Who are the Amazons? - Scythian women
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Who are the Amazons?

A Greek depiction of an Amazon
(Athens, ca. 420 BC; Wikimedia)

The Amazons, in Greek mythology, were a group of warriors who were all women and girls. There were no men among them. One famous Greek story about the Amazons is the story of Penthesileia.

According to the Greeks, the Amazons lived to the north of Greece, around the Black Sea.

amazon with her name written along her leg
Amazon with her Scythian name written
alongside her leg

These Greek stories probably come from the fact that among the people who lived north of the Black Sea - the Scythians and other people related to the Scythians like the Sogdians - women had a lot more power than they did in Greece. In real life, men still had more power than women, even among the Scythians, but Greek travellers like Herodotus thought it was weird for women to be so free, and that was what they remembered about these people. Some Scythian women really did wear pants and ride horses and shoot bows and arrows in war.

On Greek vases, paintings of Amazons often come with written name-tags, where the letters are Greek but spell out Scythian names. Chinese, Persian, Indian, and Egyptian stories also told about the fighting, free women of Central Asia.

Learn by doing: archery contests
More about the Scythians

Bibliography and further reading about the Amazons:

D'aulaire's Book of Greek Myths, by Edgar and Ingri D'Aulaire.

Pandora's Box: A Three-Dimensional Celebration of the Mythology of Ancient Greece, by Sara Maitland and Christos Kondeatis (1995). Not really about Pandora specifically, but a complex of stories, games, and puzzles about Greek mythology. People love it!

More about the Scythians
Ancient Greece
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
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  • Carr, K.E. . Quatr.us Study Guides, . Web. 24 April, 2017