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Wounded Amazon of the Capitol, Rome
Amazon preparing for a battle (Queen Antiop or Armed Venus), by Pierre-Eugène-Emile Hébert 1860 (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.) The Amazons (Greek: Ἀμαζόνες, Amazónes, singular Ἀμαζών, Amazōn), also known as Oiorpata in the Scythian language, are a nation of all-female warriors in Greek mythology and Classical antiquity. Herodotus placed them in a region bordering Scythia in Sarmatia (modern territory of Ukraine). Other historiographers place them in Asia Minor, or sometimes Libya.
Notable queens of the Amazons are Penthesilea, who participated in the Trojan War, and her sister Hippolyta, whose magical girdle, given to her by her father Ares, was the object of one of the labours of Hercules. Amazonian raiders were often depicted in battle with Greek warriors in amazonomachies in classical art. ] The Amazons have become associated with many historical people throughout the Roman Empire period and Late Antiquity. In Roman historiography, there are various accounts of Amazon raids in Asia Minor. From the Early Modern period, their name has become a term for female warriors in general.
The origin of the word is uncertain. It may be derived from an Iranian ethnonym *ha-mazan-, "warriors", a word attested as a denominal verb (formed with the Indo-Iranian root kar- "make" also in kar-ma) in Hesychius of Alexandria's gloss ἁμαζακάραν· πολεμεῖν. Πέρσαι ("hamazakaran: 'to make war' (Persian)"). Alternatively, a Greek derivation from *ṇ-mṇ-gw-jon-es "manless, without husbands" (a- privative and a derivation of *man- also found in Slavic muzh) has been proposed, an explanation deemed "unlikely" by Hjalmar Frisk. 19th century scholarship also connected the term to the ethnonym Amazigh. A further explanation proposes Iranian *ama-janah "virility-killing" as source.
Among Classical Greeks, amazon was given a popular etymology as from a-mazos, "without breast", connected with an etiological tradition that Amazons had their right breast cut off or burnt out, so they would be able to throw their javelins; there is no indication of such a practice in works of art, in which the Amazons are always represented with both breasts, although the left is frequently covered (see photos in article).
Amazon wearing trousers and carrying a shield with an attached patterned cloth and a quiver. Ancient Greek Attic white-ground alabastron, c. 470 BC, British Museum, London The legendary Amazons are believed to have lived in Pontus, which is part of modern day Turkey near the southern shore of the Euxine Sea (the Black Sea). There they formed an independent kingdom under the government of a queen named Hippolyta or Hippolyte ("loose, unbridled mare"). The Amazons were supposed to have founded many towns, amongst them Smyrna, Ephesus, Sinope, and [[Paphos]. According to the dramatist Aeschylus, in the distant past they had lived in Scythia (modern Crimea), at the Palus Maeotis ("Lake Maeotis", the Sea of Azov). According to Plutarch, the Amazons lived in and about the Don river, which the Greeks called the Tanais; but which was called by the Scythians the "Amazon". The Amazons later moved to Themiscyra (modern Terme) on the River Thermodon (the Terme river in northern Turkey). Herodotus called them Androktones ("killers of men"), and he stated that in the Scythian language they were called Oiorpata, which he asserted had this meaning.
In some versions of the myth, no men were permitted to have sexual encounters or reside in Amazon country; but once a year, in order to prevent their race from dying out, they visited the Gargareans, a neighbouring tribe. The male children who were the result of these visits were either killed, sent back to their fathers or exposed in the wilderness to fend for themselves; the girls were kept and brought up by their mothers, and trained in agricultural pursuits, hunting, and the art of war. In other versions when the Amazons went to war they would not kill all the men. Some they would take as slaves, and once or twice a year they would have sex with their slaves.
The intermarriage of Amazons and men from other tribes was also used to explain the origin of various people. For example, the story of the Amazons settling with the Scythians (Herodotus Histories 4.110.1-117.1).
In the Iliad, the Amazons were referred to as Antianeirai ("those who fight like men").
The Amazons appear in Greek art of the Archaic period and in connection with several Greek legends. They invaded Lycia, but were defeated by Bellerophon, who was sent against them by Iobates, the king of that country, in the hope that he might meet his death at their hands. The tomb of Myrine is mentioned in the Iliad; later interpretation made of her an Amazon: according to Diodorus, Queen Myrine led her Amazons to victory against Libya and much of Gorgon.
They attacked the Phrygians, who were assisted by Priam, then a young man. In his later years, however, towards the end of the Trojan War, his old opponents took his side against the Greeks under their queen Penthesilea "of Thracian birth", who was slain by Achilles.
One of the tasks imposed upon Heracles by Eurystheus was to obtain possession of the girdle of the Amazonian queen Hippolyta. He was accompanied by his friend Theseus, who carried off the princess Antiope, sister of Hippolyta, an incident which led to a retaliatory invasion of Attica, in which Antiope perished fighting by the side of Theseus. In some versions, however, Theseus marries Hippolyta and in others, he marries Antiope and she does not die; by this marriage with the Amazon Theseus had a son Hippolytus. The battle between the Athenians and Amazons is often commemorated in an entire genre of art, amazonomachy, in marble bas-reliefs such as from the Parthenon or the sculptures of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus.
