The History & Mythology of the Amazons

The Amazons are a group of warrior women from Greek mythology known for their fierceness in battle and their society where men were excluded from most activities and decision-making processes.

In mythology, Hercules, Theseus, and Achilles met and even married wild warrior women who fought on horseback. 
They were said to have come from Scythia, north and west of the Black Sea. Homer and Herodotus mention these women, called Amazons, and tell of their encounters with the Greeks.

In pop culture, the Amazons were represented time and time again in movies, comics, and TV, with the most famous being Wonder Woman.

Alexander the Great is said to have received an embassy of Amazons who visited him when he was near Tehran in 330 BC. 
The Amazon queen insisted he get her pregnant and stayed six weeks. Satisfied the deed was done, the women rode off.

Most scholars regarded these stories as myths until archaeological excavations on the border between Russia and Kazakhstan in the 1990s revealed 150 graves of women with legs bowed from riding, buried with armor. 
And DNA tests on bones in warrior graves in the steppes around the Black Sea show that 20 to 30 percent were female, buried with arms and weapons, not jewelry and perfume bottles.

Here are some key points about the Amazons:

1. **Origin**: The origins of the Amazons are varied depending on which myths you consider. One common account is that they were the daughters of Ares, the god of war, and Harmonia.

2. **Location**: They were believed to live around the area of the Black Sea, particularly in Themiscyra, which is in modern-day northern Turkey. 

3. **Society**: The Amazonian society was matriarchal. Men were primarily used for reproduction and performing labor. Some myths suggest that male infants were sent away, killed, or mutilated.

4. **Appearance**: They are often depicted in Greek art wearing typical Greek armor but with one breast exposed. There's a popular but unproven theory that says they would cut or burn off one breast to better use a bow or throw a spear, but this isn't supported by historical or archaeological evidence.

5. **Encounters with Greek Heroes**:
   - **Hercules**: One of his Twelve Labors was to obtain the girdle of the Amazon queen Hippolyta. However, due to misunderstandings (often attributed to the meddling of the gods), Hercules ended up battling the Amazons and took the girdle after defeating them.
   - **Theseus**: The Athenian hero is said to have kidnapped Antiope (or sometimes Hippolyta), an Amazon queen, leading to a retaliatory attack by the Amazons on Athens. This attack and subsequent battle is a popular theme in classical art and is known as the Amazonomachy.
   - **Troy**: During the Trojan War, the Amazons, led by their queen Penthesilea, came to aid the Trojans. She was eventually killed by Achilles, who supposedly fell in love with her as she died.

6. **End of the Amazons**: There's no one definitive end to the Amazons in Greek myths. They fade from the stories over time, but their legacy as fierce warriors endures.

7. **Historical Basis**: There's a debate among historians and archaeologists about whether the Amazons were entirely mythical or based on real societies. Some suggest that the tales of the Amazons could have been influenced by accounts of the Scythians or Sarmatians, nomadic tribes where women were known to fight alongside men.

The Amazons are fascinating not only for their martial prowess but also as an inversion of the Greek societal norms. Their portrayal offers a lens into ancient Greek thoughts and fears about gender roles and the concept of a society dominated by women.