The Amazons also referred to in Iranian as Olorpata was a nation that constituted of the female warriors during Greek mythology. Herodotus had placed this group in an area that bordered Scythia in the boundaries of Ukraine. Some of the Historiographers placed them in the Asian population which is the present day Libya. Some of the notable queens of the Amazons were Penthesilea, who earlier participated in the Trojan War accompanied by her sister Hippolyta. She had a magical girdle that her dad Ares gave her. During classical times, the Amazonian raiders were often known for the battle with the Greek warriors in Amazonomachies(Timothy). The mythological Amazon showcases the opposite of the ideals of the ancient time Greeks. They contrast the Ancient Greeks in societal aspects, identity amongst others. In this respect, this paper seeks to reconnoiter on how the Amazons were perceived during the Greek arts, particularly between 750 and 400 BCE in a bid to discern how the Amazon myth portrays the Amazons key features such as their heroic acts, martial ability and their culture(Loeb Classical Library). This paper will not be complete without showing how Amazons were identified and the particular distinct features with which they were identified. This will necessitate inclusion of the thematic as well as the diachronic assessment of how the Amazon is presented in both sculpture and vaso painting by use of specific prominent examples (Loeb Classical Library).
Typically, the general perception of the Amazon’s in Greek art explains much about the Greek cultural standards precisely during the time span between 750 and 400 BCE. By a clear presentation of the opposites, the Amazons embraced uncultured and the uncivilized barbarian(MA. Cambridge. University Press). As a matter of fact, the Athenians were responsible for the mythology that was established to utilize the Amazon mythology that was to fulfill the metaphysical role of the other, the complete opposite of the Greek culture. This myth unravels the ancient perspectives of their gender and their ethnicities(William Heinemann Ltd). They were oftentimes describes as the anti-male or the barbarian in the classical literature. In less abstracted terms, they were described as the male hating banshee. Their manners and their culture as explained in the literary documents are not congruent to those in the visual treatment of the Amazon (Victoria University Of Wellington). The popular descriptions by the Greek authors like Strabo can be sufficiently countered with the substantial visual records of paintings of the pottery amongst other arts. Nonetheless, this discrepancy is not tailored to devalue the traditional literature on the Amazons but place it in the pedestal of comparison, making it possible for us to unravel the sophisticated notion of the other in Greek art. The legend of the Amazon functions to signify the barbarous culture that was thereafter declared unacceptable to the male audience particularly of the Greek polis(Portland State University). The mention of the mythical Amazon warriors during the ancient Greek texts gives an understanding of the Greek social climate of this long lasting myth (Perrin). The homeland of the Amazon is disputed in most of the document and they all strongly opinionate that Amazon’s gave a threat to the Greek’s culture as they challenged their social customs by attacking them. The nature of the Greek way of speaking and their customs identifies the manner in which the Amazons were different from their normalcy (Scott). For instance, the traditions epic poetry of the Greek culture opinionate that the first written document of the Amazon legend was not the origin of the myth nor the beginning of its domineering in the Greek custom(Quintus). The Amazon legend was initially communicated orally prior to being recorded. The complexity of the Greek language and the specificity of their descriptive words provides a stepping stone in understanding the essential expectations of the Greek world. For instance, the name Amazon has etymological tradition. For example, the name mastos which in this case represents the word breast is used in their culture to mean breathless (Strabo). It has been showcased that it represented the physical removal of the breast. This was done by cauterization. It is very well explained in most of the classical literature texts notably by Herodotus that it meant the breast removal so as to enhance movement of women during the battle moments. The Amazonians have continued to be described in this fashion into the modern era. Contrary to this literary and scholastic culture is the artistic depiction of the same in Greek art, whereof the explanation of the Amazon was based on different systems of symbolic meaning. The aforementioned mysterious lack of breasts directly challenges the literary description which further problematizes the acknowledged etymology for the name Amazon(Virgil). The literary description of the Amazons, as well as their visual depiction, is not in concordance to this very basic notion.By referring to them as breast less, it’s a literary convention that just offers a restricted comprehension of the Amazon myth historically (Aldhouse). Another way of understanding the name is that it implies- sexual unripeness of the marriageable adolescent. This signifies the lack of fully grown breasts that in most of the culture are to signify the womanhood. In this respect, the restlessness herein is not to imply just the removal but inexperience and unwillingness to embrace the youthful years. This is an etymology that showcases the Amazon as either reckless or better still, self harming. Both of these understandings of the breast less etymology is aimed at referring to one amongst other feminine body parts (B. J). A more descriptive name such as this would very well indicate a clear gender division that is devoid of Greek tradition within the society of the Amazon through total disregard for the natural way of living. This was evidenced by the way in which they rejected their feminine bodies by auto mastectomy or through their inexperience in the womanhood realm. This is one nomenclature that showcases their incompleteness or their broken feminism as they were minus the basic parts of the female body(B. J).
