“Deux Amazones” Milo Manara 2013.

AMAZONS (gr. Amadzónes)

in Greek mythology the tribe of warrior women, deriving their origin from ➚ Ares and ➚ naiad Harmonia [1]. They occupied the land by the Thermodon river in Asia Minor with the capital in Themiscyra (but were also placed in Libya or by the Lake Maeotis, i.e. Sea of Azov [2]). The “ethnic” name Amadzónes was traditionally derived from the custom of cutting off (burning out, preventing growth) one breast – various sources say about left or right – so it didn’t hamper throwing a spear or shooting a bow, although in iconography they were depicted non-crippled (from Greek alpha privativum + madzós “breast”, that is “the Breastless”, but also from old Persian hamazan “warrior”). Amazons used to temporary enter into sexual relations with their neighbours, killing the newborn boys and keeping the girls [3]. They fought with a bow, a spear, an axe and a light shield [4] in the half-moon shape [5]. They especially revered Ares and ➚ Artemis (but compare one of the ➚ Apollo’s agnomens – Amadzónios, i.e. “Amazonian” [6]).

Amazons were successfully fought by: ➚ Heracles, ➚ Theseus (and Athenians), ➚ Bellerophon and ➚ Dionysus. During the ➚ Trojan War they allied with ➚ Priam (see PENTHESILEA). The most known are the Amazon queens: ➚ Hippolyta (1 and 2), ➚ Antiope (1), Lysippe, Marpesia, Myrina, Lampedo, Hippo, Orithya.

Amazons were ascribed with the foundation of many cities in Asia Minor and on the islands of the Aegean Sea (Smyrna, Synope, Mytilene, Kyme, Priene, Ephesus). The last queen of the Amazons Minitia (or Thalestris) was the lover of Alexander the Great, whom she visited in order to have children, but she died after returning home and “with her all the Amazon name vanished” [7].


[1] A p. R h o d., II, 990 ff.; [2] A e s c h y l., Prom., 723 ff.; 416 ff.; [3] A p d., II, 5, 9; [4] S t r a b., XI, 5, 1; [5] S e n., Med., 214 f; Phaedr., 402 ff.; [6] P a u s., III, 25, 3; [7] J u s t., Epit., II, 4.

S t r i c k e r, Die Amazonen in Sage und Geschichte. Sammlung gemeinverständlicher wissenschaftlicher Vorträge, Berlin 1873; W. L e o n a r d, Hettiter und Amazonen, Leipzig 1911; R. H e n n i n g, Über die voraussichtlich völkerkundlichen Grundlagen der Amazonen-Sagen und deren Vorbereitung, “Zeitschrift für Ethnologie” 72, 1940; Ch. P i c a r d, L’Ephésia, les Amazones et les abeilles, “Revue des études anciens” 42, 1940; O. M. K o s w i e n, Amazonki. Istoria legendy, “Sovetskaja etnographia” 2-3, 1947; D. V. B o t h m e r, Amasons in Greek Art, Oxford 1957; K. A. B i s s e t, Who were the Amazons, “Greece and Rome” 18, 1971; P. D u B o i s, On Horse-Man, Amazons and Endogamy, “Arethusa” 12, 1979.