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On Radio 4’s In Our Time this week, Melvyn Bragg and his guests discussed the Amazons, the formidable female warriors first described in Greek literature but today culturally a term for any fighting female, all that is girl-power and a staple of art, literature and a helluva lot erotic fantasies. Worth a listen whether you have a historical interest or not.
"Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Amazons, a tribe of formidable female warriors first described in Greek literature. They appear in the Homeric epics and were described by Herodotus, and featured prominently in the decoration of Greek vases and public buildings. In later centuries, particularly in the Renaissance, the Amazons became a popular theme of literature and art. After the discovery of the New World, the largest river in South America was named the Amazon, since the warlike tribes inhabiting the river's margins reminded Spanish pioneers of the warriors of classical myth."
Trivia: No, they likely didn’t lop off a tit to better aim and fire arrows; that myth is based on an etymological oops from the 5th centuary BC Greek historian Hellanikos—who in all likelihood was keen to stress their unfemininity in an age where in Athens women were not allowed out of the home without a male relative—who Græcised their name with the derivation a-mazos, “lacking a breast”.
The Gorean “panther girl” amazon revival
Online culture since the 90s—especially Linden Lab’s Second Life—has re-populised the writings of John Norman and his Gor series of books which, even if you are not a particular fan of—which I admit I am not—you may be aware of via the art that decorates the book covers by fantasy artists such as Boris Vallejo, Frank Frazetta and—a personal favourite—Chris Achilleos.
Although in the Gorean Counter-Earth parallel world more attention is inevitably given to—I have to say regrettably—female slave culture and male dominance inherent within which has appealled to some—of both sexes, but with certain demographic caveats (Wikipedia)—they do feature the semi-legendary “Panther girls/women” who—Norman, being a professor of philosophy and knowing his mythology and ancient cultures very well—are based upon the amazons of Greek myth.
And as with their likely equally mythical ancient Greek counterparts, they share the same patriarcal need to be demonised but eventually overcome; in Greek myth the demi-god hero Achilles fell in love with the Amazonian queen Penthesilea (Wikipedia), but only in companion to his own remorse after killing her during the Trojan war, indicative that patriarchy had the high ground in its magnanimity.
Please note: I am not particularly aware of the intricate nuances of Gorean subculture or Second Life but am of a firm belief in an attitude of live and let live in fantasy, so absolutely no need to get rather purple in the face if you are somewhat perturbed by the above brief and feel need to disembowel or put my head on a stake in somebody’s camp or otherwise vent your rage; for sure, feel free to lead in a constructive and indeed informative manner and I would happily, and gladly, share link love to mark my inaccuracies which I shall correct if you play your sage rather than your barbarian warrior and let me know. *thumbs—if I retain them—up*
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Tags: amazons, In Our Time.
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