Amazons did indeed exist.
But what exactly do we know about the Amazons? Here’s a few quick facts about them, courtesy of Ancient Origins:
- They were the descendants of the nomadic ancient Scythians and Sarmatian people.
- Their territory ranged from the slopes of the Caucasus mountains between the eastern end of the Black Sea and all the way to the vast Eurasian steppes.
- They rode horses, shot arrows, were uneasy around boats, and even wore pants.
The first mention of Amazons is in the Illiad, where Homer described them as fighting against Achilles, joining the forces of Troy. They also show up elsewhere in early Greek poetry and literature:
“In Hercules’s ninth labor, he was tasked by Eurystheus to steal the belt (or girdle) from an Amazon queen. Another story mentioned the ill-fated marriage of Theseus and Hippolyta, resulting in one of the earliest perspectives to the traumas that parent separations may bring on their children.”
The Romans also made references to the Amazons, even going so far as to recreate battles in the gladiatorial arena. Female gladiators were given the names of famous Amazon queens and fought in hand-to-hand combat with opponents.
But it wasn’t until the 20th century that we got tangible evidence proving the Amazon’s were more than just fictional characters:
“Russian archaeologists began to re-examine their existence when excavations of Scythian kurgans (Scythian burial mounds) revealed startling finds.”
The Greeks used tales of Amazon women to provide a contrast to how Greek women were’t supposed to behave:
“Amazon women – according to ancient Athenian men – were loose, brawlers, hot-tempered, and unable to fully mature into adulthood due to their carefree lifestyles.
“Athenian Greek women were be expected to be good family women, productive of male heirs, and zealous in maintaining the household. To be anything less of those traits would be Amazonian in nature.”
In other words, a strong woman was frowned upon in Greek society, and women who didn’t fit into the pattern set were considered to be something violent and immature; an Amazon.
But the best descriptions of the Amazons can be found in the writings of the Greek historian Herodotus, who was actually somewhat objective in what he reported about them:
“Herodotus wrote passages about their possible origins. His sentiments were the same: They were man-killers who could kill ten men with little to no effort. In one of his historical accounts, he mentioned that a group of Amazons was captured during the Battle of Thermodon. As the Greeks sailed home, the Amazons broke free and killed every single man on the ship.”
The archaeological evidence of Amazons first came in 1993 with a discovery of what was dubbed “the Siberian Ice Maiden,” which was unearthed from a burial mound in the Republic of Altai, Russia:
“The Ice Maiden’s burial mound held a plethora of items revealing further insight to the mysterious Scythian people. But of all the incredible artifacts from her kurgan that fascinated the world, it was the garments she wore and the tattoos she had, still preserved from the arid permafrost of the steppe.
“In her larch wood coffin, she dawned a yellow silk tussah blouse, a striped wool skirt of crimson and white, a tassel belt, thigh-high white felt leggings with a marten fur, a polished metal mirror by her side, and a three-foot-tall headdress.
“Even though Russian archaeologists had assumed her to be a priestess of some kind, the Ice Maiden’s funerary dress closely resembled the depictions of Greek Amazons from the fifth and sixth century BC Greek vases.”
To the ancient Greeks, the Amazons were the embodiment of female independence and rebellion which was in need of being conquered and tamed. But modern scholars see them in a much different light. To a more enlightened eye, the Amazons represent freedom and sexual equality, two concepts that are now essential to Western society.
For more on the Amazons and their evolution from myth to reality, watch this informative video:
Featured Image Via Pixabay