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Amazon Women in Ancient Greek Art

Amazon Women in Ancient Greek Art

Ancient Greek Amazon WarriorsAncient Amazons, One on Horseback

In the appendix to the American heritage dictionary there is this reference to an Indo-European word, "magh-2, to fight. 1. Old Iranian *ha-maz-an, "the warrior" (*ha, the see so-), possibly borrowed into Greek as Amazon. That makes the word related to the Greek 'μάχομαι'. It would seem that the Amazons are part of our patriarchal Indo-European heritage instead of the Minoan culture that seemed to have powerful female deities.

In Prometheus Bound by Aeschylus a reference to Amazons seems to be made at line 415: "Κολχίδος τε γᾶς ἔνοικοι παρθένοι, μάχας ἄτρεστοι,..." (And those who dwell in the land of Colchis, the maidens fearless in fight;)

In Greek mythology the Amazons are a nation or race of women warriors which the ancient Greeks often battled. Thus the Greek references to the Amazons are quite old. What follows in an image of Hercules fighting Andromache, queen of the Amazons from about 565 BCE: Click here.

Aristophanes in the Comedy, Lysistrata line 678 makes reference to Amazons: "Then think of Myron's (This should be Mikon) painting, and each horse-backed Amazon In combat hand-to-hand with men...." The Athenians preferred to display images that only indirectly refer to current events. So they memorialized their defeat of the Persians by illustrating the defeat by Theseus of the Amazons of ancient times. For this reason many of the Amazons are portrayed in Phrygian garb.

Amazons form a common art subject in ancient Greece. Aesthetically they can easily be justified because they allow the construction of dynamic figures of both sexes interacting. But their historical significance is quite perplexing. Recent interest in the status of women in society has brought new interest in the Amazons and any light they can shed on this subject. Since the publication of J. J. Bachofen's Mutterrecht in 1859 the existence of Amazon's has been taken as evidence for a matriarchy in historic times. Though this may be a convenient counter to current male prejudice, it may not be consistent with the nature of the myth. Of more relevance may be the fact that Amazons invert the roles of men and women. The myth may deal with the initiation of youth to their proper roles, while the image of the Amazon presents a nightmare to the average Greek.

There are a number of myths that include references to Amazons:

Ancient Greek turns out to be in the family of Indo-European languages. Progress has been made in the development of the nature of the Indo-European prototype. In the more ancient stories it may be possible to determine some indication of the source by identifying the meaning of the names in the Indo-European prototype language. Failure to find such a meaning may mean the name comes from another culture or that the name was simply fabricated.

Names of Amazons

Only one name of an Amazon is to be found in Homer or other author of his time. From the Iliad Book II line 815 that name and its adjective is 'πολυσκάρθμοιο Μυρίνης' The Little and Scott reference on this use of this adjective is "much, springing, bounding or driving swift horses". This is given because of the contrast between this and the translation of the name which may be 'mouse skin'. The good thing about this translation is that it does not sound like a name given by later writers. The bad thing is that it does not sound like a name for a girl.

The Amazons in Apollodorus (2nd cent. BCE):

The majority of the names of Amazons seem to have an Indo-Eropean meaning and this supports the quote from Aeschylus in "Prometheus Bound" which states that Io had contact with the Amazons in the Caucasus before they moved to the Thermodon. The Amazons seem more to do with the Indo-European past than anything else. Euripides supports this because he indicates the Amazons are located around the sea of Azov.

Other Amazons from later writers

Most of these references involve a battle, called an Amazonomachy ('Amazon-battle'), between Greeks and Amazons in which the Amazons are ultimately defeated.

But there are also Amazons depicted in more pastoral roles:

Amazon tombs are frequent in central Greece. They are found at:

At both Chalcis and Athens there was and Amazoneum or shrine of Amazons that implied the presence of both tombs and cult. On the day before the Thesea at Athens there were annual sacrifices to the Amazons.

In the Eumenides by Aeschylus line 684 there is this reference about Amazons attacking Athens: "And this Hill of Ares, the seat and camp of the Amazons, [685] when they came with an army in resentment against Theseus, and in those days built up this new citadel with lofty towers to rival his, and sacrificed to Ares, from which this rock takes its name, the Hill of Ares:"

There are claims that Asia minor settlements were founded by Amazons:

In historical times maidens of Ephesus performed an annual circular dance with weapons and shields that had been established by Hippolyte and her Amazons. They had initially set up an old wooden statue of Artemis( a bretas).

