The Amazons (Ἀμαζόνες) were a race of woman warriors that has only appeared in Greek mythology, but also appeared in other cultures. The Amazons became popular subjects for writers and artists.

They were fierce enemies or allies to many heroes in the classical myths.

Since the Amazons appeared in many different pages within Timeless Myths and that they are popular entry in the search engine, I have decided that the Amazons warranted a page of their own.

 
Background
Queens of the Amazons


Please note that all non-Amazon heroines within this page, have been moved to new page, called Heroines.

Related Pages:
    Heroines
    Heroes I
    Heroes II






Background

 
Breastless Warriors
Amazons in Libya



Breastless Warriors
 

The mythological woman warrior with a leopard hide donned on her head, and holding either a spear and shield or a drawn bow, remained etched in our memory. These warriors were known as the Amazons, and that has it place permanently in a dictionary.

Really, little is known about the customs, traditions and religions of the Amazons, but they appeared in many scenes in the Greek mythology.

Their homes were usually said to be at the mouth of the river Themiscyra, in Pontus, a region in Asia Minor (northern Anatolian Turkey). Though, in the Aethiopis (Epic Cycle), the unknown author says that the Amazons under Penthesileia came from Thrace (modern European Turkey, and mostly in Bulgaria), instead of Asia Minor.

The Amazons were warlike and dangerous tribe. According to the Argonautica, Jason and the Argonauts avoided the Themiscyra, when Zeus sends a north-west wind so the Argo could not land on Amazonian shore. Apollonius had further written that there are three different tribes of the Amazon race. These Amazons, who would have fought the Argonauts, were the Themiscyreans. The Amazonian Queen Hippolyte ruled the Themiscyreans. The other two tribes were the Lycastians, and the Chadesians, the javelin-throwers.

According to Pindar, the Amazons were the "archer-host" (Olympian 13:89) and the "fine horse women", indicated that they preferred the bow as their weapons, and ride horseback into war.

The Amazons had constantly raided the kingdom of Lycia. The hero Bellerophon defeated the Amazons, when he was guest of King Iobates of Lycia. Jason and the Argonauts avoided the land of Amazons, on their way to Colchis. The Amazons fought a war against the Mygdonians. The Amazons lost in this war, because young King Priam of Troy was ally of the Mygdonians.

The Amazons were said to have lived in Ephesus, in Asia Minor, and were said have erected an image to Artemis beneath an oak trunk.

Heracles had to fetch the girdle of Queen Hippolyte. Though, the queen would have freely given the girdle to Heracles, the goddess Hera stirred up rumour that the hero intended to abduct Hippolyte; the Amazons attacked their guests. The hero Theseus may have accompanied Heracles in this trip. Either Theseus abducted Antiope, the sister of Hippolyte, or she had betrayed the Amazons, by fleeing with the hero. In either case, the Amazons invaded Athens. Though Theseus and the Athenians had defeated the Amazons, Antiope was killed in battle. But it is also uncertain, whether the Amazons had come to rescue Antiope or to kill her for treason, and whether Antiope was fighting with Theseus or she attempt to escape and fight with the Amazons.

There were several women named Hippolyte, who were queens. One of them was the sister of Penthesileia. Penthesileia had accidentally killed her sister, when they were hunting deer. King Priam purified Penthesileia for the killing, in return of future aid. Penthesileia came to help the Trojans in the great war against the Greeks, in the last year of the war. The hero Achilles killed Penthesileia in single combat.


Though, the Amazons were warlike, and some of queens were daughters of Ares, they worshipped Asiatic Artemis, the moon-goddess of wilds.

One of the customs of the Amazons that most people are aware of, was that whenever a woman gave birth to a girl, they would seared the right breast of the infant. This would allow them than to wield the bows more effectively, without being hindered by their right breasts, when releasing (or loosing) the bowstrings.

Apollodorus, on the other hand, wrote that their right breasts were pressed down, while the left breasts remain untouch, and if Amazons have children, they could suckle the babies with their left breasts. This is probably more plausible than searing the breasts off with hot iron.

The Amazons seemed to have the warlike culture of the hunter and the warrior.

There are uncertainties whether the Amazons exist historically or not, because some historians had included accounts of these fierce women warriors in their works.

Herodotus, a 5th century Greek historian, wrote that the Amazons were linked to some members of the Scythians, a nomadic tribe that had created a large empire, north of the Black Sea, from Ukraine to Thrace. The Scythians themselves were noted for their skills in horsemanship and archery. Rather than live in houses, their houses were the waggons.

