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hello good evening everybody welcome to 10 Museum I know I’m a strange face on this podium my name is Dan Rahimi I’m executive director here at Museum responsible for our galleries and Steve Kinney normally takes this podium to introduce our speakers and I always sit and listen and and admire how clever he is so I won’t be clever in my introduction I’ll be straightforward but I am thrilled to be able to welcome you here tonight this is the penultimate presentation of great myths and legends ah this is the penultimate presentation in our series great myths and legends and and in June on June 1st you can hear dr. Paul Cobbs speak on Arabian Nights medieval fantasy and modern forgery but tonight we have a treat because here at at Penn you know here at the Museum where a Museum of archeology and anthropology but we have very broad tentacles we reach out all across the museum community and the university community and we draw in many fields of expertise that that are naturally associated with us our speaker tonight dr. Jeremy McKinnon McInerney is the davidson kenny professor of classical studies here at the University of the Pennsylvania University of Pennsylvania and a close colleague of ours at the Museum dr. McInerny Nerney has broad ranging interests in the classical world literary historical and archaeological and the titles of two of his books I was just looking up recent publications of his reveal this I think one of them is the folds of Parnassus land of land and earth and ethnicity in ancient focus and another one was the cattle of the Sun herding and sanctuaries in ancient Greece so you can get a sense of a variety of interests and not strictly literary quite quite broad he has written numerous articles and encyclopedia entries on everything from a tree ethnicity to the funerary inscriptions of ancient Rome to the wonderful question did Theseus slay the Minotaur his topic tonight though is different you all know it it’s warrior women Amazons and the Greek imagination he’ll speak in a moment after the talk there will be questions and their microphones here in the aisle so please come up to the microphone with your questions and now join me in welcoming dr. McInerny thank you Dan when people ask me how to pronounce the name which is a little difficult for many people I often say if you ever watched Sesame Street you remember there are two characters Bert and Ernie you just make the first one in – Mac right think about it I’m sorry I should have told you no no it’s just to make it easy for you sorry just a technological pause for a moment we get this all up and running this evening I’d like to take a look at the Amazons those remarkable warrior women known to us from Greek mythology and among the most enduring of the legacies left us by the Greeks in our own artistic and imaginative repertoire because there is no doubt that we still entertain ourselves with the fantasy of the warrior woman from Sigourney Weaver in the alien movies – more recently the very Amazonian Katniss Everdeen played by Jennifer Lawrence and just so that we’re entirely clear the warrior woman is not exclusively Greek or even Western she’s a figure who crops up in a number of cultures I used this for the very simple reason that Mulan is my daughter’s favorite movie it’s good movie to bond with your daughter with I promise you now we could spend an entire evening just discussing the contemporary versions of the Amazon story but which I’m not going to do but I do want to suggest that some of the recent pop culture manifestations of the story of the warrior woman might help us to understand the Greeks a little better

and vice-versa so playing in cinemas right now as a matter of fact is a movie called Batman vs. Superman that boasts the presence of a character who is openly and not even metaphorically dare I say little surely an Amazon the figure of Wonder Woman played by the Israeli actress gal gadot Wonder Woman is a character who was introduced into the comic universe the comic world of the 1940s as a new superhero in the DC Universe and her origins are very interesting an American psychologist by the name of William Marston proposed in 1943 that what American culture needed and more specifically what American girls needed was a healthy role model influenced by Jungian notions of archetypes he opined not even girls want to be gold so long as our feminine archetype lacks force strength and power not wanting to be girls they don’t want to be tender submissive peace-loving as good women are women’s strong qualities have become despised because of their weakness the obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with all the strengths of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman what he / you knew it was coming all right yeah it gets worse when he proposed what he proposed was a princess whose origins lay in greek stories of the Amazons Diana Prince as she was called when living among us lesser mortals was the semi-divine daughter is the semi-divine daughter she’s divined for heaven sakes of Queen Hippolyta from the island of themm oscuro armed with the lasso of truth indestructible bracelets and the most awesome go-go boots since Goldie Hawn Wonder Woman is an American Amazon there are a couple of elements however in Marsten’s description that really deserved closer attention here and these are be valuable to keep in mind as we deal with the Greeks this is why I’m beginning with the pop-culture references because I think there’s actually a vector here what Marston was giving us really was an Amazon who at one level is clearly a projection of a feminist idea of an empowered woman at the same time it is also very clearly a male heterosexual projection answering the question how do we make the kind of woman that we want and when I say we I mean heterosexual men loving submissive pliant yet powerful