Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Amazons Those Ancient Warrior Women Of Legend

According to Herodotus, the Greeks, after having routed the Amazons, the Greeks sailed away in three ships, taking with them as many Amazons, as they had been able to capture alive—but, when fairly out at sea, the ladies arose, stood up for women’s rights, and cut all the Greeks in pieces. But they had not reckoned on one little thing, and that was, that none among them had the slightest idea of navigation; they couldn’t even steer or row—so they had to drift about, until they came to Cremni (supposed to be near Taganrog), which was Scythian territory. They signaled their landing by horse-stealing, and the Scythians, not appreciating the joke, gave them battle, thinking they were men; but an examination of the dead proved them to be of the other sex. On learning this, the Scythians were far too gentlemanly to continue the strife, and, little by little, they established the most friendly relations with the Amazons. These ladies, however, objected to go to the Scythians’ homes, for, as they pertinently put it, “We never could live with the women of your county, because we have not the same customs with them. We shoot with the bow, throw the javelin, and ride on horseback, and have never learned the employments of women. But your women do none of the things we have mentioned, but are engaged in women’s work, remaining in their wagons, and do not go out to hunt, or anywhere else; we could not therefore consort with them. If, then, you desire to have us for your wives, and to prove yourselves honest men, go to your parents, claim your share of their property, then return, and let us live by ourselves.”

This the young Scythians did, but, when they returned, the Amazons said they were afraid to stop where they were, for they had deprived parents of their sons, and besides, had committed depredations in the country, so that they thought it but prudent to leave, and suggested that they should cross the Tanais, or Don, and found a colony on the other side. This their husbands acceded to, and when they were settled, their wives returned to their old way of living—hunting, going to war with their husbands, and wearing the same clothes—in fact they enjoyed an actual existence, of which many women nowadays, fondly, but vainly dream. There was a little drawback however—the qualification for a young lady’s presentation at court, consisted of killing a man, and, until that was effected, she could not marry.

Sir John Mandeville also wrot about them, although he did not pretend to have seen them, and this is what he wrote. “After the land of Caldee, is the land of Amazony, that is a land where there is no man but all women, as men say, for they wil suffer no man to lyve among them, nor to have lordeshippe over them. For sometyme was a kinge in that lande, and men were dwelling there as did in other countreys, and had wives, & it befell that the kynge had great warre with them of Sychy, he was called Colopius, and he was slaine in bataill and all the good bloude of his lande. And this Queene, when she herd that, & other ladies of that land, that the king and the lordes were slaine, they gathered them togither and killed all the men that were lefte in their lande among them, and sithen that time dwelled no man among them.

“And when they will have any man, they sende for them in a countrey that is nere theyr lande, and the men come, and are ther viii dayes, or as the woman lyketh, & then they go againe, and if they have men children they send them to theyr fathers, when they can eate & go, and if they have maide chyldren they kepe them, and if they bee of gentill bloud they brene(burn) the left pappe(breast) away, for bearing of a shielde, and, if they be of little bloud, they brene the ryght pappe away for shoting. For those women of that countrey are good warriours, and are often in soudy(at war) with other lordes, and the queene of that lande governeth well that lande; this lande is all environed with water.”

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