Descriptions of Amazon Women

Legendary Amazons

During the Greeks' attempt to take Hippolyta's golden belt, Heracles slew the Amazon Aella ("whirlwind") who was known for wielding a labrys (double-ax).

Queen Antiope

The Amazon queen Antiope was kidnapped by Heracles from her homeland, brought to Athens and presented to Theseus, the mythical king of Athens. Theseus took her as his wife and she bore him a son named Hippolytus after Antiope's sister Hippolyta. She is the only Amazon known to have married. Fighting by her husband's side during an Amazon attack on Athens, one of her Amazon sisters, Molpadia, ran her through with a spear.

Hippo's name means "horse," a word found in many Amazon names. She was one of the queens who helped found the cities of Ephesus, Smyrna, Cyrene, and Myrina. After conquering Asia Minor and Syria, the warrior woman set up a wooden image of Artemis near a beech tree in Ephesus. There the Amazons would perform a shield dance with rattling quivers, beating the ground in unison to the accompaniment of pipes playing a wild, warlike melody.

Hippolyta was one of the greatest queens of the Amazons and one of the most beautiful and strongest women of her time. She wore the golden girdle of Amazonian queenship, a gift from her father, Ares. This royal belt became the object of Heracles' ninth labor.

Hippolyta was attracted to Heracles and was ready to give him the girdle until Hera, Heracles' nemesis, disguised herself as an Amazon and spread the rumor that the queen had been robbed by him. The Amazons rose to assist their queen and a fight ensued. In the battle, Heracles, believing Hippolyta plotted against him, killed her, took the girdle and left.

In Greek legend, the Amazon queen Lysippe had a son, Tanais, who offended Aphrodite by his scorn of marriage and his devotion to war. In revenge Aphrodite caused him to fall in love with his mother.

He was so shamed by this that he flung himself into a river, drowning himself. Lysippe lost her sorrow in work, consolidating her queendom, building the city of Themiscyra and raising temples to worship Artemis. It is said she led a force of women that were the first to use calvary in battle.

One of the great military queens, Marpesia began a victorious campaign at the Black Sea and soon conquered Thrace and Syria. Then, with Queen Hippo she marched through Ephesus and Cyrene, finally reaching the Aegean Sea. After settling down to rule her empire, she was called back to the battlefield to defend it from the uprising of her subjects and lost her life in the process.

The Amazon queen Omphale was said to have ruled the southern empire of Libya. Omphale bought Heracles in a sale of slaves and had him weave, spin and card wool as well as many other duties. If he made mistakes she would beat him with a golden sandal. Eventually growing bored with him, Omphale sent Heracles back to his homeland.

Otrere meaning "nimble" was the name given in some tales to the ancestral goddess of the Amazons. It was also a title of distinction bestowed upon women leaders.

Pantariste killed the Greek messenger Tiamides, who was on his way to alert his countrymen about the Amazonian revolt against the Greeks' attempt to steal Queen Hippolyta's belt.

One of the greatest Amazon warriors, Penthesilea led a troop to Troy to fight the Greeks. There she engaged Achilles in single combat that was a close combat but was finally killed. Achilles mourned her death when he tore off her helmet and saw her beauty. Thersites, reputed to be the ugliest Greek at Troy, jeered at Achilles' grief and accused him of unnatural lust, whereupon Achilles killed him. This enraged some of the Greeks and Diomeds, a cousin of Thersites, threw Penthesiliea's corpse into the River Scamander.

The Amazon queen Thalestris visited Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.) during one of his Asian campaigns, wishing to have a daughter by such a famous general. She stayed with him for 13 days before returning to her own country. Writing more than 400 years later, Plutarch lists no less than 14 authorities who mention this tale, though nine of them, he says, dismissed it as 'complete fiction', and it was laughed at after Alexander's death by his successor in Thrace, Lysismachus.

Following is from A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act I Scene 1, Theseus to Hippolyta.

In some accounts, Hippolyta and Antiope may have been the same person rather than being sisters. This is why Theseus is addressing Hippolyta rather than Antiope.

"Hippolyta, I woo'd thee with my sword, and won thy love, doing thee injuries; But I will wed thee in another key, with pomp, with triumph and with revelling."


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