Panel 2: lessons and history
Queen Otrere speaks to a group of Amazon maidens about the war spear, their ancestry and the founding of Themiskyra.
Ainia was called the fast one because of the way that she could run. Hippolyte had already proved to be a formidable archer and Bremusa was easily irritated. They were sitting with a group of girls listening to a woman in a modest chiton wearing a gold-leaf head dress. The young girls were barefoot, dressed in uniform short linen tunics, expressing any sense of fashion they might have through elaborately braided legwear. Hair was generally coiffed and tied back out of the way. This was an Amazon school.
Otrere got up and motioned to her servant, who returned shortly with some women carrying bundles on their shoulders. The armourer, Amynomene, was a veteran soldier and a valuable advisor to the queen. Her legs were sheathed in woven leather, her linen chiton had even rows of bronze medallions that sparkled as she moved. She had a leather girdle with a long knife secure in its sheath. There were dark bands of skin decorations etched into her bare shoulders and she wore leather guards on her forearms. Her hair was tied back in tight braids intertwined with leather laces. She wore simple green earrings carved from agate and her headband was echoed by a horizontal line of black war paint through which dark and cautious eyes surveyed the group of maidens before respectfully turning to the queen. Unlike the maidens, she wore sturdy leather sandals designed for stirrups.
She was here to present each of the girls with a new Achaean war spear that the Amazons had bought from traders with barley, hazelnuts and coloured stones. As children, Penthesilea and her sisters made poplar hunting spears, fishing spears, lances and even knives. Now Otrere explained that a pointy stick would punch a hole in something but that is different from hunting with a spear, and so all the daughters of Themiskyra were given a war spear at about the age of twelve. Otrere explained, “Unlike our ivory-tipped spears, the war spear is a stick sharpened at both ends, having an iron spearhead at one end and a bronze spike at the other. A weapon is a tool for war, consequently its appearance will be determined by its function. The two ends of the war spear have different shapes and are wrought from different materials because they have distinct purposes.
“The spear has a lozenge-shaped point of iron attached to the shaft by a flared socket. The butt end of the spear has a long thin spike made of bronze. The spear point has sharpened edges that curve to a maximum in the middle and taper toward the back. The Argives cast it from iron, and as such it is strong and holds a true edge well but the iron is brittle and can snap if bent too much. The shape of this spear is intended for cutting flesh. If the opponent twists or turns, or the weapon is manipulated in the wound, then the wound is likely to be considerably larger. Because of its curved blade the spearhead can cut when pulled out or when pushed in. The blade is edged even on the taper behind the maximum width. Even as the spear is withdrawn it widens the wound. By virtue of its size and its shape the spearhead can inflict large life-threatening wounds in almost any circumstance.
“The spearhead, however, has great difficulty penetrating armour. The point is too brittle to cut anything but flesh. For this reason, at the other end of the shaft, there is a long slender bronze spike with a square cross-section. It is generally used to stand the spear in the ground when it is not in use, and for this reason the Argives call it a sauroter, which means lizard-killer. The spike may also be used as a weapon, especially if the spearhead breaks off, something that happens quite often. For the women standing behind those at the front, in battle, the long thin profile of the sauroter is always the preferred weapon because it was designed to penetrate armour.
“In close combat the wounds made by the spearhead are more likely to disable the enemy than the narrow and deep wounds of the sauroter. The wide cuts of the spearhead will bleed profusely and it will most likely cause severe damage to tendons and nerves. For hand-to-hand fighting the spearhead is an effective weapon; however, if the enemy is already disarmed or wounded on the ground, then the sauroter is useful for stabbing or piercing through armour while advancing to the next opponent.
“As you can see,” continued Otrere, “the Argive spear is designed for battle but we use it for hunting as well.” At this point the maidens were each handed a spear by Amynomene. There was something special about handling an expensive item that now belonged to them and the girls were pleased.
