There is a whole pantheon of male heroic figures that we’ve been well acquainted with across multiple mythologies. On the other hand, women characters are generally painted as damsels in distress who depend on men for protection and survival.
The myth of a group of fierce and strong women known as the Amazons is far from this picturization. Not only are they self-reliant, they have also faced off against famous heroes like Heracles, Achilles and more, who are well known for their robust personalities.
It’s only natural that one gets intrigued by their existence or the legends associated with them. The question that arises then is, were they real or mere figments of mythology?
Who were these people?
It’s assumed that the Amazons were just as mythical as certain creatures like centaurs or cyclops, yet stories surfacing from around the world often talked about warrior-like women. They were also found to be a part of historical accounts and not just myths. Renowned ancient writers like Herodotus, Plato and more also spoke of their existence.
Their homeland was claimed to be located in Scythia. This was a vast landscape that stretched from the Black Sea across the steppes of Central Asia. It was inhabited by nomadic tribes whose daily activities included archery and warfare. Their culture began around 800BC and they were the first people to ride horses.
Since many populations like the Greeks, Persians and the Chinese trembled at the thought of the Scythians, they left no proof of their history or documented it. Among them, regardless of their gender, everyone including children were trained in the art of warfare. As a means to survive and fight the harsh conditions they lived in, women became equal participants in war.
How were they represented?
In contrast to the Scythians, Greek women were bound to private domestic lives. With passing time Greeks started trade near the Black Sea and grew more familiar with these women, thus improving their portrayal.
This brought a change in the way the Amazons were depicted. Initally, they were shown bearing Greek weapons and armour but with time this changed to them wielding bows and battle axes. They were shown riding horses and wearing caps and patterned trousers, ones that steppe nomads would wear.
New discoveries have come up with evidence for the same. When Scythian mounds were excavated, endless heaps of skeletons and weapons were found. As far as stereotypes exist, these weapons were thought to be the possessions of men. However, modern DNA analysis digging deeper into the matter showed that most of the skeletons found were those of women ranging from the ages 10 to 45. Progressing research is only leading to an increase in these numbers.
Furthermore, the skeletons thus found were also marked with battle injuries.
Despite it all, it’s merely been speculative whether Greek society was up for such an egalitarian society, where men and women were treated equally to the extent that they could even fight alongside each other in battles.