According to Herodotus, the first encounter between the Scythians and the Amazons were uneasy. Herodotus says that the Scythians called them Oior-pata, which probably means "man-slayers".

Herodotus gives an account of how the Greeks had defeated them in battle and they had three ships of captives. The Amazonian prisoners rose up and killed all the crews on board. However, none of the Amazons knew how to pilot the ships, because the rudders, sails and oars were foreign to them. So the ships were left to drift. Eventually the ships drifted off and landed on a place called Cremni. The Scythians inhabited the land.

The Amazons had either stole horses or captured wild horses, before they set about raiding and plundering Scythian territories. The Scythians thought they were men, so they fought them in battle. However, the Scythians discovered the truth when they found that all enemies that had been killed were all women.

So the Scythians decided not attack these strange woman warriors. Whenever the Amazons came near them, the Scythian horsemen would retreat instead of fight. Neither side could speak the tongues of their enemy. The Scythians always cautiously approach the Amazons from a distance, in a non-threatening way, particularly the young Scythian men, because they desire to marry and have children from these strange women.

Eventually, the Amazons realised the Scythians didn't want to fight with them, so they no longer raid the Scythian lands. Gradually the two groups began to live in one camp. Eventually the Amazons and the young Scythians managed to communicate in a rough way, with hand signs, and then soon the Amazons managed to learn the language of the Scythians (Scythian belonged to ancient Indo-Iranian language).

Soon the Amazons learned of the desire of the young men to marry them. However, the Amazons told them that they couldn't accept the customs and duties of the Scythian wives, like taking care of the houses, sewing, cleaning, cooking and looking after the children. The Amazons were accustomed with outdoor life of riding, hunting and fighting, the usual customs of the Scythian men.

The Amazons told them that if they wished to take them as wives, then they must leave their families or clans, and lived among them. The Amazons then persuaded the men to leave the land, and they moved to the land beyond the Taranis, in which we now called Ukraine, a region of the former Soviet Republic.

The Scythians and the Amazons interracial marriage produced a new group people, known as the Sauromatae (whom the Romans later called them the Sarmatians). The husbands and wives generally rode on horsebacks, while hunting or fighting. Unlike the Scythian women, the Sarmatian women enjoyed the same roles, privilege and customs as their husbands. Leadership of the family or clan can often fall upon the women, as well as the men. Their customs were generally the same. Most of their works were done on horsebacks, and they still have the nomadic way of life as the Scythians, living in waggons instead of permanent settlements.

The languages of the Scythians and the Sarmatians were similar, however the Amazons adoption of Scythian was imperfect, so their languages differed from one another.

It is for this reason, modern historians and anthropologists believed that the Sarmatians were descended from the Amazons, or that if the Amazons resemble any group of people, then it would be the Sarmatians.

Though, Herodotus gives an interesting account of the origin of the Sarmatians. Whether it is true or not, it does give an indication of the role and privilege of the women in their society.

Historically, the Scythian empire began to wane, and the Sarmatians, who produced superb cavalry, were more than the match for the Scythians. They left their homeland in the Ukraine, sweeping aside the Scythians and conquering their territories. Most of the lands of the Scythian empire were then theirs. The Sarmatians displaced their predecessor and soon they came into contact with the Roman Empire in the 2nd century AD.

The Romans admired the horsemanship of the Sarmatians, began employing their services in their cavalry. The Sarmatian power began to decline in the 3rd century from outside tensions of the Germanic tribes and collapsed in the 4th century societies when the Huns drove many group of people through their land.


According to Diodorus Siculus, a Greek historian from Sicily, who had flourished in the first century BC, believed that the Amazons originated from Libya, instead of in Asia or Thrace. See the Amazons in Libya for more information.

 
Related Information
Name
Amazon – "Breastless"?

Sources
Historia was written by Herodotus.

The Aethiopis was one of the works from the Epic Cycle (c. 776 BC).

The Fall of Troy was written by Quintus Smyrnaeus.

Library was written by Apollodorus.

Metamorphoses was written by Ovid.

Related Articles
See also the Amazons in Libya.

Hippolyte, Antiope, Penthesileia.

Bellerophon, Heracles, Theseus, Achilles, Jason, Priam.



