Amazonian Women: The Truth About These Real Female Warriors Who Inspired Wonder Woman | History Extra - Deepstash

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Amazon Women: History Vs Folklore

Amazon Women: History Vs Folklore

Heroes of old had encountered Amazons in the martial women’s kingdom, Themiscyra, on the southern shores of the Black Sea. Amazons had invaded Greece, their advance halted in a great battle. Herodotus related how they had been captured, carried away in Greek ships and escaped to the banks of the river Don, where they intermarried with Scythian tribesmen.

No one knew where the name ‘Amazon’ came from, so the Greeks claimed it was derived from a-mazdos – without a breast: these fearsome women cut off their right breasts to remove an obstruction to the bowstring, it was claimed.

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Wonder Women: The Facts

Wonder Women: The Facts

 In the grasslands of inner Asia, from the Black Sea to western China, Scythian women had the same skills as their men: wielding bows, riding and herding animals, fighting – and dying from their injuries. Their remains have been found in tomb-mounds from the Crimea to western China.

For centuries, women warriors en masse have been dubbed ‘Amazons’. Regiments of such women existed in Dahomey (in what’s now Benin) and in the Soviet air force, and the female fighters of Kurdistan have a formidable reputation. 

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Hippolyte, Queen of The Amazons

Hippolyte, Queen of The Amazons

  • These warrior women, it is reputed, lived on the river Thermedon (today's Terme), on the southern shores of the Black Sea.
  • In legend, they captured men and used them as studs, rearing only female children and killing the males.
  • The Amazon nation was the ultimate imagined threat to Greek machismo.

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Scythian Women: An Encounter With Alexander The Great

Scythian Women: An Encounter With Alexander The Great

  • There is no direct evidence that Greeks actually met any 'Amazons', but a story about Alexander the Great suggests that they did
  • In 330 BC, the ambitious Macedonian warrior had conquered Persia and was advancing eastward along the shores of the Caspian Sea (in present-day Iran).
  • Alexander was approached by a group of Scythians who included women, one of whom was their leader.
  • The group then vanished back into the heart of inner Asia, leaving the way open for the creation of a dramatic tale that provided a Greek name for a sex-hunting Scythian queen.

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Queen Califia: Amazonian women in the Middle Ages

Queen Califia: Amazonian women in the Middle Ages

  • Around 1500, a Spaniard named Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo wrote or adapted a series of novels about Amadís, a knight-errant from the fairytale country of Gaula (unconnected with Gaul or Wales).
  • In the stories, Califia was a formidable warrior, with a menagerie of 500 griffins that were fed on human flesh.
  • She lived in a realm called California or Califerne, an island-state near the lands newly discovered by Christopher Columbus.

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The Golden Wo-Man

The Golden Wo-Man

  • Archaeological finds have raised intriguing questions about the status of Scythian women.
  • In 1969, a farmer noticed something glinting in newly ploughed earth near a 6-metre-high burial mound: a small piece of patterned gold.
  • Renowned Soviet archaeologist Kemal Akishev came to investigate and, excavating the burial mound, discovered a small skeleton surrounded by treasures.
  • The skull was too badly damaged for its sex to be determined, but the 'Golden Man' became the symbol of the nation when Kazakhstan emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

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The Ice Maiden of Siberia

The Ice Maiden of Siberia

  • In 1993, Russian archaeologist Natalia Polosmak unearthed a body embalmed with a mix of herbs, grasses, and wool, along with a tall headdress, revealing that the body was that of a woman.
  • The mummy became known as the 'Ice Maiden' or the 'Ukok Princess'.
  • She was taken to Novosibirsk for further study, and then on tour internationally.

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The Night Witch

The Night Witch

  • This name has been applied to several all-female fighting groups, among them the regiment of female Soviet bomber pilots who fought in the Second World War, the most famous of whom was their founder, Marina Rasksova.
  • In the 1930s, the Soviet Union was recovering from years of war, revolution, and famine, and women were given opportunities in aviation, with the new government seeing this as an opportunity to unite and defend this vast nation
  • She became the first female Soviet navigator, and led a volunteer unit of 400 women fliers in three regiments: fighters, heavy bombers and night bombers

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Wonder Woman: Diana, Princess of the Amazons

Wonder Woman: Diana, Princess of the Amazons

In 2017, Hollywood remade the Amazon myth in a film with the tagline: “Before she was Wonder Woman, she was Diana, Princess of the Amazons.”

The link between the two legends makes a convoluted story, its origins stretching back a century to the struggle for women’s rights.

Wonder Woman made her debut in All Star Comics in December 1941, introduced with a semi-Greek backstory as the Amazonian princess of Paradise Island (later Themiscyra).

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CURATED BY

garywal

Biomedical Scientist

CURATOR'S NOTE

The Fearsome Ladies Of History: Amazonian Women

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