Callimachus, Hymn 3 to Artemis (trans. Mair) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) For thee, too, the Amazones, whose mind is set on war, in Ephesos beside the sea established an image beneath an oak trunk, and Hippo [an Amazon queen] performed a holy rite for thee, and they themselves, O Oupis Queen, around the image danced a war-dance--first in shields and armour, and again in a circle arraying a spacious choir. And the loud pipes thereto piped shrill accompaniment, that they might foot the dance together (for not yet did they pierce the bones of the fawn [to create flutes], Athene’s handiwork, a bane to the deer). And the echo reached unto Sardis and to the Berekynthian range [in Phrygia]. And they with their feet geat loudly and therewith their quivers rattled. And afterwards around that image was raised a shrine of broad foundations. That it shall dawn behold nothing more divine, naught richer.

Greek Literature locates one community of Amazons in north central Turkey. They lived next to the river Thermodon in the city of Themiscyra in Pontic Asia Minor. This location is consistent with the stories that a contingent of Amazons led by Penthesilea was an ally of Troy and battled the Greeks who had come to recover Helen. The Trojan war is believed to have been fought about 1500-1200 b.c.e. For some time it was believed that the Hittites occupied the area of the world believed to be the home of the Amazons at this time. The archeological remains of the Hittites are crude and lack the excitement of the Greek ones, so they have been poorly studied. But there are a number of possibilities which could connect Amazons and Hittites.

Hittites wore their hair long. The Greeks simply confused them with women because Greek women wore long hair.

Hittites had a religion based on an earth mother. Priestesses were used extensively in their religious ceremonies. Priestesses were brought along on their military adventures to bless the troops. They carried a butterfly image on a stick that was sacred to the earth mother that they used as wand to carry out their priestly mission.

The Hittites were a world power at the time of the Trojan war, but had sunk to a level of insignificance by the time of classical Greece. The images of Amazons of classical Greece may be a 700 year cultural memory of the Hittites. Writings suggest that the Amazons used a double bit ax that resembles a butterfly on a stick, but I have found few represented in art. The Dipylon shield has this shape, but it is turned sideways. Amazons are sometimes dressed in Greek clothes and sometimes in more oriental garb. It is possible that these details in the art images will provide a clue.

Recent research seems to remove the Amazons from the area of the Hittites. Instead the area is occupied by the fierce Kaska people. Little is know about these people except that they did not build cities, and they herded pigs and wove linen. And these are facts that are consistent with the Amazons. In fact the pig has a special relationship to Artemis who the Amazon's worshipped. This information is presented at: Click here. This material suggests that the Trojan war was but a battle in a larger struggle which the Mycenaeans badly lost and their civilization was destrowed. And the Amazons were on the side that won.

The worship of the earth mother persisted in Asia Minor until Roman times. The Roman state of Phrygia had a religion of this sort. I do not know what, if any, is the relation of the religion of the Hittities to the religion of Phrygia. Artifacts of art may help to clarify this relation.

The notion of the mascot is of interest. In popular cullture, a mascot is often used to personify a team spirit. Is it possible that centaurs and Amazons were mascots used to represent other peoples?

There are peculiarities in the stories that Homer tells that may bear on this. In the Greek armies, only the Amazons represent women fighting. But among the Greek gods it is common for the women to fight. The aegis of Athena is particularly interesting because it is a weapon from an earlier time. The Hittites were one of the first to use iron weapons. The Greeks tell of bronze weapons in classical times. But the aegis of Athena is a skin, though magical, it is a pre-bronze age weapon. It seems possible that the stories of the Greek gods are memories of an older culture where women were indeed fighters. But the goddesses do not seem to have the same embellishments as Amazons.

Also of note is the fact that in the Trojan war the main protagonists among the gods are Athena opposing Troy, and Aphrodite on the side of Troy. The Amazons seem to be supporting the side of Aphrodite. The fact that Aphrodite is ultimately defeated seems significant.

