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6. AmaZons were no myth

Updated: Dec 13, 2022

There are lots of legends about the Bronze Age Amazons. This tribe of women loved to have sex with men. But they refused to marry them, submit to them, and lived apart from them. In the stories, they killed all their male-children, or returned them to their fathers. They were hunters, farmers, and warriors. They were the first to use horses in battle and to make weapons of iron. They became associated with the double-headed axe — the labrys, which is now associated with lesbianism.

They conquered Syria and the kingdoms of the ancient Middle East. Legend has it that the Greek hero, Hercules, subdued the Amazons. He may have been the guy that spread the rumor that Amazons burned off their right breasts to make it easier for them to use a bow and arrow! My college professors taught us that Amazons and the stories about them were myths.

True, no one is sure if there really was a tribe of women called Amazons. But it seems there were women very much like them. Certainly such women lived in Scythia — now the Ukraine. They dominated the culture there from about 600–400 BCE. Similar women lived much further east until 200 BCE. The graves and remains of these women are very unusual. Some were bowlegged from horseback riding. Others died from battle wounds. Many were buried with horse trappings, quivers filled with arrows, swords, daggers, and whetstones with which to sharpen all their blades. For the last century or so, archeologists thought the bones in these graves were men’s. But DNA testing proved these honored warriors and priests to be women. On the other hand, these tribes surrounded the men they buried with pots and kitchen utensils, but without weapons. They buried some with children in their arms.

Adrienne Mayor wrote “Who Invented Trousers?” for Natural History in 2014. She compared the way Amazons and Scythians dressed to the Greeks:

Moreover, the gaudy, colorful patterns and rough textures of Amazon and Scythian leggings and trousers clashed with elegantly draped Greek garments. But perhaps even more worrying was the fact that males and females often wore exactly the same costume: hat, tunic, belt, boots, and trousers. Many features of this unisex outfit disquieted the Greeks. First, it signified that the two sexes behaved the same way and engaged in the same physical activities. Like the horse, trousers were equalizers, permitting women to move freely and be as athletically active as a man while preserving modesty. … It was damnably difficult to know whether someone in trousers was a man or a woman.

We know these people were nomads. It seems that women led the men of their families. The women held the property, served as priests, and hunted game. They defended their people with bows and arrows from the backs of their horses. Other tribes like theirs may have roamed the thousands of miles between Hungary in Europe and Kazakhstan in Asia. Some said they were the daughters of the Amazons. Herodotus agreed. He was the “Father of History” and may have been the greatest historian of the ancient world. And he may have been right.

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