The other alternative etymologies have been provided to explain about their culture. For instance, the vocabulary such as breadless gives us a hint of uncivilized society on account of their inability to make bread. Bread was an accepted emblem to signify civilization. This is one means that has been introduced very recently in the scholarship during the mythological symbolism as well as identification of the Amazon feminism led pattern.
The Amazonians do not fit in any of the gender anticipations. Carolyn Deward denotes that Herodotus always tried to report the habits that appeared to be odd to the Greek eyes thereby providing very clear contrasts to the Greek culture (Carpenter). Herodotus never detailed about the costume or the way of dressing of the Amazons. On the other hand, he gives a detailed description of the weaponry and his insistence on the Amazon’s horseback riding culture that in this respect accentuates the visual data of the pottery that is present day decorated with the Amazons. Not only are the arrows, bows as well as spears the masculine combating tools, but are the symbols of the masculine customs in the hands of women (Duff). These warrior females appeared throughout the Greek literature and art of every type. As a matter of fact, the literature described them by characteristics that differentiated them from the normal women. They had combating skills, unusual lifestyle that was hallmarked by traditions that were very different from that of Greeks. This includes the mothering customs and their independence from men that included even the system of gynecocracy that by definition refers to the total exclusion of male counterparts from their community (Elin). However, despite their reputation as fierce and talented fighters, the Amazonians were oftentimes bested by the men. They were either killed in battle fields or kidnapped for marriage. This explains that whenever they battled against the Greeks, they lost (Ebersole).
Besides of their portrayal as people who vehemently engaged themselves in battle and battle as activities, the Amazons were showcases as bold, licentious females who were ready to operate outside the control of the Greek patriarchal community. Particularly, in his research, Strabo illustrates that Amazons spent most of their leisure times by themselves occupied by duties that are customary done by men. These duties include; ploughing, hunting or even training their war horses. Herodotus seemingly places the Amazons beyond the territories of the Greece as he appears to identify them in the district of Themiscyra. This placement of these women warriors outside the territories of the kingdom of Greek would facilitate that the Amazonians were perceived in the pejorative perspectives. The ancient Idealogues add to this fact by alleging that it is here that the Amazonians ruled amongst themselves by the way of electing a queen. This is illustrated in THE FALL OF TROY whereof the Amazonian queen Penthesileaia was leading the other women warriors to the battle. From the perspective of the Greeks during the 18th century, women were expected to submit to men, be sexually chaste and become ardent wives who were to maintain their home, as well as their families. This was the practiced norm of the society and anything that differed from this perspective was considered monstrous and uncivilized. These are some of the Amazonian ideals that are very well affirmed in writings of some of renowned authors such as Aristotle. For instance, the lliad perception showcases that women need not to concern themselves with male tasks such as going to war; instead, they ought to apply themselves of completing the society such as keeping their homes. Aristotle further makes development on this perception by avouching that the make is by nature more appropriate to rule as opposed to the females (lefkowitz). This leads us to understand that the survival of the Greek society was dependent on the male figures. Women would serve the role of reproduction, particularly, producing male children. As discussed in this discourse, the Amazonians were not very submissive or ardent wives that kept their homes. They engaged in the men roles as they operated outside the territories of the Greek as stipulated by their matriarchal system of administration. The Amazons, by this style, embodied every characteristic that was presumed to be a direct antithesis to the ordinary Greek practice(Von).