sexually confident and alluring now do these seem contradictory or at least difficult to reconcile yes Jill Lepore who has written a wonderful and scholarly treatment of Wonder Woman I’m not here has written quote feminism made Wonder Woman but she also notes the burden of this image saying and then Wonder Woman remade feminism which hasn’t always been good for feminism well I don’t know I mean is it too much to expect a woman to work a 40-hour week bring home a paycheck do the housework raise the kids help them with their homework and put a fully cooked meal on the table every night and then come to bed looking like a Barbie doll Korbel fashion I don’t know the serious point that I’m trying to make here is that gender issues are always very messy so as you look at this ask yourself a simple question does this empower your daughter or does it objectify her while inculcating impossible ideals of physical attractiveness any image or symbol that does some cultural work by helping us to give voice to our fears and our yearnings our desires and our misgivings is not likely to yield to a single one-dimensional reading throughout the 90s for example one of the most popular shows on TV was Xena Warrior Princess starring the startlingly Amazonian Lucy Lawless they breed them really big in

New Zealand which is where she’s from Xena and her offsider became gay icons in the lesbian community and yet you can still read entire Wikipedia articles that won’t even use the l word in relation to their relationship so we’re going to have to use some finesse in tackling the Amazons to work out what they really signify one strategy might be to take the historians approach and simply to ask if there ever were any Amazons and the answer reassuringly is yes in the 19th century and earlier reports reached Europe from explorers in Africa of the extraordinary kingdom of Dahomey in modern-day Benin in northwest Africa where royal armies often included contingents of elite female warriors and the battle cry of one of these women was recorded when she was an old old woman by an ethnographer who it’s an amazing episode she’s very very old she’s walking along the street hunched over and someone makes a noise that sounds like the clicking of a the the bolt of of a rifle and she instantly goes into warrior mode and even as an old old woman she rolls over in the street and starts chanting this cry after going through the motion of cocking her rifle and shooting the enemy the blood flows you are dead the blood flows we have won the blood flows it flows it flows the blood flows the enemy is no more some of the reports are of course has lured as you would expect of these colonial ethnographies but they’re not entirely fictitious there really were royal guards of warrior women in Africa what about the ancient world well I’m going to give a qualified yes although I’ll say right now the evidence is not nearly as straightforward so you have to bear with me while I do a little excursus to set this up excavations in the 1990s in the early 2000s in areas as far afield as Bulgaria Kazakhstan and Siberia have begun to shed light on the various nomadic cultures of the steppes the vast area ranging from the Black Sea to Mongolia these excavations often have burial mounds or Corrigan’s dating to the 1st millennium BC are allowing us to get a better view of the many nomadic peoples who did not employ writing and who are known to us from the literary records of the Greeks and the Romans as Citians so please note for the most part we don’t even know what these people call themselves these excavations raised excuse me that comment about not knowing their name raises a cautionary note from the very start some scholars uncomfortable with the idea that we should use names derived from Herodotus a Greek source prefer to use names supplied by archaeology pitts grave culture syntactic culture Paz Erick culture and that’s fine provided we recognize that we’re simply substituting our designations for Herodotus designations we are not reclaiming their own cultural identity it’s a big lead up for a very ordinary slide I’m sorry about that if you work on powerpoints you can get a little bit crazy with the bells and whistles until you realize it’s just a map no it’s not just a map has ever our tools for describing these are inadequate I show you a map of the Eurasian continent and this evokes connotations of states such as the various stands took menaced and Tajikistan Uzbekistan Kazakhstan Afghanistan and so forth with clearly delineated boundaries but rather what we’re actually talking about is a significant zone of cultural interaction all across Central Asia people ranged widely over these steppe lands moving their herds from lowlands in the winter to highlands in the summer in fact not surprisingly recent work on the domestication of the horse points to three or four episodes occurring exactly along this corridor this may not be very clear but this map replicated here as well is extending from the Mediterranean here up into northern Europe and across here through the steppe lands of Russia