Thalestris, Queen of the Amazons, visits Alexander (1696)
The Amazons are also said to have undertaken an expedition against the island of Leuke, at the mouth of the Danube, where the ashes of Achilles had been deposited by Thetis. The ghost of the dead hero appeared and so terrified the horses, that they threw and trampled upon the invaders, who were forced to retire. Pompey is said to have found them in the army of Mithridates.
They are heard of in the time of Alexander, when some of the king's biographers make mention of Amazon Queen Thalestris visiting him and becoming a mother by him (the story is known from the Alexander Romance). However, several other biographers of Alexander dispute the claim, including the highly regarded secondary source, Plutarch. In his writing he makes mention of a moment when Alexander's secondary naval commander, Onesicritus, was reading the Amazon passage of his Alexander history to King Lysimachus of Thrace who was on the original expedition: the king smiled at him and said "And where was I, then?"
The Roman writer Virgil's characterization of the Volscian warrior maiden Camilla in the Aeneid borrows heavily from the myth of the Amazons.
Jordanes' Getica (c. 560), purporting to give the earliest history of the Goths, relates that the Goths' ancestors, descendants of Magog, originally dwelt within Scythia, on the Sea of Azov between the Dnieper and Don Rivers. After a few centuries, following an incident where the Goths' women successfully fended off a raid by a neighboring tribe, while the menfolk were off campaigning against Pharaoh Vesosis, the women formed their own army under Marpesia and crossed the Don, invading Asia. Her sister Lampedo remained in Europe to guard the homeland. They procreated with men once a year. These Amazons conquered Armenia, Syria, and all of Asia Minor, even reaching Ionia and Aeolia, holding this vast territory for 100 years. Jordanes also mentions that they fought with Hercules, and in the Trojan War, and that a smaller contingent of them endured in the Caucasus Mountains until the time of Alexander. He mentions by name the Queens Menalippe, Hippolyta, and Penthesilea.
Fleeing Amazon. Tondo of an Attic red-figure kylix, 510–500 BC. Quintus Smyrnaeus lists the attendant warriors of Penthesilea: "Clonie was there, Polemusa, Derinoe, Evandre, and Antandre, and Bremusa, Hippothoe, dark-eyed Harmothoe, Alcibie, Derimacheia, Antibrote, and Thermodosa glorying with the spear."
Diodorus Siculus enlists nine Amazons who challenged Heracles to single combat during his quest for Hippolyta's girdle and died against him one by one: Aella, Philippis, Prothoe, Eriboea, Celaeno, Eurybia, Phoebe, Deianeira, Asteria, Marpe, Tecmessa, Alcippe. After Alcippe's death, a group attack followed.
Another list of Amazons' names is found in Hyginus' Fabulae. Along with Hippolyta, Otrera, Antiope and Penthesilea, it attests the following names: Ocyale, Dioxippe, Iphinome, Xanthe, Hippothoe, Laomache, Glauce, Agave, Theseis, Clymene, Polydora.
Yet another different set of names is found in Valerius Flaccus' Argonautica: he mentions Euryale, Harpe, Lyce, Menippe and Thoe. Of these Lyce also appears in a fragment preserved in the Latin Anthology where she is said to have killed the hero Clonus of Moesia, son of Doryclus, with her javelin.
John Tzetzes in Posthomerica enumerates the Amazons that fell at Troy: Hippothoe, Antianeira, Toxophone, Toxoanassa, Gortyessa, Iodoce, Pharetre, Andro, Ioxeia, Oïstrophe, Androdaïxa, Aspidocharme, Enchesimargos, Cnemis, Thorece, Chalcaor, Eurylophe, Hecate, Anchimache, Andromache the queen. Concerning Antianeira and Andromache, see below; for almost all the other names on the list, this is a unique attestation.
Stephanus of Byzantium provides an alternate list of the Amazons that fell against Heracles, describing them as "the most prominent" of their people: Tralla, Isocrateia, Thiba, Palla, Coea (Koia), Coenia (Koinia). Eustathius gives the same list minus the last two names. Both Stephanus and Eustathius write of these Amazons in connection with the placename Thibais, which they report to have been derived from ]]Thiba's name.
Other names of Amazons from various sources include:
Aegea, queen of the Amazons who was thought by some to have been the eponym of the Aegean Sea. Ainia, presumably accompanied Penthesilea to the Trojan War, killed by Achilles; known only from an Attic terracotta relief fragment. Ainippe, an Amazon who confronted Telamon in the battle against Heracles' troops Alce, who was said to have killed the young Oebalus of Arcadia, son of Ida (otherwise unknown), with her spear during the Parthian War. Amastris, who was believed to be the eponym of the city previously known as Kromna, although the city was also thought to have been named after the historical Amastris Anaea, an Amazon whose tomb was shown at the island of Samos Andromache, an Amazon who fought Heracles and was defeated; only known from vase paintings. Not to be confused with Andromache, wife of Hector, Etc.