Greeks and Amazons
Battle of Greeks and Amazons carved into a marble sarcophagus, on display in the Octagonal Court of the Pio Clementino Museum. Wikimedia Commons

The ancient Amazonian female warriors made famous by Greek folklore, were real, claims the latest research.

According to Stanford News, Adrienne Mayor, a research scholar from the department of Classics, claims in her book The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women Across the Ancient World, that The Amazons were not the made-up legends they have long been considered to be, but real-life warriors who fought battles alongside their male counterparts, matching them in strength and skill.

In her investigation, Mayor gathered together all the ancient Greek and Latin references to Amazons and "war-like barbarian" women, and found that they were often associated with nomadic tribes which roamed an area known as Scythia in Sarmatia (modern Ukraine).

She also examined the "battle-scarred skeletons of women buried with their weapons and horses", and some frozen female Scythian mummies, who had similar tattoos on their bodies to the Amazon women depicted in ancient Greek art.

From her collection of evidence, Mayor found that the "real women warriors lived at the time that the Greeks were describing Amazons and warlike women of exotic eastern lands," and they were the subject of admiration from across the continents.

In the ancient Greek stories, the men and women were so equally matched in battle that neither side could win, and "instead of ending in doom for the woman, the former foes declare their mutual admiration and decide to become companions in love and war."

The stories also say that The Amazons were a nation of all female warriors from across Eastern Eurasia. However, Mayor's research has shown that Scythian culture was not completely female dominated, there was just a greater range of roles open to women. They often wore the same clothes as the males in their group as well as joining them in battle.

"The women of that time could cut out an enemy's heart... yet they also comforted their men and harboured great love in their hearts," said Mayor.

Amazonian Queens from Mythology

Hippolyta and Penthesilea were sisters and famous female warriors from Greek folklore. They were the daughters of Ares, the god of war, and Otrera, an Amazonian queen.

Hippolyta's magical girdle was the symbol of her rule as Amazon Queen and the subject of Heracles' Ninth Labour. Heracles was sent to retrieve the girdle for Admeta, daughter of King Eurystheus.

Some accounts of the story say that Hippolyta was so impressed with him, that she handed over the girdle of her own free will.

Other accounts say that Heracles kidnapped Hippolyta and gave her to his friend Theseus as spoils.

Hippolyta was later killed by her sister Penthesilea, while they were out hunting deer together. The guilt Penthesilea felt was so great, that all she wanted to do was die. However, being a proud Amazon warrior, she could only do this in battle.

Penthesilea joined the Trojan War and fought on the side of the defenders of Troy. She was said to have been killed by the great warrior Achilles, who after removing her helmet, fell in love with her and experienced great remorse for his actions.