all the way across into Siberia and Mongolia so this is the Eurasian continent okay more land up here to the north Iran and Central Asia here to the south but these are the steppe lands that we refer to and as you can see it’s now postulated that there are four different domestication events going on precisely within that corridor because that’s where continuously humans and horses are interacting they’re using the same steppe lands the same grasslands we city dwellers are used to a world of cities and states with borders but if we were nomadic herders and then after domestication horsemen – we would see Eurasia totally differently and to really make this point let me simply compare these two pieces these are quite extraordinary the one up here on the right comes from Siberia in 500 BC this one which is essentially the same kind of figure as you can see comes from northern Europe and dates to about 400 AD this international animal style is that sometimes referred to there for covers a span of over 3,000 miles and at least a millennium of history so there is massive movement of culture through this area but it doesn’t leave written records which means that for people who work in the Greek and Roman Mediterranean it’s been largely ignored we don’t have literary sources there is a lot about these cultures we’re only just beginning to learn now in that world of nomads that I’ve been describing for you that extends literally from the edge of Europe right across to Siberia and Mongolia in that world of nomads it now looks as if women were frequently honoured and enjoyed very high status for example in 1993 a pezzi Rick Corrigan was excavated in Siberia and brought to light the mummy of a woman who died in the fifth century BC between the age of 20 and 30 she was buried with the horses and her body exhibitor as you can see here the tattoos associated with the highest-ranking members of society this is actually her left shoulder and that’s the design that was tattooed onto her arm now what makes and this is a reconstruction based on her skull what makes study of this material so difficult aside from poor resources for conservation illegal excavation and the like is modern politics thanks to the advent of DNA studies nationalism has received a fresh and very unhelpful impetus in sticking its nose into archeology as various groups try to exploit these remains as supporting evidence for claiming cultural legacy this image not created by me I hasten to point out points to an attempt to co-opt the passer X the reconstructed face of the city and princess here who are from a long-forgotten culture in the identity politics of modern East Asia where the author has put in this picture of a modern Tajik woman to claim that the Tajiks are the linear descendants of these people the kinds of arguments that these generate are distracting the creator of the model on the right hand side a Russian scientist claimed confidently that the ice maiden is a clear-cut example of the Caucasian race with no typically Mongolian features while the local archaeologists who worked on the excavation replied they made the ice maiden completely European so this material is implicated in very contemporary debates closer to Greece though still some hundreds of miles away a cemetery in pokrovka in Russia but right on the on the border of Kazakhstan has brought to light in the course of the 1990s and the 2000s 50 at least 50 burial mounds there were at least 80 women buried here and 12 of them were buried with grave goods that included swords daggers and wet stones and you can see some of the material that came from one of the assemblages one of the female skeletons had an Arab head buried in the body cavity and the bowed legs of another an adolescent girl pointed to a life spent on horseback leading the American excavator to speculate that these and other Nomad cultures like it were the historical basis for the Amazon legend as Herodotus has the city and women say we are writers our business is with spear and

bow we know nothing of women’s work all right so at this point this is how far we’ve come we don’t have accurate literary accounts of the nomadic cultures of the steppe so I can’t give you reliable F the graphic reports and certainly nothing generated by these people themselves we do have reasonable circumstantial evidence that women played a more assertive role in some of these societies than we would expect in sedentary hierarchically organized States the ones we’re familiar with from the Mediterranean world and thirdly that in certain steppe societies some women may have formed a cadre of warriors riding and fighting like many nomads as mounted archers however even if we can see that there is a probable Central Asian background to the Amazon story and I’m perfectly prepared to concede that we have to keep in mind a very important principle about historical analysis origin is not explanation we are still a fair distance from the Greeks and we’ve not yet considered the Greeks and their interactions with the world of the steppes and the creation of a specifically Greek Amazon myth to put the Matic quite simply how do we get from Siberia to Greece and I don’t mean this as a physical phenomenon presumably you either do it by walking or preferably riding on horseback I mean how do we get from the reality of women in the steppe cultures to this Athenian myth well as ever for the Greeks we’ll start with Homer in the Iliad Homer refers to the Amazons twice describing them with an interesting epithet as Amazonas Antionette AI ante on AI is usually translated it’s translated in various ways but the basic meaning seems to be something like Amazon’s the equal of men they’re comparable the descriptions in Homer are neither long nor detailed and it seems that even by the time the poem acquired its monumental form in the eighth or seventh century BC when they started to write the Iliad down the Amazon’s were already familiar to Greek audiences as women warriors you didn’t need to spell out who they were you could make a reference and assume that your audience would say oh yeah okay the Amazons right I get it it’s Herodotus in the fifth century who gives us the fullest account and this deserves to be cited in full but times not going to allow it so I’m going to give you a paraphrase and while you might think that my paraphrase is occasionally a little silly I assure you it really is very much in the spirit of what Herodotus has to say once upon a time when the Greeks were fighting the Amazons the Greeks defeated the Amazons at the Battle of thermodyne they rounded up the survivors and put them on three boats intending to take them home as slaves on the way back the women set upon the man and slew them being unable