Amazons in Libya
 

According to the Library of History, a historical account of the world, written by Diodorus Siculus in the 1st century BC, the Amazons' original home was in western Libya. They were said to have lived in the land called Hespera, which lay in the marsh of Tritonis and near Mount Atlas. The city of Cherronesus was the capital of the Amazons. Where is Cherronesus, remained uncertain.

Diodorus described their custom and warring ways that was similar to Herodotus' account in the 5th century BC. It was the women, who were trained in combat and warfare, while the men (husbands?) looked after the homes and children.

Diodorus' description of the Amazon tactics was similar to those of the Parthian cavalry archers. The Parthians were superb horsemen, who had developed the skills of firing their arrows as they retreat from their enemies. Obviously Diodorus was influenced by the Roman defeat under their general Crassus, in the Battle of Carrhae (53 BC).

At the beginning of Myrina's campaign, she was said to be able to muster 30,000 foot-soldiers and 3000 strong cavalry, which is quite formidable.

During the reign of their queen, Myrina, the Amazons encountered another race of woman warriors, known as the Gorgons.

The Gorgons were usually known as monsters with snakes on their head instead of hairs. Looking directly into their faces could turn almost every living creature into stone. Diodorus had scoffed this myth, and claimed the Gorgons were nothing more than fierce tribal women in Libya, skilled in warfare.

The Amazons clashed with the Gorgons; the former crushing the later in battle. See Perseus for the alternative legend of the Gorgons.

After this, the Amazons had conquered many territories, as far east as Syria, and in the north in Asia Minor and a few islands in the Aegean, including Lesbos and Samothrace.

Myrina's empire crumbled at her death, when the Thracians and the Scythians defeated her army. Myrina was killed in battle. After a series of losses, the Amazons withdrew back into Libya.

See Myrina about more on the alternative legend of the Amazons.

 
Related Information
Sources
Library of History was written by Diodorus Siculus.

Related Articles
See also Breastless Warriors.

Myrina, Medusa, Perseus, Heracles. Gorgons.








Queens of the Amazons

Below is a list of Amazon queens that are prominent in the classical mythology. It should be noted that there were several queen of the same name, and Hippolyte or Hippolyta was quite a popular name for a queen.

It should also be noted that I have listed Camilla in this page, but she wasn't an Amazon. Yet, I thought I would list her here, since she was a queen and a warrior. I may list some more non-Amazon woman warriors in the future.


 
Myrina
Otrere
Hippolyte
Antiope
Melanippe
Penthesileia
Hippolyte (Melanippe or Glauce)



Myrina
 

A Libyan Amazon queen. Nothing is known about Myrina, except in the account of Diodorus Siculus' Library of History (1st century BC). Her capital was in the city of Cherronesus, in Libya. According to Diodorus, Myrina lived in the time before Perseus. More information about the Amazons in Libya can be found in the previous section, titled Amazons in Libya.

Myrina led a large army of Amazons with strength of 30,000 foot-soldiers and 3000 cavalry, first in the war against their neighbour, the Atlantians, and then later, against the Gorgons, another race of woman warriors.

The Atlantians surrendered to Myrina, after she had captured one of their cities, called Cernê. The Amazons had razed Cernê, enslaving the women and the children. The Atlantians in the other cities were cowed by the destruction of Cernê and capitulated.

The Amazons and the Atlantians became peaceful neighbour. However, Atlantians lived beside another race of woman warriors, known as the Gorgons, who repeatedly raided their western borders.

Diodorus doesn't portray the Gorgons as monsters who could turn every living creature into stone, just by looking into their faces. No. The Gorgons were like the Amazons in many ways. The Gorgons were warriors, who displayed manly prowess in war.

The Atlantians asked the Amazons for help against the Gorgons. So a deadly battle was fought between two different races of woman warriors. In the end, Myrina and the Amazons emerged victors against the Gorgons. The surviving Gorgons fled back to their land.

The Amazons had captured over 3000 Gorgon warriors as prisoners. Myrina attempt to pursue and destroy the surviving Gorgons in their own land had failed. So she returned home with their captives.

The guards became lax in their duties, so the captive Gorgons managed to arm themselves, killing many Amazons. However, the Amazons managed to put down the rebellion, and killed every last captive. Large pyres were erected and the tombs built for the fallen comrades, which was called the "Amazon Mounds".