“This spear is heavy,” said Hippolyte. “How do we throw it when hunting?”
“You do not throw this spear when hunting”, said Otrere, “you must lunge or stab with it to make sure that the spear goes deep enough for a clean kill. You must get within touching distance of a deer to do this. It is with these spears that you will learn to become daughters of Artemis.
“There are three practical ways to get close enough to be effective with your spear. The first is to wait in a tree shelter. This is the best deer-hunting method. Deer rarely look up and do not see someone sitting a few feet off of the ground. For spear hunting you will want to sit a little lower than you would instinctively. A good rule is to sit holding your spear with both hands and reaching down so that the tip of the spear is not more than a pygmē (one pace) from the ground. You will want to use a long spear for this, like one that we make from ivory, about an orgyia or two spread arm lengths. A deer at ten paces is not a kill with a spear unless you throw it and that is not a good idea for deer hunting. You will need to sit hidden in such a way that the deer will walk as directly beneath you as possible.
“Another way to get close enough is to use what we call a lunging pit or hidden depression where you sit or kneel waiting for the deer to pass by. You can use a shorter spear than you would from a tree, an Argive spear, for example. You may still use a longer spear but it is harder to manoeuvre in the brush. When the deer walks by, you lunge out at it as it passes.
“Or you can make a hiding place on the ground with some brush. The hunting method is similar to the lunge pit but on top of the ground. You sit next to a deer trail or watering place waiting for the deer to wander by. You may also wish to try stalking, which is trying to sneak up within range of a deer without it knowing that you are there. This is difficult with a bow and next to impossible with a spear, but as Artemis has taught us, hunting is the challenge of mastering your prey.
“Your spear should be sharpened as sharp as you can make it. We do this with stones and the iron itself holds a good edge. A good length for a spear is your height or slightly taller. These spears are a bit long at the moment but they will soon be perfect for you. If you choose to hunt dangerous game such as a boar, you will want to attach a cross guard on the shaft of your spear. It is no myth that a speared boar could run up the shaft of the spear and gore the wielder. A cross guard about a pous from the head will keep the animal at a distance.”
Otrere stopped to show the maidens where to attach a guard near the sharpened tip of a spear then continued, “And we must not forget the hounds. They are always with us when we hunt. No animal has been as important to us as the hound. We have built a relationship where the dog has exchanged its independence from us for support and care. Our word for hunting, κυνηγι, is derived from the word dog. Dogs find, chase and retrieve and sometimes kill game. Dogs allow us to pursue and kill prey that would otherwise be very difficult or dangerous to hunt.”
The queen paused to allow the girls some time to compare their new weapons. Her servant brought some tea and spoke to her of something that had come up. Otrere responded and the servant went off in the direction of the dwellings.
It was Penthesilea who was the most interested in old legends. She felt that she had a duty to distinguish the truth, on which she could act or intervene, from things invented to explain politics to children and the religious. Although she had been raised, like her sisters, by the whole tribe she also knew that she had blood status through Otrere that made her and Hippolyte different and endowed with special responsibility. She retained blurred memories of conversations that she might have overheard when she, like her mother at the time, was very young. People were always whispering things to her mother. Sometimes the voices she remembered from half sleep in Otrere’s bed were urgent and serious. Penthesilea also knew that the women were especially protective of Otrere’s children.
Penthesilea had heard from the other girls that there was a law that forbid a girl to have a daughter if she had not killed a man in battle. Was there any truth to such stories? Had the Amazons ever disobeyed such laws? Her mother had never spoken of this to Hippolyte or Penthesilea and her mother was queen. Nevertheless these stories led the princess to wonder if the girls were being trained not for the hunt but to kill? Did Amazons hunt men?
Penthesilea knew that there were many great warriors among the sisters but had been told that they fought intruders. This, they had been told, was how the armourer got the scar above her eyebrows. There were many threats to their city from traders and neighbouring cities. The Amazons had learned over the centuries to always be prepared to defend themselves. She had heard songs of legendary battles for the city but they were no different than the telling of gods, imaginary beasts and lands that floated in the heavens.
