The Amazons were votaries of Cybele, Artemis under the surnames Ephesia, Tauropolos, Lyceia, and Astrateia, Apollo called Amazonian, and Ares. The striking feature of the list is the homogeneity of its components. This is no fortuitous circumstance, for the authors from whom it has been compiled are many, and they belong to widely separated generations. The list represents classical opinion, both Greek and Latin, on the nature of the divinities whom the Amazons were conceived to have served. It must be concluded that these women were associated with the cults of primitive deities of fertility and of war, among whom a Woman was the chief figure, and of whom the rites were orgiastic. In historical times such cults may be classed as Thracian-Phrygian, and they are to be referred to the people who inherited both the blood and the spiritual traditions of the great pre-historic civilisation of the Aegean basin, of which the brilliant centre seems to have been Crete.

The theories concerning the Amazons which have commanded most respect are three: (1) that the tradition arose from memories of the raids of warlike women of the Cimmerians and kindred peoples, who in early times forced their way into Asia Minor from the north; (2) that the Amazons were originally the warrior-priestesses, or hieroduli, of the Hittite-Cappadocian Mâ, and that the Hittites passed on legends about them to the people of Lycia, Lydia, and adjoining lands; (3) that the tradition of the Amazons was grounded on the mistaken notion, deeply rooted among the Greeks, that beardlessness is a sure indication of female sex, whence they failed to recognise as men certain warriors who appeared at an early date as foes of the people of Asia Minor. To the

p. 74

first 359 of these it is to be objected–irrespective of evidence furnished by the cults with which the Amazons were associated–that a northern home beyond the Euxine was assigned to the race by Aeschylus and Herodotus, but that the oldest records of the Greeks, the Homeric poems, place them near Lycia and Phrygia. In this region the tradition struck down into the soil, as shown by the tales of many cities claiming the Amazons as their founders. To the second 360 it must be replied that Mâ is nowhere named in direct connection with the Amazons, although she resembles in a general way the female deities whom they were said to have worshipped. Furthermore, in the records of her rites there is no hint of armed hieroduli. 361 And, still further, the evidence on which the assumption rests that the Hittite kingdom was one of great importance and influence is not strong. The last theory 362 is very interesting, because it is novel and daring, and also because it draws attention to certain curious facts usually overlooked by anthropologists. But as a foundation for the persistent tradition of the Amazons as armed women it is too slight in structure.

p. 75

The tradition, interpreted in the light of evidence furnished by the cults which they are supposed to have practised, seems to have originated among the people who built up the prehistoric civilisation of the Aegean, of which the finished product was apparently “Minoan” culture. In their warlike character the Amazons are reflexes of the Woman whom they worshipped. Like the Warrior Goddess of Asia Minor they carry the battle-axe, and in this they are shown to be closely related to the religion of pre-historic Crete, of which the weapon is the conspicuous symbol. Their other weapon, the bow, is also Cretan. 363It is the attribute of the Asiatic-Cretan Apollo whom they seem to have revered. They belong to the early matriarchate, which left traces in Caria and Lycia. 364 In Greece itself, even in Laconia, the canton belonging to the fiercest of the Hellenic invaders who introduced the patriarchate, women enjoyed unusual freedom in Greek times, and here there were stories of their having borne arms for their country. There were similar tales at Argos and in Arcadia, and at the Olympian Heraeum there was a footrace of maidens in honour of Hippodamia. 365 These are doubtless vestiges of the matriarchate of the pre-Hellenic inhabitants of Greece. They suggest many comparisons with the Amazon tradition. The legend of Atalanta offers similar parallels to the story of the Amazons in its pleasing aspect. Its darker side, which the older Greeks emphasised, is reflected in the tale of the Lemnian women who murdered their husbands. 366 These were Myrina’s children and descendants of Dionysus. The energy of this ancient matriarchal organisation is shown in the idea of confusion of sex which belonged to the cults of Cybele and Ephesian Artemis in historical times. The idea is prominent

p. 76

in the legends of the Amazons, as they touch religion. At Ephesus they were connected with Dionysus and Heracles, to both of whom an effeminate character belonged. Their place in state cult at Athens has the same implications.

We may believe then that the tradition of the Amazons preserves memories of a time when women held the important place in state and religion in Aegean lands, and that they reflect the goddess of this civilisation. It is noteworthy that the earliest writings of the Greeks concerning them show them in that part of Asia Minor where the rites of the Mother throughout ancient times menaced the reason of her worshippers. The troop of maenads who followed Dionysus were like the Amazons, but the clue to their kinship was easily lost. 367 The relationship between the Amazons and the Anatolian cults was practically obliterated, whereas maenads were introduced into Greek religion after many generations had altered the first form of orgiastic worship. Moreover, the deity of the maenads, who was earlier only the paredros of the Woman, had become an Olympian.

Greek travellers of the age of Herodotus naturally inferred that they had discovered the Amazons in the regions of Scythia and Libya where armed women were said to fight in the ranks with men. Even before this time the traditional home of the race had been placed further and further eastward, as Greek colonists failed to find Amazons in Lydia, Phrygia, Lycia, and along the southern shore of the Euxine. Yet, granted the origin of the Amazon tradition among the “Minoans” and their kindred, it is at present impossible to say that these pre-historic races had no affiliations with Scythians, Libyans, and Hittites.

the end


New York, Columbia University Press [1912]



74:359 On the theory v. O. Klügmann, Philologus, 30 (1870), pp. 524-556. Stoll inclines to this theory, as shown by his article in Pauly’s Realenc. s.v. Klügmann. Other advocates are Fréret, Mémoire de l’acad. d’inscr. 21. pp. 106 ff.; Welcker, Ep. Cycl. 2. pp. 200 ff. It is sympathetically treated in Roscher’s Lexikon, s.v. Amazonen. Farnell seems inclined to accept it, although he does not explicitly advance an opinion. In one part of his work (op. cit. 5. p. 406) he takes the negative position that “the Amazon tradition is sporadic in Greece and perplexes the ethnographer and the student of religion,” yet elsewhere (2. p. 482) he makes the close connection between Ephesian Artemis and the Amazons the basis of the suggestion that northern Asia Minor was perhaps the home of the cult.

74:360 A. H. Sayce is the chief advocate of the importance of the Hittite kingdom. His most recent remarks on the Amazons are in Proc. Soc. Bibl. Arch. 1910, pp. 25-26. They are supported by A. J. Reinach, Rev. Arch. 1910, pp. 280-282. Cf. Leonhard, Hettiter u. Amazonen, 1911.

74:361 This objection is made by Farnell, op. cit. 5. p. 406.

74:362 This is the theory of Myres in Anthropology and the Classics, pp. 138 ff. Farnell is more satisfied with this than with the hieroduli theory (op. cit. 5. p. 406).

75:363 Paus. 1. 23, 4.

75:364 Cf. Myres, op. cit. pp. 153 ff.

75:365 Paus. 5. 16, 1 ff.

75:366 Apollod. 1. 9, 3. At Lemnos there were Corybantic rites of Bendis (Strabo, p. 466).

76:367 The germ of the thought is in R. Y. Tyrrell’s Preface to his edition of the Bacchae of Euripides. V. p. LXXXIII (ed. 1906).



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