Myrina was said to have conquered most of Libya. When she reached Egypt, she befriended Horus, the son of Isis and the king of Egypt (Diodorus sees Horus as a king, not a god). She was said to have slaughter the Arabs and subdued the Syrians. Her Amazon forces entered into Asia Minor (Anatolia). The Cilicians kept their independent and freedom, because they were willing to accept her rule.

Much of Asia Minor came under her rule. She had also captured the island of Lesbos, where she founded the city of Mitylene, which was named after her sister.

Myrina was caught in a storm at sea. She prayed for safety from the Mother of the Gods (Cybele), who guided her ship to a deserted island. Before Myrina left the island, the queen named the island to Samothrace.

Myrina fought her last battle against the Thracians under Mopsus and the Scythians under Sipylus. These two leaders were exiled from their respective homelands. It was not said where this battle was fought, except that it was most likely in one of Myrina's conquered territories. Myrina and great number of her forces were slain in battle. Losing a series of battles to Mopsus, the Amazons finally returned home.

 
Related Information
Name
Myrina

Sources
Library of History was written by Diodorus Siculus.

Related Articles
Gorgons.

Amazons in Libya.



Otrere
 

An Amazon Queen. Otrere was the mother of Penthesileia, and according to Quintus Smyrnaeus, in the Fall of Troy, the mother of Hippolyte (sometimes called Melanippe or Glauce).

 
Related Information
Name
Otrere.

Related Articles
Penthesileia.



Ἱππολύτη
Hippolyte
 

There seemed to be a number of Amazon queen with the name Hippolyte or Hippolyta (Ἱππολύτη). Each one died by different hand. The Hippolyte that I referred to in this article is the Amazon queen, who owned the Girdle of Hippolyte.

She was the queen who ruled the tribe, near the mouth of River Thermodon, in northeastern Asia Minor.

Hippolyte was the sister of Antiope or Melanippe.

Eurystheus, the king of Mycenae and Tiryns, send Heracles on a mission to fetch this golden girdle, which became known as the Ninth Labour of Heracles. Heracles went to the Amazon country either alone, with Telamon or Theseus, or with both of them.

Hippolyte had warmly received Heracles, granting him request for the girdle. The Amazon queen and the hero would have become lovers, and this would have been Heracles' easiest task, however, the vengeful goddess, Hera, stirred trouble among Hippolyte's warriors. The goddess spread rumour that Heracles would abduct their queen. They immediately attack Heracles and his companions. Heracles thinking that Hippolyte had betrayed him, killed the queen, took the girdle, and fought his way out of the city.

According to Apollonius, Heracles did not kill Hippolyte. Melanippe, sister of Hippolyte, went out to confront Heracles, but was captured in the ambush. Heracles held Melanippe as hostage. To pay for her sister's ransom, she offered her girdle to Heracles. Had the Argo landed on the Amazon land, Hippolyte and her Amazons would have attack the Argonauts.

In yet another version, where there were no Heracles and the girdle, the author say that Hippolyte was alive and it was she who led the invasion into Attica and Athens. The two sisters fought on different sides and both were killed.


There is one who was normally named Antiope, but was sometimes called Hippolyte, as well as Melanippe or Glauce. This Antiope/Hippolyte became the wife of the Athenian hero Theseus and mother of Hippolytus.

A third Hippolyte was the sister of Penthesileia. Penthesileia had accidentally killed her while they were out hunting. Penthesileia had to go to King Priam in Troy, to be purified for her sister's death. Eventually, Penthesileia went to join the war at Troy, where she died at the hand of Achilles.

 
Related Information
Name
Hippolyte, Hippolyta, Ἱππολύτη.

Sources
Library was written by Apollodorus.

Iliad was written by Homer.

Fabulae was written by Hyginus.

Metamorphoses was written by Ovid.

Related Articles
Antiope, Heracles, Telamon, Theseus, Eurystheus, Hera.

Ninth Labour of Heracles.



Ἀντιόπη
Antiope
 

There is some confusion over the name of the Amazons, who became the wife of the Athenian hero, Theseus, and the mother of Hippolytus. Some called her Hippolyta or Hippolyte (Ἱππολύτη), the same name who had owned the girdle, the cause of Heracles' labour, in which she was killed at Heracles' hand. While others say that her name was Antiope (Ἀντιόπη). Other names were given to Theseus' Amazon wife: Melanippe (Μελανίππη) and Glauce (Γλαύκη). To avoid confusion, I would say that her name was Antiope, who was the sister of Hippolyte; Hippolyte who was the one killed by Heracles over the girdle).