Marija Gimbutus, in her book "The Language of the Goddess" discusses the double axe image extensively in chapter 24 "Bull, Bee, and Butterfly". Her work does not consider the Hittite culture and the examples that she gives are entirely Minoan or Mycenaean with Minoan being in the majority. There is one curious image (426) which has a double axe symbol hovering over a figure in Minoan dress. This is to be contrasted with the many Amazons who never wear the long dresses of the Minoans, but are often given Phrygian attire. There is an image (Kahane, p 88) of two warriors, A terra-cotta plaque from an architectural frieze from Pazarli, north of Boghazkoy, northern Anotolia, Latter half of the 6th century bce which is identified as Phrygian. These figures wear the clothes that are often displayed on Amazons namely, short skirts and pantaloons with stripes. Their helmets bear some resemblence to those of the Amazons. This plaque is located in the Archaeological Museum in Ankara.

One author concludes that the Amazons may be Hittites based on what is in Homer. Homer represents the Phrygians as rendering aid to King Priam at the seige of Troy, in return for assistance which he had given to them in their war against the Amazons on the banks of the Sangarius. (EB, 1960, 17, 851d)

The book "The Hittites" (J. G. Macqueen, ISBN 0-500-27887-3) there are two interesting illustrations. On page 127 is a picture of figures in Chamber A at Yazilikaya. Included is a secondary figure holding a double axe. The frontispiece of the book is a figure from the King's gate at Bogazkoy. This figure has headress and corselet similar to an amazon painted by the Niobid painter about 460 bce from the Gela. Palermo, National Museum (G1283).

The book "Minoans" (Rodney Castleden, ISBN 0-415-0407-1) on page 136 includes a discussion of the religious nature of the double axe in Minoan Culture. The chapter title illustration for chapter 4 illustrates a ceremonial axe with two pairs of bits. For ceremonial uses one would expect the axe to take such an impractical shape. To find such an axe in the hands of an Amazon would strongly relate them to prietesses, but I have not found any.

I have little doubt that priestesses in Minoan Culture used the double bit axe. Some authors seem to claim that the Greeks expressed their revulsion for the Minoan worhip of the Goddess by turning these priestesses into Amazons who were the object of armed conflict. But the style of clothing associated with Amazons appears closer to Phrygian or Hittite. The location of the Amazons is perhaps between these two cultures. I find it odd that the Egyptian name for Hittites was Arzawa. This name is not too far from being Amazon. But there also seems to be the very real possibility that the Amazons were a real culture in between Phrygia and the Hittites which was gone by 1200 BC, the time of the demise of the Hittites.

The notion that the Amazons were Minoans also gets support. Unlike the Hittites the Minoans are mentioned as enemies of the mainland Greeks. Oddly the main information is included in the story about Theseus and the Minotaur. In this story Theseus goes to Crete in the company of eleven children to be sacrificed to the Minotaur. While there he kills the Minotaur and returns home. Archaeology supports the fall of Minoan civiliztion about this time. The fact that The children went to Crete as tribute suggests that the Minoans had dominated the other Greeks for some time. The children do not well represent an army but perhaps they do. Clearly the act of Theseus represents a victory of some kind. When Theseus leaves Crete he takes Ariadne with him. What she symbolizes is not at all clear. The fact that Theseus abandons her on Naxos is weird. But he seems to continue on to Athens with Athena and the rest of the Minoan pantheon.

The ancient Greeks do not mention the Hittites and they collapse the history of the Minoans into a single generation. The Hittites used the butterfly symbol and the Minoans had the Labris which may be a transformed butterfly. both cultures had goddesses. There is some debate as to whether goddesses predominate in the Minoan culture. Goddesses are dominant in the art of the Minoans. The Minoans were a maritime culture unlike the Hittites and the men probably spent a great deal of time at sea. This may have encouraged their women to become independent and self-reliant. Possibly the Amazon culture was formed by women of Crete, at the time of Ariadne, who did not want to submit to a patriarchy like that of Theseus. Perhaps Ariadne rejected Theseus and not the other way around.

Amazon warrior on a sortie. She wears two ginds of girdles. One that is symbolic or decorative on her chest. The other is protective, like an apron.

She finds and subdues a young women from a camp of her enemies. The girl begs for mercy. Her nudity indicates that her status is not high. Perhaps she is a a slave though most slaves have short hair.

