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Amazons

by Ron Leadbetter
Amazons

Warrior women, who are described in the Iliad as "antianeirai", meaning: those who go to war like men. They were also described by Herodotus as "androktones", killers of males. It is believed they resided in Pontus, Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) but there are differing views as to how many nations of Amazons there were. The most famous came from Pontus, with Themiscyra as their capital, and it is said that it was this community who built Ephesus on the central west coast of Asia Minor (history records Ephesus as being built circa 1050 BCE. by Ionian Greeks).

The name Amazon is believed to descend from the word amazoi which in Greek means "breast less", deriving from the legend that says they removed their young girls right breast, as to facilitate the drawing of the bow, as the bow and arrows were their main weapon. They also used sword, double sided axe and carried a distinctive crescent shaped shield. Most of their fighting was done from horseback. Some say the breast was removed by cutting, others that it was burnt off while the child was young, and one legend says they removed the breast themselves. As with most mythology there are many variations from different ancient writers as to where they were from and also to the places they traveled. It has been written that they journeyed as far afield as Egypt. With Myrine leading them they defeated the Atlantians, occupied Gorgon and the greater part of Libya, and also crossed Phrygia. This according to Diodorus of Sicily. Homer wrote in his great work the Iliad that the Amazons with Penthesilea went to Troy in aid of King Priam during the Trojan War, and while doing battle Penthesilea was wounded in her right breast. It was the hero Achilles who inflicted the wound, but then fell in love with her great beauty.

The great Heracles had to travel to the lands of the Amazons to complete the ninth labor imposed on him by Eurystheus. This labor became known as the "Girdle of Hippolyte" and his task was to bring back this symbolic girdle which had been given to the Amazons by the god of war Ares. It has been said that the Amazons were descendants of Ares and Otrera. Heracles took the girdle, but unfortunately he killed queen Hippolyta. Theseus the Athenian hero abducted Antiope the sister of Hippolyta, and he took her back to Athens. In some versions Theseus married her and in others he married Hippolyta. The legend tells of the Amazons invading Attica to take back their queen, and on reaching Athens a great battle took place, but the Athenians were glorious. This scene has been depicted in art by the Greeks in many forms, but probably the most famous are the architectural marble carvings from the Parthenon, this form of sculpture is known as Amazonomachy.

They worshiped Artemis the virgin goddess of the hunt, and Ares the god of war. There are many variations to the all female tribe. As how they multiplied, some say the Amazons met with men from nearby societies, then after choosing a suitable partner would take them into the darkness of the forest and there they would couple with them. When the time came, and if they gave birth to a male, they would kill, blind or cripple the infant. If they kept them alive they would then use them when they grew into young men (if they were suitable) as a supply of male seed. They also took men prisoner in battle, after choosing the most handsome they then used them for their sexual pleasure, and would either kill them or use them as slaves once their usefulness had been expended.

In medieval times, their kingdom was called 'Femyny'.


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