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What is known of the actual Amazons within the Aegean is very little, and yet intrigue about a race of dominant warrior women in the bronze age has flourished from ancient times into the present. The obvious question asked by most scholars has been, "who were the Amazons, and did they actually exist?".

Research into the Amazons is extremely limited and at times contradictory. There are numerous accounts of the origins of the Amazons, most concurring that the black sea region was their original settlement. To what extent the Amazons settled into the Black Sea region has not been fully ascertained. Some sources say they reached as far south as Libya, some to the Anatolia peninsula, others as far west as the Mongolian region of Eurasia.

These accounts are further conflicted by the later Greek accounts of the Amazons. According to the Greek accounts, when the Greeks themselves began to settle into the area of the black sea, they found no Amazons.

As a result and to explain this discrepancy, the myth of Hercules and Hippolyte was created to explain their disappearance. According to the myth, Hercules led an expedition through the Amazon land to obtain the girdle of Queen Hippolyte (the queen of the Amazons), during this time he managed to expel and conquer all the Amazons in the district.

Regardless of the myth, modern and ancient scholars remain perplexed by the question of whether the Amazons existed at all. Plutarch, a Greek historian, concluded that the Amazons did not exist as a race of warrior women per se', but were merely women fighting alongside men in battle. Herodotus, another Greek historian, believed that the Amazons did exist within Greece.

Other scholars have even ventured that the women were in fact male Persian soldiers who shaved their beards off and dressed as women in battle. These theories and questions have been compounded by the view of Amazons within Greek art. The early depictions of Amazons were similar in style and likeness of Athena, as time progressed Amazons were given the likeness of Artemis. The final depictions of Amazons share slightly Persian features, a likeness (since the Greeks were in constant conflict with Persia) which can be best viewed as anomalous.

Outside of the questions of the Amazon origins, other questions pertaining to Amazons concern their view of men, and if they were a fierce (blood thirsty) people. The Greeks often questioned (as do modern scholars) how the Amazons, a race composed entirely of women, were able to sustain themselves throughout the generations.

The most credible theory holds that the Amazons had contact with men from other lands, the Amazons kept the female children born to them, and sent the male children to live with their fathers. As to the Amazons blood thirsty nature, Quintus Smyrnaeus wrote of them during the Trojan Wars:

"In the pure rapture of triumph the Amazons charged, and with anguished groans and shrieks the Greeks perished, their manhood withered by the women from the fierce and untamed northlands. Like Goddesses amidst earth born heroes the Amazons pursued their reeling foes, dashed them down, cut them apart, and, scoffing, tossed them through the air - till the Greek formations dissolved in consternation."

The Amazons by and large were a race of fierce warriors, who on numerous occasions laid siege in Attica, and were even a threat to Athens. What is certain is that the Amazons were formidable fighters which the Greeks feared, but as to the Amazons being blood thirsty the question still remains.

Source: mnsu.edu 
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Women's History Magazine

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