The Amazon warrior finds the girl likely to be a suitable gift to her god Ares so she takes her to a high mountain where she knows that a god has been present. There she plans to sacrifice her to Ares. She has placed the girl on a betyl sitting on a plinth. "Betyl" is a Semitic version of the Hebrew term "Beth-el" meaning the swelling or abode of God. In Palestine, the worship of the Sun Stone or Betyl goes as far back as the 8th Millennium BC. Digging in the ancient ruins of Jericho, archaeologists found at its lowest level, carbon dated to neolithic times of about 7000 BC, a temple where at its center an oval stone stood upright on a stone pedestal. "Plinth" is likely a Minoan word. It started possibly as a placemarker where a god had been. In ancient Greece wooden objects were more often used instead of betyls. It is believed that these so called xoans were pieces blown off large trees that were struck by lightening.

Originally the sacrifice was a sacred marriage where the maiden dies to become a mother. It is a ceremony of transformation. But it changed into a marriage between a maiden and and a god where the maiden has to join the spirit world through her death. Though some were satisfied with this act because this ultimate sacrifice was sure to please the god, others were unsatisfied. A death involves a loss that can be very accute. Sometimes a chain of vengeance was set up that caused great destruction. Finding of a suitable victim is not that easy. Captives can be suitable because their relatives or suitors cannot claim them. But then they just become another victim of the carnage that is war. One salvation of many women captives is that they had some value as slaves and could be sold.

The book "The world of the Scythians" (Renate Rolle, 1980, ISBN 0-520-0684-5) claims that the Amazon Penthesilia was a Scythian, from the region north of the Black Sea. This book supports its claim by citing archeological evidence of women warriors buried with their weapons. This is consistent with the writings of Herodotus and his records of Amazons. The style of dress as illustrated in art supports this claim. But this does not mean that Amazons are distinct from Hittites. The references to Amazons in Northcentral Turkey are older than the references to Penthesilia. One would think that a culture as important as the Hitites would be mentioned in Greek Literature, yet they are not. It is possible that the meaning of the word changed with time and at an early period referred to Hittites, who were men, and later referred to Cythians, who were women.

Women warriors are not unknown among the Greeks. Atalanta is an example. Though she did not participate in any armed conflicts, she performed bravely in the Calydonian boar hunt, and bested men in wrestling and running contests.

Athena fits the description of an Amazon in many respects. In two cases in the Odyssey she is described as using a wand. This may well be a reference to the double ax of the Amazon's. In the Odyssey Circe also uses a wand in the same way. That the wand is used as an instrument of transformation is very suggestive of the fact that the butterfly is a symbol of transformation. More contemporary images of wands show sparkling stars at the end of the wand, but even so the wand is an instrument of transformation. Does the star represent an actual power, like radium, or a symbolic power. It seems to represent a symbolic power that was originally represented by a butterfly. A star and a butterfly are not that dissimilar. It is also odd that the description of Circe and her powers in the Odyssey is almost identical to the description of a contemporary witch, even though the time interval is over 3 thousand years. Only Circe is not an old witch. But many of the monsters of ancient Greece are feminine: Gorgon, Charybdic, Scylla, Harpies, etc. and ugly. This is consistent with the notion that when a new religion takes over an old one the dieties of the old one become the devils of the new one.

Another aspect of Athena is important. When Theseus went to Crete to fight the Minotaur he was helped by Aphrodite because Ariadne fell in love with him. He started to bring Ariadne back to Athens but he left her on the island of Naxos. He did bring Athena with him, but she is not part of the Minotaur story. Athena must have brought her wand with her from Crete. At Athens Athena becomes a military goddess that is very Amazon in character. She ever acts like an Amazon, but she is never called an Amazon.

Athena being Amazon-like helps to connect Amazons to Crete. The meaning of the name 'Athena' is much disputed but the most likely seems to be "Athena -- Minoan and then Mycenaean (A-ta-na-po-ti-ni-ja is her Mycenaean name but this comes from Minoan A-ta-na-dju-wa-ja which means sun goddess)." Ref.: Minoan Origins of Athena. Euripides in The Bacchae suggests that the first Maenads were the nurses of Zeus, line 120,

Hail thou, O Nurse of Zeus, O Caverened Haunt
  Where fierce arms clanged to guard God's cradle rare,
For thee of old some crested Corybant
         First woke in Cretan air
  The wild orb of our orgies,
  Our Timbrel; and thy gorges
Rang with this strain; and blended Phrygian chant
     And sweet keen pipes were there.

