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Amazons, terrible "Androcide"

Relegated for centuries in myth and legend, the Amazons are now considered by scholars to be a historically existing people, the last exceptional representative of the Matriarchal Culture.

Dying amazon on horseback. Being of Indo-European lineage, the Amazons had a symbiotic relationship
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Dying amazon on horseback. Being of Indo-European lineage, the Amazons had a symbiotic relationship with the horse. The myth tells that from an early age girls were breastfed with mare's milk and as adults they ate raw meat and rushes. They slept with their horse, which they rode bareback, that is, without the aid of a saddle.

The legend handed down by Greek authors are written in an anti-feminine and anti-feminist key, but also from a perspective of rationality as opposed to power devastating of instinct. However, the tangibility of the findings and its geographical location, between Anatolia and the Caucasus, make the Amazons rightfully part of the investigation into the peoples of Indo-European lineage. We call them Amazons, but perhaps the more correct term would be Cimmerians: a white, global and peaceful people who have left traces throughout the world.

In a certain sense the Amazons represent for the Greeks and for the precursors of today's Western Culture a constant and absolute nightmare, the ancestral and hidden unconscious, an occult and dangerous a-civilization. Androcides, they were also called "killers of men": not killers of human beings, but only of males.

In the Greece of the 8th century BCE, during the so-called Archaic Age, alongside the tales of the Iliad and the Odyssey, the ideal figure of the warrior woman emerged.

"Amazon," literally meaning "without a breast," as Herodotus claimed, is actually a term of very uncertain etymology. In Caucasian, "amasa" means "priestesses of the Moon," and in Armenian, "women of the Moon." The legend of women without a breast originates from the Iliad, where it is said that Bellerophon faced them during his battle with the monstrous Chimera. Hesiod then tells the myth of Hercules who, during his Twelve Labors, must steal the belt of Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons. Additionally, Hercules, together with Theseus, kidnaps another queen, Antiope, and in response, the warrior women lay siege to Athens, ultimately being defeated to the Greeks' relief.

A post-Homeric tale narrates that Achilles was challenged to a duel by Queen Penthesilea, who fought alongside the Trojans during the famous war. Achilles, after a lengthy duel, mortally wounds the woman, and in the moment she falls dead to the ground, he falls in love with her. The story ends with the sordid act of Achilles having sexual relations with Penthesilea's lifeless body, a tale that sparked censorship and perverse fascination well into the 19th century.

More historically, various authors recount the Amazons: one is the pseudo-Hippocrates, who places the female tribe on the shores of the Sea of Azov.

"On the shores of Lake Maeotis lives a Scythian tribe that is distinct from the others. Their name is Sauromatae. Their women ride horses, shoot arrows, and throw javelins while on horseback. They remain virgins until they have killed three enemies, and only then, after performing traditional sacrificial rites, can they marry. A woman who marries can no longer ride a horse unless there is a need during wartime. They do not have a proper breast because, as children, their mothers apply a heated bronze instrument to it; thus, it stops growing and directs all strength and robustness to the right shoulder and arm."

The mentioned tribe, the Sauromatae or Sauromatians, were called "Sarmatians" in Latin, and today we know that the Sarmatians are a significant people in Indo-European culture.

Diodorus Siculus also associates the Sarmatians with the Amazons, confirming the hypothesis of breast mutilation, while Theophanes of Mytilene places their kingdom further east, in the present-day region of Dagestan (Strabo also indicates this region, though he claims it is a myth).

Greek crater showing Hercules fighting with Hippolyta.
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Greek crater showing Hercules fighting with Hippolyta.

Another author who narrates the Amazons in historical terms is the infamous Herodotus, who tells that the homeland of the warrior women is not the Sea of Azov but further south, in the regions of Caucasian Anatolia, near the river Thermodon (near the present-day city of Samsun, in Turkey). Recalling the legend of Hercules' labors, Herodotus recounts that the Greeks, after defeating the Amazons at Themiscyra, captured them and loaded them onto numerous ships to sell them as slaves in Greece. However, in the open sea of the Black Sea, the Amazons overpowered the Greek sailors, killing them all. A sudden storm drove them to the coasts of the Sea of Azov, in the territory then occupied by the Scythian kingdom.

Surviving the shipwreck, the warrior women seized horses from the first group of men they encountered and, with these mounts, set all of Scythia ablaze. Herodotus, with his usual prolix loquacity, gets lost in the dialectical skirmishes between the Amazon queen and the few remaining Scythian males. In the end, the surviving Scythians and Amazons moved beyond the Don River, where they were still living in the 5th century BCE. The Greek historian continues, asserting that the descendants of these couples were the Sarmatians, who continued to observe the ancient Amazonian customs.

Herodotus' texts, as usual, mix real facts with inventions, but on one point they agree with historical data: the Sarmatians were indeed a people associated with the worship of a Lunar Goddess, not unlike the Celtic Morrigan, a virgin and warrior. The concept of an armed goddess, similar to the Greek Athena, was present in many Indo-European peoples, and in fact, the model of Athena herself may have been entirely copied from a great Etruscan goddess, Menerva (who also gave rise to the Roman Minerva).

The fight between Achilles and Penthesilea sparked popular imagination for centuries.
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The fight between Achilles and Penthesilea sparked popular imagination for centuries.

The Amazons, alias the Sarmatians, would thus be a matriarchal people where the women imitated the nature of their deity, similar to the absolute brutal instinctuality of another warrior goddess, the Egyptian Sekhmet. In Egypt, Sekhmet was the dualistic and dark part of Hathor, the Mother Goddess par excellence, who in turn was an aspect of the Universal Goddess Isis. From maternal benevolence and feminine love arises an unparalleled force: this was the occult and frightening power of the "antianérai," the antithesis of the traditional Greek hero. If the latter represents the triumph of the rational, albeit dominated by passions and torments, the predominant characteristic of the Amazons is to be "androktònoi," men-killers, exterminators of men. Females as strong as males, hostile to males, enemies of the patriarchal society where roles are established and castes are crystallized.

