The Amazons: Lives & Legends of Warrior Women Across the Ancient World

Adrienne Mayor. Princeton Univ., $29.95 (512p) ISBN 978-0-691-14720-8
The Amazons were fierce women warriors of the ancient world who supposedly maimed their male offspring, sliced off one breast to better shoot arrows, and both battled and romanced the ancient Greeks. But is this just mythology, or were they real? Mayor (The Poison King) looks at ancient writings and archeological evidence to argue that yes, "Amazons" were based on real nomadic women, though much different from the way ancient Greeks or contemporary audiences imagine them. New technology that enables archaeologists to determine the sex of a skeleton has revealed skeletons in what was ancient Scythia (a large area roughly north of the Black Sea) buried with weapons, armor, and battle wounds, to actually be female. Evidence also indicates that these women were maternal, coupled, and did not remove breasts or mutilate their boys. Mayor speculates on the origin of such misconceptions in ancient writings and art, smartly suggesting that, though Amazons are usually depicted heroically in Greek art and mythology, the male-centric Greeks perhaps struggled to understand a society based on equality between the sexes. Mayor also looks at the cultures of other ancient women warriors and while her expertise shines throughout, her dry tone is unlikely to enchant laypeople. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/22/2014
Release date: 09/01/2014
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 536 pages - 978-1-4008-6513-0
Compact Disc - 780 pages - 978-1-62231-529-1
Paperback - 536 pages - 978-0-691-17027-5
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