The girls were all naturally curious about the way they were feeling physically and Penthesilea with them was beginning to wonder about male children. They had seen that animals regularly gave birth to males. They knew about fully-grown youths and men, intruders who would be brought into the enclave as prizes, but none of the girls had ever seen a male child nor were they aware of such a thing.
“Tell us why there are no male children here,” Penthesilea asked Queen Otrere.
The queen looked at her maturing daughter, remembering her as a toddler. She thought about the other children she had borne. She glanced at Hippolyte sitting to the right of Penthesilea and wished that Lysippe and Melanippe had also grown to adults, but Otrere especially pondered the unnamed child that she had lost at birth.
Although frankness was a part of their social code, Amazon women did not share everything with each other or with their children. Intimate feelings could still exercise considerable influence in social discourse. Amazon culture was well enough developed to provide a coherent framework to nurture children to puberty, but physicality in itself is a mysterious thing that can be disruptive and transgressing of organised social systems. The body has the independent capacity to challenge order, reason and collective ideals.
The maidens were beginning to define the world through their unique lived experience and were skeptical of what they had been told. They were well aware of the physical manifestations of their sexuality, and were far from being repressed living in a maternalistic environment, but suddenly they somehow disputed everything that they had been taught by the sisters.
Otrere was aware of their impending maturity but knew that she was still addressing children. There were many things that were far too complicated for the maidens. For example, Hippolyte and Penthesilea were the daughters of the queen from Ares, who had also fathered Otrere. Otrere and her daughters were literally half-goddesses, which in itself would present an awkward discussion.
The gods possessed immortality but could not have children, while mortals, of course, were assured immortality through their offspring. The gods, who were jealous of humans,would use their powers to beguile certain mortals who would appear by chance or accident at an appropriate moment. It was ridiculously simple for the gods to father Amazon children because of the sisters’ custom of getting pregnant through literal strangers.
It was for this reason that the laws had been relaxed and Amazons could now choose in battle which man would father their daughters. They could even negotiate a union with men from neighboring tribes or ultimately choose to live with their husbands, although only their female babies could return. Because the social organization outside of Themiskyra and her sister cities was so unnatural for women, very few Amazons ever opted to take a husband, let alone surrender a baby.
Otrere was tall even among the Amazon warrior women. Her facial features were sharp and defined while her deep-set eyes expressed the responsibility that she carried for her tribe. There is something about intelligent people that makes extraordinary physical qualities seem irrelevant. Otrere was beautiful in the sense that her symmetry overruled scars of experience. Her tarnished silver and bronze hair was braided tightly and crowned with delicately wrought leaves and flowers. Her shoulders and arms, still powerful, curved gently to expose modest breasts and hips that widened slightly and were marked with the experience of several births. She had, like all virtuous women, respected her body for without it she could not rule.
Otrere started to speak. “Let me begin, dear Penthesilea, before I get to your question, by telling all of you how we came to live here by the Thermodon River. We are Sauromatae and we speak the language of Scythia but we have never spoken it correctly, having learned it imperfectly because of the hate we had for those who oppressed us. Our language has also taken words from Achaean traders because of our relations with them.”
Hippolyte looked at her mother. “Then were our ancestors the Scythians?”
Otrere saw that Hippolyte was acquiring the features and stature of the queen. Hippolyte had darker hair than her mother. Her deep brown eyes were set behind distinct eyebrows. The bridge of her nose was larger and more prominent than the queen’s but perfectly suited to lips that changed and appeared fuller when she smiled. Her elder daughter was adept at asking questions to which she already knew the answer. It meant that her mind, suitably political, was already probing beyond her inquiries. It pleased the queen that Hippolyte was already displaying qualities necessary for her future role.