to sail however they floated about aimlessly until the boats fetched up in the land of the Citians the first thing the women found was a herd of horses which they seized and started pillaging the Scythian territory the Citians and this is surely the best phrase in Herodotus quote could not understand what was going on what to do they fought the Amazons they slew some of them and in stripping the dead they realized that they were in fact women so naturally they naturally they selected a band of young men and tasked them with the job of shadowing the Amazons they were to pitch camp near them and to run away of chased and then pitch their camp again second best line in Herodotus the point of the cynthia’s plan was that they wanted to have children by the women I didn’t make I’m not making this up it’s in the Herodotus in the strangest courtship scene ever written ever book for chapter hundred and thirty three because I know you want to go home and read this the boys and the girls started splitting into smaller and smaller groups until there is one city and boy left and one Amazon girl left love ensues and each returns to tell the rest of the gang see I love this story because in most cultures it’s men who can’t wait to finish a hookup so they can go to the pub and boast to their mates but here the Amazon women do it as well right there just as callow as the men when it comes to casual sex love

and shoes and each returns to tell the rest of the gang as word gets out the number of liaisons increases until third best line in Herodotus when the other young men found out they joined in and tamed the remaining Amazons now what I love in this episode is that it has the same elements as the justification of the Wonder Woman story we began with the women are strong and confident and alluring but just as important they are available and here they have no qualms about utterly promiscuous sex never underestimate the power of the heterosexual male to ignore historical facts in favor of pure fantasy in this case completely forgetting nomadic societies that offer status and respect to women and instead imagining a society of hot babes my point is that the Hirata teen account if it ever had anything to do with the actual Amazons has gone off in an entirely different direction this is like comparing real life behind bars with oranges than you black alright one is real the other most definitely is not women do not spend time behind bars in prison all doing each other’s hair I think I don’t know I’m told okay the story gets even better we haven’t finished with the Herodotus yet it gets even better having realized that they have found the women of their dreams the young men start living monogamously with their Amazonian partners but being Scythian they’re actually not very smart Herodotus says this explicitly they’re not smart enough to learn to talk Amazonian and they have to wait until the women learn enough Scythian to understand them the guys basically say look we have parents and property back home so let’s go back and join them and we’ll agree to have you as our wives the women voicing the concerns of daughters-in-law everywhere reply no way because we couldn’t get on with the women of your world we haven’t learnt women’s work we shoot arrows we’ll javelins ride horses while you’re women just sit in wagons and do women’s work they never go out hunting or anything else now you know we have a good laugh at this I have to tell you I think this is really fascinating because what we have here is a male Greek author recounting for us an exchange almost certainly fictitious in which the Amazons basically say conventional women’s lives suck how do we suppose a Greek audience responded to this I think we have to treat this like Greek drama this is a story that is an example of a safe place for giving expression to ideas which frankly are a little dangerous to express openly and at the same time transforming this social critique into fantastic egg nog Rafi is really likes writing science fiction it creates a distance that renders the critique a little fuzzy a little less confrontational in the final phase of the story the Scythian man briefly returned to their families claim their inheritance and then go back to their Amazon wives and once again the Amazons are the driving force let’s not stay here they say after all we’ve done a lot of damage to this land of yours so they cross the tanaya’s River travel east for three days then north for three days and then in the end come to the land where according to Herodotus they now live he brings it up to the present and ever since then he says the sour emotion women for this is what the descendants of the Amazons are called quote have kept their original way of life they go about hunting on horseback with or without their husbands they go to war and their wear the same clothes as men do Herodotus is fascinated by customs it’s what makes him more ethnographer than historian and his last comments about these people are fascinating thus our emotions he says speak Citian but ungrammatically as they have always done because the Amazons never learnt it properly he’s actually using the people that he’s interviewed and hearing their words and saying you know these people don’t even speak the same language as everyone around them why well because their mothers were Amazons and they never really learnt the language one of their marriage customs he says is that no young woman may marry until she’s killed a male enemy inability to fulfill this condition means that some of them die of old age without ever being married so from the 5th century BC at least the Greeks were familiar with the Amazons or at least with stories about the Amazons and they were

