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Amazons

A Kingdom Without Men

Amazons

A people of women devoted entirely to the art of war, the Amazons, nicknamed by the poet Aeschylus "Women warriors, enemies of men", govern themselves alone and do not admit any man to them.

Divine origins

According to Greek mythology, the Amazons descend from Ares (Mars), god of War, and his own daughter, the nymph Harmonie. They live only among women, excel in the warrior arts and make their daughters hunters and fighters. To this end, they burn their right breast to facilitate the exercise of the bow. It is from this tradition that the Amazons get their name because it means in Greek "those who have no breast". They unite with mens only during very short periods and for a strictly reproductive purpose. They keep with them only female children. According to Herodotus, "a girl does not get married until she kills an enemy. Some grow old and die without being married because they can not fulfill this mission. "

The Amazons, enemies of Greek heroes!

The first known feats of arms of the Amazons go back to Prehomeric Greece. We see them struggling with the greatest hero of Greek mythology, Hercules, one of whose twelve jobs is to seize the belt of Hippolytus, their queen. Shortly thereafter, Theseus, another valiant hero, winner of the Minotaur, went to the Amazons and took away their sovereign, Antiope, whom he found very beautiful. The Amazons then leave their kingdom and, in retaliation, invade Attica. But they are repulsed by the army of Theseus. From the eventful union of Theseus and Antiope is born a child, Hippolyte, whom his father adores. Racine will make him famous by making him the unhappy hero of his Phèdre play.

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In the Iliad, which tells the last years of the war between the Trojans and the Greeks, the Amazons are quoted three times, but Homer gives only a few vague details about them, which do not allow to apprehend them with precision. The myth seems already on its decline at this time.

Myth or reality

Many authors, at different times, have written about the Amazons, but it is difficult to pinpoint their country accurately or to say that they really existed as legends tell it. According to the Hellenic tradition, their kingdom, whose capital is Themoscyre, is in Asia Minor, near the river Thermodon, but the Greeks, who colonize early enough this region, find no trace. According to Herodotus, the Amazons left this territory to emigrate to Scythia, near the present Sea of ​​Azov. It may be, however, that during the High Antiquity, like the matriarchal societies attested at the time, there were tribes of women ruling alone or living apart from men, and they contributed to the birth of the myth of the Amazons, which was later embellished by imaginative poets.

The world of the Amazons

Well after the end of Antiquity and with the advent of explorations, the myth of the Amazons knows, for a few centuries, a new vitality. In the land of the Valkyries. In the ninth century, the King of England Alfred the Great speaks of a kingdom, the Magdaland, inhabited only by women and located in northern Europe.

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In the Orient

In Malaysia, natives say that Engano Island, near Sumatra, is home to warrior women. Marco Polo, meanwhile, describes two islands, located near the kingdom of Khesmakoran, India, one of which is populated exclusively by women and the other by men. Once in the year, the men visit the women and then return home. Women, when they give birth, keep with them female children and return boys to their fathers when they reach the age of twelve.

In South America

Columbus says he met women warriors in the West Indies during his travels. A companion of the conquistador Francisco de Orellana describes the fight he and his companions fought in 1541, in the Amazon, against large white women with long braided hair, armed with bows and arrows. It is Orellana, moreover, who baptizes the Amazon river from the Indian word "amassonas" which means "destroyer of boats".

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People and Civilization