“No, the Scythians were our enemy. In ancient times they were known by other names such as Cimmerians or the Gimirri. They were wanderers who came originally from the north with horses. We did not know of chariots at that time. Our people came from herdsmen who walked from the land between the two rivers, and eventually followed their flocks to rich grazing land on the northern shore of the Hospitable Sea (in the Achaean language the Euxine) by the river that we now know as the Tanaïs. The ancient Sarmatians were the first people to come down from the mountains after the great flood and had been farming the rich land for centuries. There, living among the Sarmatians, we could grow crops, take fish from the sea and be isolated from outsiders by the salt marshes. We lived at peace and with husbands in those times and bore many generations of children. We lived well and were protected until the Scythians, who had first visited as traders with bronze implements returned with chariots and quivers.
“The Scythians moved in swiftly, killing our men and burning fields and homes. They took the women and children into the mountains on the northern coast of the sea. Our people, now conquered, became concubines to the Scythian princes because we had depended on husbands who had only known peace to protect us. The Amazon women lived with their violators until Artemis, protector of the womb, came to help deliver them from slavery.
“The woman Hippolyte (after whom you were named) had been chosen by the Scythian king to be his bride because she was the strongest, tallest and wisest of the Amazon women. Hippolyte was born in the valley of the great river that was called D?nu by the people who lived there. Hippolyte implored chaste Artemis to help them.
“The goddess, who was hunting boars in the pine and beech forests of the mountains, was moved by the suffering of the Amazons and instructed Hippolyte to quietly tell her sisters to sharpen the shell of the Golden Venus that could be found on the northern shores. She then told her that on Hippolyte’s wedding night, when the sisters heard her screams of passion, they were to cut the throats of their wine-sedated captors.
“This was to be done immediately without remorse or pity. By this means they would escape servitude; however, Artemis warned the princess that, if they desired her continued protection and guidance they would have to forevermore live separately from men, for Ares jealously protected their conquerors and would exercise vengeance on the Amazons.
“On that night, there was commotion and terror as blood-soaked Amazons fled their dwellings into the night. Never had they seen the horror of men grasping at their throats trying to breathe as they were being cut down at their thresholds by the daughters of Gaia. When Eos’ rosy fingers lit the horizon, the Amazon women, in tears, embracing their children and in fear of the future, gathered around fiery-eyed Hippolyte.
“She surveyed the scene in silence and at that very moment the sun darkened from the displeasure of Olympus. Zeus, in an effort to assuage the anger of his son Ares, condemned Hippolyte and all of her descendants to eternal adversity and misfortune. Outraged, the warrior queen stared skyward and suddenly tore at her right breast and the blood flowed from her as torrential water. She loudly voiced her contempt of the gods and declared that her mutilation would be borne as an everlasting symbol of that defiance.
“From that time on, to overcome the physical constraints of femininity and the malediction of the gods, the Amazon women trained in the arts of war. They vowed to never fight for honour, conquest or the spoils of battle. They would build cities for themselves and their sole objective in battle would be the protection of their daughters and sisters. To preserve Amazon autonomy, males would have to be taken in conquest; otherwise the war-loving son of Zeus would never allow men to cede to our laws.
“The Amazons established their first settlement in the forest and built barricades of earth and wood. With the bronze they managed to bring with them they carved a wooden likeness of Artemis that they placed in the Agora where they praised the goddess in whatever manner they might have considered appropriate since they did not have instruction in such things.
“The women learned to make ivory and sinew bows and became expert archers. They could find meat and learned to gather the fruit of the trees that grew on the slopes. They wore their chitons short and wrapped their legs in leather for protection. They fashioned shirts and boots from fur and all but the very ill survived the first difficult winter and by the spring they were adept at gathering wood salvaged from fallen trees and building progressively more permanent shelters.