Whilst it seems that the Greeks literature was tailored to bring forth the fact that the Amazonians were barbaric or divergent of the societal norms, detailed analysis opinions that the Amazons were also recognized heroines. In the Greek perspective, heroic beings were presumed to be the beings that showcased supernatural elements or traits. They were to go on quests that were coupled with various challenges(West). Stronger and larger compared to males, the Amazons could be perceived to be heroines in the Greek custom. This is one theory that is very well supported by the modern scholars such as Hardwick (1998).
In the Greek art, our foremost depiction of the Amazons happens on the fragmentary treccotta shield. This is one fragment that exhibits two chief figures. The first one is situated on the left whereof it is dressed in a short tunic as well as high crest helmet. Moreover, it holds a sword that is very similar to those found on the ancient proto-attic fragments. This is presumed to be Achilles. On the other hand, the Amazon wears a Peplos that features the crude implications of the feminine breasts. They are also showed to hold a spear (Zanker). Whereas the specific interpretation of the shield remains not clear, it has been postulated that the illustration is to depict an Amazonian at the mercy of the victorious Greek. This is one suggestion that seems to comply to an emerging motif that the Amazon, who are uncultured opponents in this case are very well conquered by their counterparts Greeks who are hereby showcased as the heroes(Marincola).
In addition to the Greeks pottery, paintings, the Amazonians are featured in the Greek sculptures since the classical era onwards. For instance, on the western gigantic walls of Parthenon, the marbles sculptured represents the conquests of Greeks against the Amazons. In every scene the Amazons are exhibited being overcome by their opponents-the Greeks(Osborne).
Greek women on the contrary never featured prominently in the art till the end of the 5th century B.C.E. When they featured after this period they were depicted as fully clothed and they performed duties that were acknowledged feminine(Powell). These duties includes; performance of rituals, nurturing of the children as well as performance of the household chores. The diverse nature of such images compels any reasonable observer to get the notion that they were images meant to manipulate and shape the views of the relevant audiences.
The mythology of the Amazon was also experienced during the Roman empire. This was after the defeat of Marc Anthony at Actium particularly in 31 B.C.E which was followed by subsequent creation of the Roman Empire by Octavian (Smith). This was hallmarked by various literary as well as iconographical constructivists’ works that thereof emerged featuring the Amazons. These were amongst other works that were tailored to redefine the fake Roman identity as well as promote the Roman eminence, its customs as well as its natives. A superb example of such a work that was established during this era was Virgil’s Aeneid. This was an epic poem that told of the story of Aeneas as well as his contention against the barbarian Italians in a bid to get a new home. It is in this poem whereof Virgil introduces Volscian Camilla who was a queen armed with her troops so as to assist Turnus in his battle against Aeneas(Bothmer). Camilla signifies the women with the warrior spirit who choose to immerse themselves in the art of war. The only distinct difference that gives a difference from the Greek Amazons is only related to the sexual adventures and the morals of these women(Steward). The Amazons, according to the perception of the Greeks were licentious women whose their sexual encounters were only motivated by their passion to procreate. Contrary to this, Camilla cherished her maiden hood and was very submissive to Diana who was then a Roman goddess. This clear illustration of deliberateness and strength makes it possible for the Amazons to be perceives as worthy of the adversaries for the heroic Greeks (Toll).
In roman art, a superb example of the Amazons perception is unraveled in Pompeii. The amazons wear short chitons and are showcased to be on the horseback with wielding axes. They are exhibited to pull the amazons by their hair to the ground for them to be submissive. This apparently illustrates the strength as well as dominance over the barbaric warrior women (Morris).
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