Women of The Amazon Race
"We are told, namely, that there was once in the western parts of Libya, on the bounds of the inhabited world, a race which was ruled by women and followed a manner of life unlike that which prevails among us.
For it was the custom among them that the women should practise the arts of war, and be required to serve in the army for a fixed period, during which time they maintained their virginity; then, when the years of their service in the field had expired, they went in to the men for the procreation of children, but they kept in their hands the administration of the magistracies and of all the affairs of state.
men, however, like our married women, spent their days about the
house, carrying out the orders which were given to them by their
wives; and they took no part in military campaigns or in the exercise
of free citizenship in the affairs of the community by virtue of
which they might become presumptuous and rise up against the women.
When their children were born the babies were turned over to the
men, who brought them up on milk and such cooked foods as were appropriate
to the age of the infants." --
According to Greek mythology, Amazons were a warlike tribe of women descended from the god of war, Ares and the naiad Harmonia. They originated from the area around the Caucasus Range and settled on the bank of the Thermodon River in Pontus, Asia Minor and founded the town of Themiscyra on the coast of the Euxine (modern Terme, on the Black Sea coast of Turkey).
For the continuation of the Amazon race, the women mated with the neighboring Gargarean men for a short period each year. Male children born from these unions were either sent to the Gargareans or killed.
version of the myth tells of a number of men kept for mating purposes,
but had the status of slaves, and were allowed to perform only those
tasks executed in other countries by women.
Whether men were or were not included in the Amazon state, only women bore arms, not only defending their own country, but making conquest expeditions into neighboring territories. They fought both on foot and on horseback, carrying crescent shields and wielding spears, bows and battle axes. In some myths, it is said female children had their right breast seared in order to draw a bow and throw javelins more effeciently as adults.
War, hunting, agriculture and training girl Amazons were their principal pursuits. It was said they were the first humans to ride on horseback. The Amazons were especially devoted to the goddess of hunting, Artemis.
Stories about the Amazons belong to the earliest Greek sagas. Homer mentions them in a way which shows that they were familiar to his audience. When in historical times the Greeks became familiar with the Thermodon region and found no Amazons there, they supposed either Heracles (Hercules) had destroyed them all, or they had been driven away.
Thus in later legends, the Amazons were moved further and further away from their original homeland, but they were always located on the fringe of the world as it was then known to the Greeks. They were said to be of Scythian origin from Colchis (south of the Caucasus) and there was also supposed to be a race of Amazons in Africa. They were, at any rate, always foreign to the Greek homeland, and to the Greeks, like all foreigners, they were viewed as barbarians.
The Amazons were a favorite subject for Greek sculptors and painters. In art of the earliest periods, they are dressed exactly like Greek warriors, but usually with one breast bare.
After the Persian Wars (499-448 BC), for example on Greek vases of the great classical period, they are represented in oriental garb, wearing caps and trousers, and pictures of them relate more to known legends about them. They are never depicted as having lost one breast, in spite of the Greek belief their name meant 'breastless'.
Various explanations of the origins of the legends about the Amazons have been put forward. Some writers trace them to the armed slave-girls who served certain Asian deities. The association of the Amazons with Artemis supports this theory, but the story is more likely to be an imaginative Greek elaboration of reports about matriarchal tribes in southwest Asia, or of tribes in which the women led a freer and tougher life than they did in Greece. The persistence of the legend up to the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD, and its popularity as a theme in the arts show the Amazon myth had a deep appeal to the Greeks.
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