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Herodotus' Corner

This session's topic: The Amazons

Amazons, the women warriors of Greek Mythology. The name Amazon in Greek mean "those who have no breasts", refering to the fact that the Amazons cut off one of their breasts in order to better draw a bow and hurl a spear. They were said to have originally been the daughters of Ares and the nymph Harmonia, whose girdle was worn by the Amazon queen. Mythically the Kingdom of the Amazons lie to the North of Greece, perhaps in Thrace, or even as far as the Danube river. The Amazons were very non-conforming to the standard of the day: they despised men, and killed all male babies. The males that did survive were treated as servants and slaves, and had no rights in the matriarchal society. They worshiped Artemis, goddess of the hunt, and rejected most of the male gods.

In myths they often served as a direct opposite to the hero of the myth. Herakles met up with Amazon Queen Hippolyta when he attempted to take her girdle to fulfill his ninth labour. Hippolyta was willing to give the hero her girdle, but the goddess Hera sent the other Amazons into a frenzy, during which Herakles accidentally killed Hippolyta. Theseus too had hard times with the warrior women of Greek Mythology. He abducted Antiope and raped her. He took her back to Athens with him so she could give birth to their child, who was later named Hippolytus. The other Amazons followed and lay siege to Athens, but the Athenians were able to defeat them. The Amazons also sent an army to assist Troy during the Trojan war, but the army was soon recalled after Achilles killed their queen, Penthesilea.

What happened to these warrior women? No one really knows. They were thought to have built the original Temple to Artemis at Ephesus, but that seems to be the only evidence of their existance outside of Greek Mythology.


Tyrrell, Wm Blake. Amazons: a Study in Athenian Mythmaking. John Hopkins University Press: Baltimore, 1989.

Grimal, Pierre. The Dictionary of Classical Mythology. Blackwell Publishers Inc.: Malden, MA, 1996.