“It was a good thing as well, for that was when the sons of Ares arrived. A party of thirty men approached the stockade with explicit instructions from their prince to exact retribution. As the Scythians were unaccustomed to the terrain and not expecting archers, they fell quickly to an ambush of arrows. The victorious women came back wishing to commemorate the day by naming their city Cypress after Artemis, but angry Hippolyte forbid celebrations, advising the Amazons to make reverent sacrifice to the goddess for having saved them.
“She solemnly told the gathering that there was no victory except a woman’s task to bear and raise children. She sent everyone away to mend ivory bows and prepare bone-tipped arrows. By the evening it was quiet as if nothing extraordinary had happened. This was when we began to learn to be Amazons.
“Before the second winter came, fearing more reprisals from their enemies’ families, and considering that, when discovered, they would be soon outnumbered, Queen Hippolyte decided that they would move their camp eastward, away from the mountains and forests. She led the Amazons southward to a narrow place where they could cross the waters in boats of wood and hide. (You have already heard many of these things in songs.)”
The queen looked at the maidens sitting around cross-legged. They were interested but constantly repositioning themselves. Penthesilea’s lips were pursed, as if she was holding back a giggle from a surreptitious comment coming from behind her. Her hair appeared lighter today, escaping in a halo from its tight knot. Her eyes tended towards green in the late afternoon light, and her freckles seemed more intense on a pale background. The queen knew that the maidens were busy connecting the legends that they had heard with the history now being told.
Otrere continued with her lesson. “The Amazons returned to the Tanaïs and settled there but found that the Sarmatians had heard stories and were afraid of women without husbands and were unwilling to accept our customs. The Amazons could not live in peace and for several years were obliged to defend their settlements. This was the time that we learned how to ride the ponies and use the arc.
“Eventually however, some of the Amazon women did adapt to Sarmatian ways. In one battle, the men put down their weapons, refusing to fight maidens. The warring camps were then joined in one, and the men began living with them as husbands, but the men were unable to learn the Amazon language with its tonal variations and clicking of the throat. The women however, soon learned theirs and when they could understand one another, the men told them that they had parents and properties and they wished that the women could give up their customs and return to live with them. The Amazons would be their wives there on their land no less than on Amazon territories, and they promised that they would have no others.
“Queen Hippolyte responded that Amazons never live amongst foreign women. Our customs were too different. Archery, combat and riding ponies were our skills and we knew nothing of economics, or the distaff. It appeared to Hippolyte that there would be only discord, but to be fair, she asked the men that if they truly wished that we lived with them, they should go home to their parents, pick up their possessions, and come back to our land, and live with us.
“The men approved and went to their homes to get the portion of goods that fell to them and returned to the Amazon camps. Then the queen, touched by their faithfulness, addressed the young men and said that the Amazons were ashamed to live in a country that they had conquered. Not only had they stolen land and treasures but they had done great damage by the ravages they had inflicted on their countrymen.
“Since the young men had chosen Amazons as wives, then they were obliged to leave the country to dwell beyond the Tanaïs. The men complied and the wives packed their goods and left with their families. Crossing the river, the Amazons journeyed eastward and again northward to an uninhabited country and took up their abode in it. The women who live there have continued to this day observing our ancient customs, worshipping Artemis, hunting on horseback with their husbands and in war, taking the field wearing the very same dress as the men.
“These women speak our language and their marriage law states that no girl shall wed till she has killed a man in battle, but for this reason many women die unmarried at an advanced age, having never been able in a lifetime of peace to fulfil the ancient conditions. These women are still our sisters and Lysippe, our most renowned queen. came from that country that is also called the land of the Chorasmii.
“Many Amazons, however, remained with Queen Hippolyte in permanent camps by the great river. Hippolyte had a son, Tanaïs, with the Sarmatian named Berossus. Her son was allowed to live with the Amazons. His virginity and worship of Artemis offended Aphrodite, who found the young man very attractive. In revenge for his spurning of all her attempts to have him, she cursed him to know lust for no one else but his own mother. Hippolyte never learned of this, since it is told that Tanaïs drowned himself in the river. Devastated by the suicide of her son, the queen remained chaste and turned her energies to consolidating and expanding our nation.