It is interesting that the Corybants are soldiers who are dancing. Furthermore Euripides suggests that the soldiers are replaced by women. One has to wonder if they might have been first replaced by women with weapons. Just as Dionysus had the Maenads to support him, and Zeus had the Corybants, is it not possible that Athena could have had Amazons?

There are a number of interesting stories about Amazons

An amazon girl shooting a bow

They lived in Pontus by the shore of the Euxine Sea. They formed an independent kingdom under the government of a queen. The capital was Themiscyra on the banks of the river Thermodon. Herodotus (iv, 110-117).

Amazon communities -one theory is that Amazon communities were made of tents. This would explain why there are no Amazon archeological sites. This would also be consistent with the fact that weaving was a traditional skill of women. It is also consistent with the fact that amazons wear more clothing than their Greek counterparts. That would also point to the fact that the main economy of Amazons was raising wool, flax or the silphium plant. Farming was also a possibility as in the traditional societies many farming tasks were done by women. The basic unit of the Amazon army was the mounted warrior. It would be impossible for Amazon's to support every woman as a warrior because of the weapons and supplies that a mounted warrior rquires. In the middle ages mounted knights required at least one squire and so at this early time at least two assistants might be required. And every women who took to the field might require two or three at home to manage the estate while the warrior was away. So each warrior might require the assistance of perhaps one dozen women. And if the community was made of tents, then many of the warriors would have to stay close to home to defend the tents. A single army of 50,000 amazons might require a community of about 1,200,000 Amazons at home, which Priam claims they did in the Iliad. Today 7 acres are required to support each person and then more land was needed. Using this figure 8.4 million acres would be needed for the entire community, or about 10 thousand square miles. This is a square about 100 miles by one hundred miles at the very least. This would mean 1/16 of the territory of contemporary Turkey would be occupied by amazons, with something like a quarter being more likely unless their agriculture was exceptionally efficient.

It is hard to understand why Amazons ever are shown fighting on foot, because they have a tremedous disadvantage on foot. In fact there advatage is at some distance from the enemy. Their fighting style involves a dash at the enemy. a release at the enemy of arrow or javelin and then a dash to the squire for a new arrow or javelin. Arrows had the advantage of distance, while javelin had a more armour piercing ability. But attack on a horse required tremedous skill since the horse was always bouncing along. The woman warrior would have to be very practiced and at one with the horse.

It is possible that the reason we see Amazons on foot is that they have been knocked of their horse. In view of their riding arrangements, this may not have been that hard. It is also possible that what we see is the squire coming to the aid of a fallen comrade. A warrior should not have gone into battle with just one horse. There should have been at least a pack horse for carrying weapons and supplies including extra arrows and perhaps three javelins. Nothing could be worse than Amazon caught without weapons. All she could do was flee. The squire might be able to pick up weapons off the field, but this was not always possible.

Amazon's are commonly associated with an ax, but this is not a particularly effective weapon and may have only been used as a last resort. But as a tool an ax is easier to use and easier to make than a sword so it may have had another purpose. Athena used a wand that was probably shaped like a double bit ax to make the end look like a butterfly. The butterfly is the symbol of transformation and this is consistent with its use as a wand. The ax may have had multiple purposes as the sword had for the medieval knight. The sword would be a fighting instrument when held by the handle and a christian cross for spiritual purpose when held by the blade. The ax may have been used for ceremonial purposes as a butterfly, as a camp tool, or as a weapon.

Amazon's would have grown some linen simply for use with bowstrings, but in general linen is a stable material that does not fit the type of clothing the Amazon's wore. Of course its use with tents would be excellent. Good linen smeared with beeswax, lanolin, lamb or goat fat, or linseed oil would be quite water repellant. A tent within a tent would provide perhaps better protection from the elements than a similar house made of stones and sticks used by the greeks. The Amazons seem to be wearing skin tite tights. Linen would allow no movement, wool is better but knitting that gives wool fabrics their suppleness was not invented until the seventeeth century. Silk is more appropriate but it was only available from china at that time. Trade routes could have provided this however as the great silk road lead to the eastern pports on the black sea.

Amazon diet would have consisted of meat such as mutton or goat, green vegetables like onions and turnip greens, and grain such as barley or wheat. It seems likely that they raised beef for religious sacrifice, and pehaps milk, but beef provide no wool.

