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Amazons – What Is the Truth Lying Behind the Myth?


Their mythical names have been made eternal by the great narrators of the ancient world. The Amazons were the fierce warriors who rode and fought like men in trousers. What most distinguished them and was incredible, however, was that they had their breasts mutilated to make the best use of the bow.

These heroines lived and died in the mythological fantasy of the ancient Greeks. But what is the truth behind the myth?

Amazons as a Nomadic People

Standford researcher Adrienne Mayor has decided to answer this question. She has therefore written a publication in which she investigates the concrete foundation of the myth of the Amazons.

The analysis begins with the nomadic peoples who were neighbors of the ancient Greeks from the eighth century with the expansion towards the Black Sea. Called Scythians, they are important because they constituted a model of comparison with the “different”, the barbarian speaking an incomprehensible language. These peoples of Asian origin, in fact, have not left written evidence of their history. For this reason we can only know them through the mediation of the Hellenists. Exceptional knights, masters in horse breeding, and skilled archers – the Scythians are the protagonists of different ethnographic accounts of ancient times. Starting from these, Dr. Mayer has sought parallels in the current nomadic or semi-nomadic populations of the steppes.

Trousers, Tattoos and Hemp

Dr. Mayer then integrated the study of myths with that of archaeological finds. In fact, she analyzed the mummified bodies and skeletons found over the years in the vast territory that was home to the Scythians. Among these, some of them belonged to women who were buried together with their horses and their weapons. Thanks to infrared cameras, researchers were able to find even tattoos, which depicted deer and geometric designs.

In addition, the researcher has collected and verified other stories, which show how the theme of the warrior woman also fascinated other cultures, especially Asian ones. In short, according to Dr. Mayer, the Amazons existed and were contemporaries of the Greeks of the archaic age. They dressed like men, wearing the characteristic trousers of the Scythians that were functional to their habits that included long stays on horseback. In addition, they also had another typical male custom, namely the consumption of hemp. Being part of a very different society from the Hellenic one, which had different dynamics between genres, it does not even seem so strange that they fought next to men.

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