“Hippolyte renamed the great river Tanaïs in memory of her son. Becoming tired of many years of strife, she consulted her oracles. The signs advised her that the Amazons should leave the area, lest the ghost of her son Tanaïs return to them as an evil spirit. Under counsel of Artemis she decided to lead the Amazons away from the river valley. They gathered what they could carry with them and chose a difficult route through mountains to avoid new conflicts as they passed through foreign territories.
“In the fourth season of the third year when they had almost reached the sea, the aged Hippolyte fell ill with a fever and four days later Persephone came to take her. A great mound of oak branches was gathered and the queen’s body was laid on a bed of pelts and covered with dried fruit and meats and brightly coloured stones (for the Amazons had few possessions). The fire was lit and as the flames consumed the woman who had led the Amazons away from their ravagers, there were whispers of despair, as the women, who were now without a queen, had not yet found the place that Artemis had chosen.
“The maiden Lysippe, which means she who lets loose the horses, had at sixteen years old travelled from the northeast. For two years she searched for the Amazon camp until she finally joined them in the mountains. She came on a pony, larger than the Amazon horses, and was wearing a helmet fashioned from boar’s tusks.
“Like the ones that the warriors wear today?” said Hippolyte.
“Yes, we have worn such helmets since that time,” continued the queen. “She was also the first to bear a shield and wear a breastplate of leather and hardened linen. Lysippe had already demonstrated great skills in hunting and scouting as a child and had now become a fierce warrior, although she chose never to speak of what had occurred on her journey. She soon shared with the sisters her eastern ways of decorating the skin and living on a pony and became a favourite of the queen who treated her as a daughter.
“Lysippe was the child of the Sarmatian Arpoxais and the Amazon Euandre who as young people had settled on the land by the Oxos River. Euandre was Hippolyte’s second cousin through her mother’s sister who was said by some accounts to have also been a daughter of Ares. The queen Lysippe, for she did become queen, was beautiful like a goddess and as powerful as a man. She was formidable in all manners of war but exercised precocious wisdom. Soon after the queen’s death she was leading the march and calming fears and rumours that had begun to erode confidence. When she was passed the crown of Hippolyte she managed to deal with her challengers with diplomacy and tact.
“It was Lysippe who led our people to the Thermodon plain. The Amazons, travelling on foot (very few horses had survived the journey), found plenty of food and firewood by the sea and soon the women had once again become a disciplined army. They travelled until they came to a place by the Thermodon River where they encountered other women who lived like them but spoke a foreign language. These women had lived in this place for as long as they could remember. It was here that a beech tree had been planted by the archer goddess. Artemis had chosen this place on the coast because it was surrounded by dense oak and pine forests and was isolated by mountains to the south and the east.
“There, Lysippe divided her nation into three tribes. A new city, Themiskyra or divine Themis, was established by the queen. Lysippe placed a statue of Artemis carved from stone under the beech tree where the Amazons could offer tributes and soon the land around the city became fruitful. The Amazons became adept in all manners of war and were entirely capable of defending their cities and preventing intrusion by enemies.
“This was many generations ago. Now even Ares is reluctant to enter Themiskyra, Lykastia and Chadesia because of the protection offered by Artemis.”
“Ares was once welcome in our cities but it is Artemis who protects us now and that is a large part of our history. Before the invasions we were dependent on Ares. As children, we were ceremoniously betrothed to him. The sons of Ares provided us with shelter and protection and when, in the course of seven years we had mastered our land and household, we would honour Ares through the children we could provide. This was the way of the world at a time when we had forgotten Artemis. But she was already there in the form of the mountains and rivers and the peat and the forests. Artemis was within the very soil from which sprouted the beech tree.”