The dress that the Greek artists put on Amazons could not be accurate. What they did was to adapt the stories of the Amazons to the dress that they saw around them. The Amazons made not have worn armor, but they certainly did not wear the flimsy, impractical gowns that they are pictured in. They are pictued in leggings and these are more practical. Amazons are usually shown riding bareback yet it is very likely that they did not sit on the horse with their bare bottom. This might be very hard on their skin. They probably wore something like the english riding pants which has leather protection at the points of most wear. Myth reports that Hercules was sent for the girdle of the Queen of the Amazons. I wonder if this was a device to help her ride her horse. Both the Minoan men and women wore girdles. The men wore a girdle over a loincloth and the likelihood is that the Amazon girdle is an adaptation of this.

Much was made in ancient times about the Amazon's cutting off their right breast. If it is true it is easy to understand why the Amazon culture died out. This is a severe torture for a woman. But they did need to cover their right breast even though it was not customary for women to cover either breast in Greece at this time. It would have been extremely painful for a bowstring to have caught any part of the breast when the bow was fired. Younger women might get away with covering the right breast while older women might need both breasts confined during battle. The Greek women have been known to have used a triangular bandage for this purpose. This would have been entirely adequate.

On a hot day the minimum clothing would be a two-piece outfit consisting of a triangular bandage and a girdle. As the weather got colder they would have added a pull-over vest and leggings. Amazons do appear in what look like embroidered leggings, and they also are seen in what appears to be a brass cuirass. But during and before the Trojan war brass armor was very rare. Hector may have had a brass helmet since its shinyness is mentioned so often in Homer, and Achilles may have had brass armor, because it was made by Hephaetus, but that was all. Archeology has found none of brass but some of bone. Leather, mentioned often by Homer in reference to armor, would have turned to dust by now.

Homer also mentions greaves, and an apron, which might have helpful to an Amazon the greaves might have been the only leg protection that an Amazon wore as this is the case with artifacts from the 6th and 7th century BCE. But one would think that on a horse the thigh should be protected as well with something like leather chaps from our wild west days. As you might recall the cowboys could not walk well when they were off their horse and their chaps seems to protect them then, too. Perhaps the Amazons did not ride through dense brush that would tear their legs, but since there were fewer roads then, this seems likely. On their head they would not have worn a Corithian or Attic helmet made of bronze as they were sometimes pictured. An image called "The battle of the Amazons" in the Archeological Museum of Florence shows two Amazons in what look like Phrygian hats. No doubt this is because Phrygia occupied in Classical times the area in western Asia Minor traditionally assigned to the Amazons. But these hats may be very similar to the helmets that the Amazons wore. A helmet in the shape of rounded cone would be easy to make with just one seam. A chin strap could be cut in one piece or sewn on. The shoes shown in this image are quite practical and could have been used. But the flowing gowns and jewelry are just silly. The one Amazon does have a 'D' or lune shaped shield that is often associated with Amazons. In their hands is, no doubt, the double bit axe that they were said to use. Their use of it here, again seems silly, but they do seem to be getting the best of their appointment.

Naked Amazon

Amazon with two-piece girdle. The upper piece pads her breasts while the lower piece protects her bottom from the horse she rides.

Amazon with leather arm shield to protect her arm from the bowstring, cuirass - a two piece leather vest tied at the sides, apron - which protected her lower front (the back needed no protection because she sat on a horse), and leather greaves for her legs (These were more for brush as she rode. She might have needed similar armour on her thighs for the same reason.).

Amazon with helmet and shoes. The helmet was more a riding helmet if she fell off her horse, but also it provided protection against blows.

The double-bit ax has another association with Phrygia. In Phrygia a religion with a female head goddess persisted well into the Roman period. In Greece the goddess based religion was overthrown perhaps two thousand years before. Is it possible that the Amazons were a group of women who revolted against this overthrow? The double-bit ax was symbol of the goddess and the amazons might have rode into battle with the ax elevated, not as a physical weapon, but as a mystical sign against the unbeliever.

The hair theory is that Amazons were considered women just because they wore their hair long. Homer says that at the time of the Trojan war, all Greeks wore their hair long. All illustrations from the Minoan culture show long hair too. They must have been women based upon some other finding, as once they were trussed up in leather helmet, cuirass, apron and greaves, they would look like a man. Of course the bodies resulting from a battle would be immediately stripped of armor as the most important loot from a battle. Homer describes that warriors did not even wait for the battle to be over. The sex of the typically naked victims of war would be pretty easy to determine.

