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Queens of the Amazons

 

 

Famous in Greek myth, the all-female warrior nation of the Amazons have a surprisingly coherent history – which, taken as a whole, almost certainly indicates a grain of truth to these ancient legends. The illustration on the left shows an Amazon warrior queen in full battle-dress, complete with Phrygian Cap. The Amazons were renowned as horse-women and archers.

 

 

Early Period...

 

HARMONIA

Harmonia was a Nymph who dwelt in a spring in the Akmonian wood near the River Thermodon in what is today north-eastern Turkey. She was seduced by the god Ares (Mars), and their daughters became the first Amazons.

 

OTERE

Presumably it was Otere (Otrere) who made a famous pact with the Gargarians, a tribe who dwelt to the east of the Amazons in the Caucasus, stipulating that once a year, at a festival organised for this purpose, the Amazons would have intercourse with the men of the Gargarians – keeping for themselves all the girls born to these unions, and returning the boys.

 

LYSSIPPE

Lyssipe (Lysippe) founded the city of Themiskyra (see map on right) by the River Thermodon, and introduced the worship of the virgin huntress Artemis to the Amazons. She also seems to have founded the cities of Lykastia and Khadesia, and organised the Amazons into a nation – extending her sphere of influence from Sarmatia (the Russian steppes) to the Taurus Mountains. The Amazons became famous for their unrivalled skill with horses and the bow and arrow, though the story that they cut off their right breasts is based on a misunderstanding.

 

VALASKA

Valaska is remembered as a cruel tyrant – she had the right eye and both thumbs of all men in her dominions removed, rendering them useless in battle. Other stories, probably from the same period, tell of the Amazons keeping men as slaves or studs, having mutilated them as babies by chopping off a hand or a leg, or putting their eyes out.

 

DLASTA

Possibly the same person as Valaska.

 

MELANIPPE

Possibly misplaced in the list – the later queens Hippolyta and Antiope had a sister of this name, who reigned briefly in her own right.

 

EPHASIA HIPPO

Ephasia Hippo was the founder of the city of Ephesus in Asia Minor, which presumably indicates that her sphere of influence extended as far as the Aegean Sea.

 

First Historical Period...

 

ANDROMAKHE fl. c. 1400

Andromakhe was a famous warrior – in a nation famed for its bravery and military prowess.

 

EVRAYLE fl. c. 1350

Evrayle (Euryleia) fought a war in Attica, Greece.

 

HIPPOLYTA fl. c. 1300

Hippolyta (Hippolyte) received a visit from the Greek hero Herakles (Hercules), whose Ninth Labour was to steal her royal belt of office. She gave it to him freely, but the goddess Hera told the Amazons that Herakles was about to abduct Hippolyta, so they attacked him. In the ensuing battle she was killed, along with the following named Amazon leaders: Aella, Alkippe, Asteria, Deianira, Eriboea, Evrybia, Kelaeno, Marpe, Phoebe, Prothoe, and Tekmessa. (Illustration left: three tragic sisters – Hippolyta in front, with Antiope and Melanippe behind. All three would be queen, and all three would meet violent ends.)

 

ANTIOPE fl. c. 1280

Sister of Hippolyta. Antiope faced an attack by the Athenian king Theseus, but instead of fighting, she eloped with him to Greece, handing Hippolyta’s belt to Melanippe. She was later killed by Molpadia.

 

MELANIPPE fl. c. 1280

Sister of Antiope and Hippolyta. Reigned briefly before being deposed and killed by Molpadia.

 

MOLPADIA fl. c. 1280

Her name means ‘Death Song’. Molpadia seized the throne and, in alliance with the Scythians, led an invasion of Greece following Antiope’s defection – where she was killed by Theseus. Archaeological evidence supports the idea of an invasion of Attica from the north during this period, possibly connected to the contemporary invasions of the ‘People of the Sea’.

 

KLETE fl. c. 1260

Sailing to meet Penthesilea (her ultimate successor), she was blown off course to Italy, where she founded the city of Clete.

 

PENTHESILEA fl. c. 1250

Penthesilea led the Amazons in support of her ally, king Priam of Troy, and was killed by the Achaean hero Achilles. The following Amazon leaders were among those also killed in this war: Alkibie, Antandre, Antibrote, Bremusa, Derimakheia, Derinoe, Evandre, Harmothoe, Hippothoe, Klonie, Polemusa, and Thermodosa.

 

ANTIANARA fl. c. 1250

Succeeded Penthesilea upon the latter’s death, after which the historical records give out.

 

(First Unrecorded Period c. 1250-c. 850)

 

Second Historical Period...

 

MARPESIA ‘the Invader’ fl. c. 850

Marpesia led an invasion of Syria and Anatolia – this may be connected with the approximately contemporary Cimmerian invasions of the Near East.

 

LAMPEDO fl. c. 850

Joint-queen with Marpesia.

 

ORITHIA fl. c. 800

Daughter of Marpesia. Formed an alliance with the Scythians. After this the historical records fail us again.

 

(Second Unrecorded Period c. 800-c. 330)

 

Third Historical Period...

 

THALESTRIS fl. c. 330

Thalestris visited Alexander the Great during his campaign against Persia. She stayed with him for thirteen days and nights in the hope that he would beget a daughter on her – though some writers dispute that this meeting ever took place. Thalestris is the last Amazon queen attested in the historical record. Either the Amazons were absorbed into Alexander’s empire, or – if tradition is correct – they merged with a Scythian tribe called the Sauromatae (Sarmatians).

 

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