interested in their origins mainly so they could tell lurid stories about them Herodotus is offering us the fruits of his inquiries asking the questions that perfume excuse me presumably fascinated and entertained his audience in fact in Herodotus is time in the middle of the fifth century the Amazon seemed to have acquired a particular fascination for the Greeks in general and the Athenians specifically Herodotus reports a quarrel on the eve of the Battle of Plataea in 479 when the Terrans and the Athenians had a quarrel as to who should have the honor of commanding the left wing of the Greek forces the right wing was obviously the Spartans and in their justification the Athenians cite three campaigns that have won the renown of the third of these the Athenians say well there was the successful campaign of ours against the Amazons when they came from the river thermodyne and invaded Attica this Amazon invasion of Attica took on such significance to the Athenians that in the official funeral speech given each year in honor of the man who died for Athens the defeat of the Amazons was an absolutely standard trope it is as if every July 4th the president were to give a rousing speech about how we defeated the space aliens who knows president Trump’s inaugural speech may contain such who knows come back next year we’ll talk about doesn’t matter how often you say it it still didn’t happen I’m talking about the Amazon invasion every year Athenian children heard the story of how their forefathers defeated the Amazons sometimes the details varied in a Socrates version the Amazons were totally wiped out in the fourth century a local historian named Clyde Imus gave a different account according to which Theseus defeated the Amazons signed a peace treaty with them and then married their Queen Hippolyta there’s a kinder gentler treatment of the Amazons so variation was possible but in the end they had to be defeated there is unfortunately no 5th century red figure vars so give you a 21st century red figure comic that’s Theseus running away as the Amazons are chasing him down to the water thank god he’s got a strategically placed speech bubble and presumably that’s Athens right behind him the location of the Athenian victory is often referred to in the ancient sources as the amazonian a building or monument not yet securely identified in Athenian typography that that’s the discovery of the 21st century if we could find this building that would be great various other graves grave Steeleye and other monuments associated with the Amazons are also referred to in Athenian sources and it seems that the Athenians believed that there were actual monuments around them in the landscape attesting to the Amazon invasion you could actually take your kid around say look son that’s where Theseus beat the Amazon Queen right there on that spot it’s been recently suggested by Susan wrote Roth and Bob Lamberton I think this is a really very plausible argument that when the Athenians encountered late Mycenaean chamber tombs while digging wells or foundations for later buildings right you’re in the Agora in 450 BC when you’re digging down to lay the foundations for a store you’re not going down just to empty bedrock you’re going down to Mycenaean chamber tombs they’re littered throughout the Agora so you’re coming down dramatically on the actual evidence for the people who were there before you hundreds of years earlier and their argument is when the Athenians encounter these late mate in chamber terms while they were digging wells or foundations they may have been confused by Bronze Age funeral assemblages that mixed weapons and jewelry 5th century informations were usually single and clearly differentiated by gender and you could normally say as one skeleton and it’s a guy why well he’s got a helmet a shield and so forth or it’s a woman because you’ve got spindle worlds and she’s got beads but these chamber tombs have multiple burials and they mix up the assemblages so their argument is that these chamber tombs possessing the skeletons of men and women with swords and beads might easily have been confused for Amazon terms associated with the defeated invaders in addition Theseus had taken an Amazon wife and Plutarch Plato and Pausanias all refer to her monument as either a memorial or a steely-eyed mero trough again notes that a bell crater by the eupolous

painter seems to depict a morning amazon with a horse right next to what looks very much like a funeral stealing that’s a funeral marker quite possibly and she associates this with a memorial to the dead Amazon Queen as if the warrior and horse were felt to remain luminously close to the actual spot where she was buried in attic soil this is very exciting because it may well mean then that the Athenians used the Amazon story as a way of interpreting the tangible past the the actual bones and pots and material that cropped up shaping the random artifacts they encountered into a coherent narrative this was useful not only because it helped the Athenians make sense of their distant past but also because the Amazon story provided a nice analog for an actual real recent invasion the Persian invasion the two went hand in hand Amazon Persian invasion invasion myth history and on the north side of the Agora the Athenians in the fifth century erected a multi-purpose building the store pokey lay the painted store is what that means that became famous for its two monumental paintings guess what they are the defeat of the Amazons the defeat of the Persians so again every day in the Agora you could walk into this wonderful building this is the store from which stoic philosophy takes its name this is where Zeno used to give you lectures so you could go to the store and what you saw with two monumental paintings that juxtaposed the Amazon invasion and the Persian invasion so generations of Athenians grow up seeing the one as the mythological analog for the other historical event or as they would probably put it the early history and the recent history the paintings of course don’t survive but a lengthy description beifuss