Hercules and an Amazon Warrior: Click Here

Amazon resources:

The History of Animals, By Aristotle, Written 350 B.C.E, Translated by D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson, Book V

In Pontus are found bees exceedingly white in colour, and these bees produce their honey twice a month. (The bees in Themiscyra, on the banks of the river Thermodon, build honeycombs in the ground and in hives, and these honeycombs are furnished with very little wax but with honey of great consistency; and the honeycomb, by the way, is smooth and level.) But this is not always the case with these bees, but only in the winter season; for in Pontus the ivy is abundant, and it flowers at this time of the year, and it is from the ivy-flower that they derive their honey. A white and very consistent honey is brought down from the upper country to Amisus, which is deposited by bees on trees without the employment of honeycombs: and this kind of honey is produced in other districts in Pontus.

An interesting vase that looks like a picture of an Amazon but is not so described. In fact it appears to celebrate a treaty between Oscans and Amazons: Tampa 86.102 Oscans are related to the Etruscans in Italy.

Amazons in their tent home near Themiscyra

The Amazons were ruled by queens but the matter of their succesion presents a problem. If we and conclude the Otrera meaning queen then the first queen at Themiscyra is Lysippe. Perhaps her daughter is Hippolyte. The next queen mentioned is Penthesilia. Penthesilia was supposed to have the same mother as Hippolyte but this is unlikely because a generation of 20 years separates Penthesilia and Troy and the death of Hippolyte at the hands of Herakles. The place of Marpesia is not clear but she could fill the gap between Hippolyte and Penthesilia. This would suggest a succession of 4 queens in about 60 years. This would account for all the time that the Amazon community at Themiscyra would have lasted.

Considerations of future research on Amazons

At this time (4-24-2008) the idea that the concept of the Amazons was developed in or as a result of the Minoan culture seems unlikely.

The name for Amazons has been derived from the Indo-European language. Aeschylus in his Prometheus Bound locates the Amazons Northeast of the Black Sea. Now there have been found graves of warrior women in the region buried with their weapons.

Still the Amazons can be linked to the Minoans. That Artemis is descended from Potnia Theron of the Minoans is hardly disputed. It is easy to see a correlation between the concept of the classical Artemis and images from ancient Minoan Culture. Artemis is also the main goddess of the Amazons. A number of communities in Asia Minor claim that they are founded by Amazons. If the Amazons are indeed priestesses of the Minoan culture then it is consistent with later Greek culture (Delphi) that the priestesses should have caused colonies to develop. Furthermore the early philosopy of the Ionians bears a striking similarities to the ideas associated with the cult of Artemis. It is Artemis who demands sacrifice. It is Artemis whose wild female nature and virginity are such contrasts. It is the soul of the maiden that is preserved in the initiation ceremony that changes the wild young girl to the demeure girl trying to preserve her virginity after puberty. This is the key to the emphasis of the Ionian philosophers. There are concerned with the underlying substance that does not change as change is recognized. There is no doubt that the Minoan culture emphasized ceromonies of sacrifice. Whenever there is a sacrifice something changes and something stays the same. The change transmits the substance to the deity. So this aspect of the Minoan Culture may be the source of the Ionian Philosopy. This concept may have come to Ionia through the colonization of Ionia by the Minoans.

The content of the Minoan Culture was lost to the Classical Greeks. Perhaps it was intentionally surpressed. Different cultures seem to have survied in the Peloponeseus for some time. The Helos may have been Minoan survivors. They were severly repressed by the Spartans. This is the kind of repression that could have wiped out the memory of the Minoans. The perioci may have been the remnants of the Mycenaean Culture. There seems to have been a relation between the situation in Sparta and in Crete with many similarities in culture. Could the stories of the Amazons have been part of that supression?

The derivation of the names of the Amazons may be significant. Hippolyte is definitely an Amazon with a Greek name. It means "freer of horses'. Antiope is also a Greek name. It means "contrary voice". Lysippe is supposed to mean "She who lets loose the horses". Penthesileia is not so easily translated. Andromache means "battle of a man" in Greek. The language of translation may have a clue to the source of the Amazon.



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