There are a number of versions that say why Antiope had lived in Athens with Theseus. Some say that Theseus went into the Amazon country with Heracles, while others say that the hero went alone or at least with his Lapith friend, Peirithous. Then there are the various versions, where they say that she was either abducted by Theseus, or that Antiope had fallen in love with the hero and betrayed her people.

When Antiope was living in Athens with Theseus as his wife, she gave birth to Hippolytus. Theseus send their son to his mother Aethra and grandfather Pittheus, who were living in Troezen. Troezen was the birthplace of the Theseus and the scene of the Euripides' tragedy, titled Hippolytus.

 
Related Information
Name
Antiope, Ἀντιόπη; Hippolyta, Hippolyte, Ἱππολύτη; Glauce, Γλαύκη.
Melanippe, Μελανίππη – "Black Mare".

Sources
Parallel Lives on Theseus was written by Plutarch.

Metamorphoses was written by Ovid.

Library and the Epitome were written by Apollodorus.

Related Articles
Hippolyte, Melanippe, Theseus, Hippolytus, Heracles.



Μελανίππη
Melanippe
 

An Amazon warrior. Melanippe (Μελανίππη) was probably the same person as Antiope, sister of Hippolyte. She was also sometimes known as Glauce.

According to Apollonius, Melanippe was the sister of the Amazon Queen, Hippolyte, who ruled during the time of the 9th labour of Heracles, fetching the girdle of Hippolyte. According to a fragment, attributed to Hesiod, Telamon killed Melanippe in the fighting.

In other versions, Heracles killed Hippolyte, when the Amazons attacked the hero's men. But in Apollonius, there was no fighting between Heracles and the Amazons, and Hippolyte was unharmed. Here, Heracles had captured Melanippe, and would only release her as ransom for Hippolyte's girdle.

 
Related Information
Name
Melanippe, Μελανίππη – "Black Mare".
Antiope, Ἀντιόπη; Glauce, Γλαυκη.

Related Articles
Hippolyte, Heracles, Telamon.



Πενθεσίλεια
Penthesileia
 

An Amazon queen. Penthesileia was the daughter of the war god Ares and Otrere. Penthesileia was a superb, fierce warrior as she was beautiful.

Penthesileia had killed another Amazon queen, named Hippolyta or Hippolyte. Priam, the king of Troy, had purified her for the killing, in return for support, in later years.

Penthesileia led the Amazons to Troy on the last year of the Trojan War. Penthesileia had killed many Greeks in battle, including the Greek healer named Machaon. She was, however, no match for Achilles, who killed her.

As Achilles set about disarming his enemy, he fell in love with beautiful face, and immediately regretted facing her. Achilles killed Thersites, who had mocked him for loving his dead enemy. Diomedes was the only man to mourn for Thersites, so he angrily tossed Penthesileia's body into the river, so neither side could give her decent burial. (See Troy's Final Days about her part in the Trojan War.)

 
Related Information
Name
Penthesileia, Πενθεσίλεια.

Sources
The Aethiopis was one of the works from the Epic Cycle (c. 776 BC).

The Fall of Troy was written by Quintus Smyrnaeus.

Library was written by Apollodorus.

Related Articles
Ares, Priam, Achilles, Diomedes.

Trojan War.



Ἱππολύτη
Hippolyte (Melanippe or Glauce)
 

An Amazon Queen. This Hippolyte was also sometimes called Melanippe or Glauce. She shouldn't be confused with the Hippolyte, the owner of golden girdle, which was one of the labours of Heracles.

Hippolyte was possibly the daughter of Otrere and possibly the sister of Penthesileia. According to Quintus Smyrnaeus, Hippolyte and Penthesileia were sisters. In the hunting expedition, Penthesileia had accidentally killed Hippolyte, from miscast javelin that was meant for a deer. Not much else is known about Hippolyte. Penthesileia had to go to Troy, where she was purified by Priam, the Trojan King, whom she became ally, in the last year of Trojan War.

 
Related Information
Name
Hippolyte, Ἱππολύτη, Hippolyta; Melanippe, Μελανίππη; Glauce, Γλαυκη.

Sources
The Aethiopis was one of the works from the Epic Cycle (c. 776 BC).

The Fall of Troy was written by Quintus Smyrnaeus.

Library was written by Apollodorus.

Related Articles
Otrere, Penthesileia, Hippolyte.









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