Aeneas in the second century allowed a 19th century scholar Carlo bear to reconstruct it like this and his use of contemporary artifacts such as vars painting makes it a fairly reliable guide to the ancient painting and as you look at it I’m not sure how clearly you can see this but let me point out where you’ve got figures that are carrying round shields and have crested helmets these are Greeks that’s a hoplite because he’s carrying a Hopalong here’s another hoplite with a hop liner there’s a shield and he’s wearing a cuirass and they have their Spears but you’ll also see and I’ll show you this in more detail in a minute there are a lot of figures like this who are wearing striped pajamas here with nice soft felt hats and animal skins trousers bows and arrows bows and arrows and light wicker shields in contrast to the Greeks advancing from here either as hoplites in armor or these troops who are heroically naked as you look at it I urge you to notice the posture and the garb of the Persians notice the way they wear brightly patterned garments especially trousers and this distinguishes the Persians from the Greek this is how Persians are often depicted on Greek vases and then notice the depiction of Amazon’s in contemporary fifth century visors wearing striped and patterned garments and trousers and soft hats and wicker shields and more soft hats and more trousers Persians and Amazon’s look the same in 5th century art Greek or Persian or Amazon well not a Greek but with trousers probably in Amazon and this my favorite one look at these lovely soft garments with the patency some people have also suggested these may be artistic representations of the tattoos that were known to be worn as for example by the Pacific princess but in many cases you can actually see the bottom of the garment so I’m not going to press that but notice the patterns here and the trousers the soft garments the round sorry the the crescent-shaped wicker shield lack of helmet in this case fighting with a rock in this instance I mean the girls about their hair nicely done up so you know the shingle will keep the hair out of their face while they’re fighting and then over here the hoplite shield the crested helmet it’s Greeks versus Amazons or again here with trousers patent garment and again arm it with bow and sword as you can see from many

examples like this there are many more the figure of the Persian and the figure of the Amazon are basically interchangeable scholars who study Athenian iconography make the point that many of the depictions of Greek versus Persian what we find in these is an elevation of the Greek to heroic status naked means heroic even though no Greek ever went intentionally into battle without armor similarly the opposite of the heroic naked male Greek is the soft trouser wearing Persian and the culmination of this process is the rendering of the soft Persian as the victim of the masculine Greek here for example on the euromaidan vars which I’ve shown some of you in an earlier oh wait it gets worse because the Persian here is about to be attacked by this guy a naked Greek holding his block-and-tackle and charging around the vessel about frankly to bugger the Persian and in case in case you know people don’t get them I’m sorry I hope this is not too over-the-top but I mean the message for the Greeks is very clear because the inscription on the vessel actually says I am you Rimmer Don and you Rimmer Don was the battle in about 468 when the Greeks finally drove the Persians entirely out of the Aegean and established essentially a border for all naval activity beyond which the Persians never again passed this is like having a vessel that says on it I am Iwo Jima this is a reference that everyone in the 5th century gets oh yeah we gave it to the Persians alright so here the Greek is essentially doing to the Persian exactly the same thing that Citians and Theseus do to the Amazons they tame them quite simply by penetration in the 5th century gender politics in relation to women and cultural politics in relation to Persians map on to each other and the Amazons become a useful signifier and what they signified was the potential threat to the natural order if there are Amazons we must be men they are like the war on drugs they exist to give our actions meaning inevitably because they are figures in a narrative the Amazons increasingly generated individual figures who interacted with Greek heroes by the fifth century the general story of the Amazon and the specific tales of their leading heroines namely penthe zelaya and Hippolyta were becoming a quite widespread I’m just going to try and sorry skip down if I can get my technology to work stories and paintings such as this vars paintings situate Penthesilea the Amazon Queen in the Trojan War narrative and thereby placed the Amazons in the wider circle of Greek storytelling in the stories told after Homer that elaborated on the Trojan War a popular episode was the battle between Achilles and Penthesilea the Amazon Queen and when he lifts her helmet he realizes it as a woman falls in love with her as she dies in his arms and in the manner of these posed Homeric elaborations that story – then gets more elaborate this is not in Homer this is all post Homer in one of the other versions the ascites sees Achilles weeping mocks him and his intern promptly slaughtered so these stories grew and multiplied in poetry and in painting time and again the stories revolve around the central idea of women outside the bounds of Greek society eventually being tamed brought around socialized to appropriate modes of Greek behavior usually as wives according excuse me accordingly when some scholars like Adrienne mayor argued that the Amazon myth expresses a fundamental yearning for equality and gender harmony which is pretty much at odds with the usual view of the Greek family my reply would be that the Amazons are subversive in exactly the same way as Mulan is subversive yeah it’s radical but a girl defense of families honor by passing as a man and

