Have you ever heard of Odin’s Valkyries? The fierce army of warrior women protects Asgard no master what. A similar Greek myth is about the Amazons, an army of strong, resourceful, and brave women fighters. Much like DC’s Wonder Woman, the Amazons were a mythological tale that suggests that they were horse-riding, spear-throwing, pants-wearing fearsome female fighters dwelling inland around and beyond the Black Sea.
For a long time, people thought that the Amazons were pure legends and nothing else, but a recent study discovered that the myth might be true. They were the female fighters from ancient Scythia who fight and died like men.
The Amazon myth
According to the mythology, Amazons were the daughters of Ares, the Goddess of war. They were a member of all women’s society and no men were allowed to come in. However for mating purposes, men were welcomed and once the child was born, they were sent back. If a daughter is born, she would remain with the Amazons and become one of them, while if a boy was born, they were sent back with their fathers. In some legends, any boy born to an Amazon was killed instantly.
The Amazons were thought to live at the coast of the Black Sea, particularly the city-state of Themiskyra. The foundation of many settlements in Asia Minor was credited to Amazons, notably Ephesus, Cyme, and Sinope. In one of the longest histories written by Herodotus, he gave a detailed encounter of the Amazons and Scythians. Together they formed a community of powerful women warriors and neither women nor their daughters would ever change their lifestyle. This new society was considered the origins of the Sarmatians in southern Russia.
The society of Amazon’s activities involves war riding, hunting, and warfare. In some legends, the Amazons would burn their left breasts in order to obtain perfect archery skills, and thus they got the name Amazon which means ‘Breastless’. Though in ancient Greek arts, they were always portrayed with both breasts. They are depicted wearing hoplite armor carrying weapons such as bows and spears. Sometimes they also carry axes.
Though the Amazons were warriors, in the legend they never won any encounter with the Greek heroes. The first meeting between Greeks and Amazons was with Hercules. He was sent by Eurystheus to fetch the girdle of the Amazon queen Hippolyte. This girdle was the gift from her father Ares, and the task was given because Eurystheus thought that it’s impossible. However, Hercules along with Theseus defeated the Amazons and took the girdle. It is said that during the fight Theseus fell in love and abducted Amazon Antiope.
The second war between Amazon and Greek was fought to rescue Antiope from Theseus. Theseus defeated the women warriors once again but Antiope, however, died in the battle. While the final meeting between the Amazon and Greeks was towards the end of the Trojan War. The Amazon queen Penthesilea brought her warriors to help the Trojans defend their city but dies in the battle. It is believed that she was killed by Achilles. A legend says that while Achilles killed Penthesilea, her mask fell off and he instantly fell in love with her just as she took her last breath.
But the question remains, were the Amazons real?
The exploits of the Amazons were recounted in the tales of many ancient poets, these formidable fighters fought against some of the greatest warriors of the Greek mythology. These war-loving amazons quoted themselves as ‘Equal to men’. For many years, people assumed that the Amazons were merely myths but recently stories from Ancient Egypt, Persia, China, and India resurfaced spoke otherwise. They believe that women warriors existed a long time ago. And these women were not just described within books but also in history as well.
Historians located the ancient home of Amazons in Scynthia, between the Black Sea and steppes of Central Asia. This region was home to several nomadic tribes, who were masters of horse riding, archery, and warfare. They lived there in 800 BC and flourished for the next 1000 years. They are believed to fear the Greeks and Persians thus left no written records of them. Thus, the world only remembered them through how their neighbors described them.
According to them, they were the first to learn how to ride a horse and also invented archery. Not only the grown-ups but also their young children were masters in how to shoot and ride. These women often hunted and fought bravery alongside men and used the same weapon. Such magnificent were the skills of these women warriors. But though everyone had their stories, none confirmed it personally until the Greeks began to trade from the Black sea. Early depiction of the Amazons could be seen wearing Greek armors and weapons, however, with time, they were also featured carrying axes and bows.
Though despite their mention, nobody was sure whether these women warriors from Scynthia were anyway related to the Amazon myths. Recently, an archeological discovery has provided crucial answers to these questions. More than 1000 ancient Scythian skeletons have been excavated from Synthia. These skeletons were found along with weapons, and so the archaeologist initially believed that these remains belonged to men.
However, the studies concluded that these skeletons were of women ranging from age 10 to 40 who died in a war. These remains show battle injuries such as slashed ribs, smashed skulls, and bones shot by arrows. With them, they also located arrowheads, horse harnesses, iron hooks, iron knives, and molded vessels. Thus, it is being assumed that though the Amazon myth remains a myth, there might be chances that similar women warriors must have existed at some time in history and their records might have been destroyed by the men of emerging civilization.