Beyond the usual classical representations, it is astonishing to note how Greek artists depicted Ama
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Beyond the usual classical representations, it is astonishing to note how Greek artists depicted Amazons with tight trousers with lozenge designs typical of Indo-European cultures. Even the artist of this plate showing Achilles killing Penthesilea depicts an Amazon with a dress and hairstyle similar to those of Native Americans!

Rarely has a myth had such an evocative power in human history: "Poetry and terror, the fear and fascination of female power," when a woman seizes power, the foundational assumptions of the polis and society in general collapse. The woman becomes sexually aggressive, sexually free in reproductive choice. From this, according to patriarchal logic, comes the degradation of the species, an unconscious psychological mechanism of horror and defense. Latin authors pointed out that having a mutilated breast, which compromised the Amazons' ability to breastfeed, made them bad mothers, thus bad women, and therefore a danger to the survival of the human species. The myth of the woman as an enemy of the species resurfaces "in the presence of an external, political-military threat, and an internal, social threat, generated by a redefinition of the relationship between the sexes, when it is necessary to rewrite and challenge the symbols underlying this legend," as V.E. Russo writes. And the dangers of femininity, in a patriarchal society as closed and crystallized as the Greek one, were always imminent.

But it is the very genesis of the patriarchal family that places the woman outside her natural role as the guide of the community. In an environment like the steppes, society, by necessity, can only be matriarchal because it lacks the hierarchical social structures necessary for the genesis and maintenance of a sedentary community. It is evident that where a subject, of any sex, must use weapons to make a living and defend against natural threats, they develop a dexterity useful also in case of aggression by hostile human beings, whether male or female. It is the change brought about by permanent settlement in a predefined site that alters the balance: in an organized group of people, in all organized groups of people, the social pact establishes a division of roles more suited to the various abilities of the subjects belonging to it.

Another image taken from a Greek crater shows an Amazon. In reality the Amazons also wore a shirt of
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Another image taken from a Greek crater shows an Amazon. In reality the Amazons also wore a shirt of iron scales, they also carried a crescent-shaped wooden shield (peltast), a bow and a single or double-headed battle ax (on the right). The equipment was completed by a padded cap with long ear flaps, vaguely similar to the Phrygian cap.

It is undeniable that from a physical perspective, the female body is less strong than the male body in terms of strength. Thus, it is also logical that in primitive communities, women were assigned roles more suited to their abilities, such as "carding wool and handling the distaff," rather than handling bows and arrows. Regardless of what happened with the Sarmatian people, this led to the loss of the central guiding role for women throughout the rest of the world. The use of weapons and close physical contact gave men supreme power over life and death over those who did not possess such skills and tools. Women and children began a process of withdrawal from public life, in a manner not much different from what is seen under a tyranny: the brutalities that the Amazons inflicted on men in their society were inflicted on women in the West.

But what does archaeology say about the Amazons? Aside from numerous Asian mythological sources, there have been concrete findings of female warriors in the Caucasian steppe area, in a region adjacent to the borders of present-day Kazakhstan, but also in European Russia, west of the Urals.

Between 1950 and 1960, Soviet archaeologists made a series of significant discoveries: the first in a pit tomb near the Molochnaya River, on the Sea of Azov, where the skeleton of a young aristocratic woman was found. Along with a typically feminine burial set, two spear points were placed next to her head, and by her side, a quiver with twenty arrows. The body was covered by a lamellar iron cuirass, typical of the Sarmatians. Was she a real Amazon? The dating between the 4th and 3rd centuries BCE seemed to confirm it.

Further east, in a kurgan tomb unearthed in Kut, in the steppes west of the Dnieper, the skeleton of a woman dating from around the same period was found, also with an extremely feminine burial set, plus an iron sword and the remains of a quiver with thirty-six arrows.

Today the Amazons are still strongly present in popular culture: an example of this is Wonder Woman,
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Today the Amazons are still strongly present in popular culture: an example of this is Wonder Woman, the heroine of comics and TV serials who appears in the plot as the last queen of female warriors. More recently, the Amazon Queen Velasca was played by the beautiful Melinda Clarke in the series "Xena, Warrior Princess".

In Zemo-Avchala near Tbilisi, Georgia, in the 1960s, Soviet farmers accidentally discovered the tomb of a woman buried in a fetal position, with a bronze mirror, two spear points, and the skeleton of her servant. In the Pokrovka region in southern Russia, in 1997, fifty skeletons of women were found, buried with various types of weapons, in burial mounds dating back to 600 BCE; not to mention the Princess of the Altai, the mummy preserved in ice of a woman about 50 years old found in 1993 at Ukok, in the Altai Mountains, in remote Siberia, thousands of kilometers from the Kazakh steppes. Perhaps a warrior, perhaps a shaman, the woman was found with her body completely covered in tattoos, weapons, and ornaments. She, too, was of Europoid descent: belonging to the Pazyryk people, she may have been an exponent of an ancestral matriarchal civilization, dating back to pre-Indo-European peoples and tens of thousands of years old. In any case, the Amazons were lost in myth during Roman times, and many historians even came to doubt their existence.

To prove them wrong, albeit posthumously, were the barbarian invasions: during the terrible devastations of the Huns led by Attila, the discovery of fully armed female warrior corpses surprised the Italian population. After all, the Alans, one of the Sarmatian tribes, joined the Huns invading the Roman Empire... And the last Amazons among the ranks of the barbarian army contributed to the destruction of the institution that most strongly supported the entrenchment of patriarchy.

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