saving China from the Hun so radical that she comes home makes goo-goo eyes at the hunk whom she will marry order is restored harmony is victorious and Mulan ends up in a dress so the story has the potential to be subversive but it undercuts that very potential the people of antiquity were not stupid and the urge to tell wonderful stories about the Amazons often conflicted with a tendency to dismiss these as just that stories and so in this last segment I want to finish by looking at Amazon scepticism and once again I think we can learn a great deal by avoiding oversimplification in the first century BC a historian by the name of Dido Siculus wrote about Penthesilea the queen of the Amazons as if he were describing an historical character for a few years after the campaign of Heracles against the Amazons during the time of the Trojan of war they say pent as a lair the queen of the surviving Amazons who was a daughter of Ahri’s and had slain whatever her kindred fled from her native land because the sacrilege and fighting is an ally of the Trojans after the death of Hector she slew many of the Greeks and after gaining distinction in the struggle she entered her life heroically at the hands of Achilles now they say that penthe Zelaya was the last of the Amazons to win distinction for bravery and that for the future the race diminished more and more and then lost all its strength consequently in later times whenever any writers recount their prowess men consider the ancient stories about the Amazons to be fictitious tales now what we can see here is that after Homer the story of the Amazons that Troy became much more elaborate these post turmeric stories grew in part at a people’s desire to know and hear more about their favorite Homeric episodes so this tells us that the Amazons were a popular motif people are asking the poets tell us more we want to know more second you’ll notice that the romantic element has begun to dominate so we begin to move away from the epic to the personal and you’ll see that there were simply the who said these are fictitious tales and even a believer lady odorous has to account for this which he does by saying Penthesilea was the last truly great Amazon but after that decline in effect Diadora sees the world in the first century BC as having simply become less heroic so the Amazons will continue to exist for him as part of a better world or to quote Tennyson that untraveled world whose margin fades forever and forever when I move in the post classical world the Amazons continue to ride and whoop and shoot their arrows and fall in love with young men and be tamed by them because they become the stuff of nostalgia regardless of any message they convey as symbols of independent women or proto feminism they become part of the cultural stock of the Greeks cropping up in Amazon on the keys as here in the meta piece of the temple of apollo at bass eye in places that have no conceivable connection to the Amazons it comes as no surprise therefore that when a Greek actually traveled farther than any before him into those semi-mythical regions of sathya that he should collide with the Amazons the Greek is Alexander and according to the Alexander romance the queen of the Amazons fill estrus Road to him with a proposal that she and 300 of her warrior maidens should visit him and together conceive a new generation of eugenic Lee designed super warriors what’s fascinating is that Alexander historians in antiquity were absolutely evenly split I mean mathematically it is down the center between those who regarded that story as complete fantasy and those who said it actually happened one of the ones who did say that it actually happened was a man called Anna secretest who was with Alexander on the campaign and years later he wrote about the visit of the Lester’s at a reading of his work King lysimachus who also had been on the expedition as a young man listened patiently and then asked Riley and where was I at the time but even when people couldn’t quite bring themselves to

believe in Amazon’s they also couldn’t quite not believe in Amazon’s Aryan writing 500 years after Alexander was something of a skeptic but notice that when he recounts the story of Alexander’s meeting with the Amazons he gives us his personal opinion I doubt if the Amazons still existed at this time meaning that they had existed at one time and when he tries to give what we would call a rationalizing explanation of how a bunch of female warriors turned up in the Macedonian cap he says if after-parties really did present some female cavalry troops to Alexander I should imagine that they must have been women of some nationality or other who had been taught to ride and equipped in the traditional Amazonian style because of course everyone would have recognized what traditional Amazonian style was as with much of the ancient world the medieval inheritance was based as much on fantasy as reality with Alexander and thil estrus here for example looking very much like courtier courtiers from the court of the Valois Dukes of Burgundy in the late 1400s which coincidentally is where this manuscript was created the take away from that however along with the rest of what I’ve been saying tonight is very simple and that is that every generation gets the Amazon that it deserves thank you I think it’s question time and I think I’m running it from up here so if anyone has anything critical or whatever leave and if anyone has anything positive please take the microphone Anthony has one back there and is there one on the other side too Anthony just the one over there so flap your arms about very enjoyable thank you I seem to remember in my freshman University course in Western civilization that the Isle of Lesbos off the Turkish coast played some role in the myth of