“Why is Ares kept away from the city?” asked Bremusa.
Otrere, pointing at a mature tree that had grown in the centre of the square for two centuries, continued, “As long as that tree remains Artemis is with us but we are always in danger of extinction because the gods favour the sons of Zeus over the actions of our queens. The gods are beings of the sky while we are born of the earth. It is for this reason that the gods will never understand our ways and we must always be prepared for war.
“As you are all aware, Hippolyte is also a dynastic name, like that of Minos, who was a king who ruled Crete long before the Achaeans sailed there. We now know Minos as a title, such as high king or honourable, that has belonged to many great rulers at the Palace of Minos including the grandfather of Idomeneus who now rules.
“The first Hippolyte was the mother of all Amazons who led our people out of Sarmatia centuries ago. This was long after the waters of the Hospitable Sea had settled and shortly after the time that Dardanus the son of Zeus built Troy to guard the passage to the sea.
“Lysippe, who was also called Hippolyte, was an ingenious strategist and general who led our first cavalry and consolidated our laws. Lysippe and her warriors conquered the land all the way back to the mountains and with the spoils of war she built temples to Ares and Artemis, whose worship she founded. Her strategy and judgment of character were so sound that all other Amazon leaders refer to her.
“There were five, perhaps even more, queens who succeeded Lysippe, including Deianeira, Androdaira, Phillipis and Hyppolyta, but they have all been remembered as Hippolyte in honour of our great mother. At times we have had two queens simultaneously, one who led the warriors and another who stayed in the city. This was the case when Queen Myrene laid siege to the Phrygians, leaving domestic affairs to Androdaira, who was also known as Hippolyte at the time.
“When Antiope came to the throne she wore a golden belt given to her by our father, Ares. The girdle was a symbol of her supremacy and represented the protection of Ares. The Amazons, feeling secure with the war god, neglected their ancient tree and the goddess.
“Hera, forever suspicious of Zeus and his designs, began telling the queen that Heracles, which means being born with great strength, planned to put an end to the Amazons. That was when King Theseus and sly Heracles arrived from Athens to beguile Queen Hippolyte (born as Antiope). From what my grandmother told me, Heracles may have given Queen Hippolyte as a prize to King Theseus for having accompanied him on his quest. On the other hand, Hippolyte (who is often confused with her sisters Glauce, Molpadia, Orithya and Melanippe) may have also been abducted at a separate time when Theseus sailed back to the Aegean Sea, or as queen, she may have chosen to stay on Theseus’ ship for some time after Heracles’ departure (these stories have changed over time because Hippolyte shared her reign with her sisters).
“When Theseus took Hippolyte to Athens, she was replaced as queen in Themiskyra by Orithya, who was now called Hippolyte. Antiope’s Amazon sisters led by Molpadia pursued the Greeks and began a siege on Athens with the intent of rescuing the queen. The war raged four years before Heracles artfully captured and ransomed Melanippe. Antiope’s love for her sister was so strong that she finally gave Heracles the symbol of her throne as an offer of peace to both sides. By then, having broken most Amazon laws, she had become the wife of Theseus and mother of their son, Hippolytus. In another story, Antiope led a march on Attica and the Peloponnese, where she was defeated. She then fled to Megara where she died of grief. According to many, her tomb, which no longer exists, had been seen for many years after.
“What is important to learn from these stories is that the Amazons came to the realisation that they could not trust Ares. The war girdle had not protected their queen or our people. Instead it had drawn enemies to our cities. When the Amazon warriors sailed back to Themiskyra, Melanippe, now queen, urged a return to the ancient worship of Artemis and her promise of eternal protection in return for chastity. It was then that we went back to many of the laws from the time of Lysippe.
“As a people we have lived here by the Thermodon for many generations. Time has given us stories, some true and some that were invented to be told to foreigners. Our life would be more difficult without these legends.”
back | next
index | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14