the Amazons am I not remembering correct I’m wondering whether you’re mixing it up with Lemnos a little further north unless you’re thinking about the fact that in much later authors there is a suggestion this is an all-female society and that of course then gets slightly mapped on to the reputation of lesbos as an island of lesbians which really goes back to the poetry of Sappho there are a lot of very tenuous and connections being drawn there that aren’t in any way really verifiable the reason why I’m raising lamb knots which of course sounds very much like lesbos is that it is an island that has some separate traditions involving female society the Lemon Ian women slaughter all of their husbands after they come back from the mainland having brought back slaves and children who their father buy them and they’re punished by having a pestilence that afflicts them so that they they smell hideous and there are a bunch of stories I’m actually trying to work through these right now to work out what the association’s are I think to do the fact it’s a volcanic island but it these are all slightly separate Lemnos lesbos and the the Amazons the Amazons are normally placed further north the miss Kura when it’s actually given a real location is on the southern coast of the Black Sea rather than in the Aegean thank you thank you fascinating talk I hope this isn’t too trivial but I said thank you fascinating talk I hope this isn’t too trivial but where does the name come from oh well the reason I didn’t go into that is because that’s a lecture on its own but let me just give you very briefly the Greek interpretation of the name is that it comes from our muds dawn muds done being related to the Greek word for a breast and the Alpha at the beginning being what the Greeks called the Alpha privative which means non breast and the story that’s holder this these are false etymologies and they’re very popular in the Greek world and this etymology is Oh the Amazons have no breasts because they cut off their breasts so they could fire their arrows that’s the story that’s told the reason I didn’t go into it is some scholars working on a whole Amazon issue recently have pointed out that’s

actually not very widespread in the Greek literary sources it’s a late explanation secondly it’s one that is palpably ridiculous if you’ve ever seen a woman firing a bow and arrow you don’t need to cut off a breast to do it right and there are no depictions in the vases that I showed you particularly the one from the more silly and the the relief sculpture that showed the Greek fighting the woman whose dress came open its side you can see a breast that’s how you marker out as a woman in that statue so this idea of there being breast ‘lest because of their having to fire bows and arrows is a very minor opinion that isn’t picked up in in most of the literary sources and not in the artistic sources at all the those who play with the etymology of Greek words words that come to us through Greek have argue that there are about three or four different possibilities for this they’ve related it in some cases to hit height and in particular to proto-indo-european where there are words that may mean something like a warrior that may be connected to it the the story that Herodotus gives is actually unrelated to this altogether he says the word for them in Thresh in Scythian is I or pita and he says it’s a word that means I or man put a kill whether Herodotus spoke Scythian is not entirely clear at all but that’s again one of those sort of the easy etymologies but yeah there there are a number of different possibilities about where the word comes from depending upon which language you think it comes from but I think they’re all pretty unreliable to tell the truth sure I’m not sure if this is irrelevant it’s kind of a follow-up I guess because it’s about the name is there connection also to the South American rainforest and where that name came from well that name was drawn from the Greek and applied later on but it doesn’t help us understand the origins because it’s a it’s a second order to Bella doesn’t have anything to do with people who gave it that name doesn’t have anything to do with the Amazon men I’m sure it does but I’m certainly not an expert on the colonial nomenclature of South America I’m sorry but I I just always assumed that that was the Spanish who gave it that name I don’t think it’s a in any any sense an indigenous name I could be wrong if anyone knows the answer I’m not in any sense an expert on that Thanks yeah you need to come to the microphone I’m sorry there you go Thanks oh he said there were women fighters that the Spanish encountered and they called them Amazons so yes it’s an application of the Greek term I mean don’t forget everyone in in colonial times who was from an elite was trained in Greek and laughs and they knew this material like the back of their hand so it’s not at all surprising if they would apply these terms cross this may be mixing sixes and sevens but is there any correspondence between the training of Spartan women and that and the traditions or the myths of the Amazons no there isn’t that’s a very interesing question um Spartan women are certainly trained in athletics but they’re not trained in techniques of warfare they’re not trained as either sword fighters or spear fighters or bow women they’re trained as athletes to compete in the games of here at Olympia the the women that we do hear of in the Greek world who are given military training are very very few and far between we know that happening in Macedon the wife of Philip the 3rd who was Alexander’s half-brother and who was buried with him at Virgina was trained as a beau woman but it’s very very rare and it’s not systematic in Sparta at all that’s not part of what is the training Spartan women thank you Thank You linesman thank you bol boys

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