Read The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women Across the Ancient World by Adrienne Mayor Online


Amazons--fierce warrior women dwelling on the fringes of the known world--were the mythic archenemies of the ancient Greeks. Heracles and Achilles displayed their valor in duels with Amazon queens, and the Athenians reveled in their victory over a powerful Amazon army. In historical times, Cyrus of Persia, Alexander the Great, and the Roman general Pompey tangled with AmazAmazons--fierce warrior women dwelling on the fringes of the known world--were the mythic archenemies of the ancient Greeks. Heracles and Achilles displayed their valor in duels with Amazon queens, and the Athenians reveled in their victory over a powerful Amazon army. In historical times, Cyrus of Persia, Alexander the Great, and the Roman general Pompey tangled with Amazons.But just who were these bold barbarian archers on horseback who gloried in fighting, hunting, and sexual freedom? Were Amazons real? In this deeply researched, wide-ranging, and lavishly illustrated book, National Book Award finalist Adrienne Mayor presents the Amazons as they have never been seen before. This is the first comprehensive account of warrior women in myth and history across the ancient world, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Great Wall of China.Mayor tells how amazing new archaeological discoveries of battle-scarred female skeletons buried with their weapons prove that women warriors were not merely figments of the Greek imagination. Combining classical myth and art, nomad traditions, and scientific archaeology, she reveals intimate, surprising details and original insights about the lives and legends of the women known as Amazons. Provocatively arguing that a timeless search for a balance between the sexes explains the allure of the Amazons, Mayor reminds us that there were as many Amazon love stories as there were war stories. The Greeks were not the only people enchanted by Amazons--Mayor shows that warlike women of nomadic cultures inspired exciting tales in ancient Egypt, Persia, India, Central Asia, and China.Driven by a detective's curiosity, Mayor unearths long-buried evidence and sifts fact from fiction to show how flesh-and-blood women of the Eurasian steppes were mythologized as Amazons, the equals of men. The result is likely to become a classic....

Title : The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women Across the Ancient World
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780691147208
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 519 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women Across the Ancient World Reviews

  • Hadrian
    2019-05-28 16:18

    The image of the Amazon is one of the most intriguing and enduring of ancient Greek myths. Yet as novel and extreme as some of these stories are, Mayor makes the assertion that these myths have some bearing in truth. The main points of evidence behind her claim are archaeological discoveries along the coast of the Black Sea and Central Asia, with ornate and well-stocked tombs and female skeletons buried with weapons raise important questions about the history of the period. The most likely candidates for the 'Amazon' peoples are, in her view, the 'Scythian' tribes near the coast of the Black Sea and in the Caucasus, which also has a history of female warriors in folk tradition and oral literature. One intriguing example she uses is a series of 'nonsense names' in Greek pottery used to name Amazons. These words bear similarity to languages of the Caucasus like Ubyhk, Georgian, and Abkhazian. (Paper here).Now Mayor makes a vital distinction between the archaeological evidence about the Scythians and the Greek perception of them. To take a comparison - women in Greek society had an extremely low social position, where they couldn't even leave the house. By contrast, the Amazons often appear to be a race of women warrior sex hounds who always conveniently die at the end of the story. (See Panthelisia in the Iliad.) It's a way to make these vaguely known tribes into an image of something different and frightening, but also asserting their own culture's superiority.Hence why Mayor takes the time to address each of these major myths in turn. Take one of the most persistent - that 'Amazon' mounted archers would sever one breast in order to draw their bowstring without problems. Mayor counters this with Greek pottery art of women drawing bows without anything missing, and photographs of women today on horses firing bows and arrows without problems. A further example would be something deceptively simple - pants. The Greeks (and the Romans after them) would consider such garments barbaric and unnatural, and some depictions of 'Amazon' women on pottery would have them wearing pants as a novelty. For a nomadic group of horse-riders, pants are much more practical than long tunics.I should add some concerns - Mayor searches far and wide for anything which could be analogous to the 'Amazon' story and attempts to clarify their story. In many cases, this is a net positive, where she finds something new and interesting. Others seem so far afield that they reach the limits of plausibility. To take the raunchy Greek stereotype of Amazons that they had so much dominating sex with men that their hips seemed broken. Mayor lists two explanations - the first is several tribes in modern Russia have a history of congenital hip dysplasia, which leads to painful limping walks. Another possibility, which she also adds, is just soreness from constant horseback riding. Mayor, to her credit, includes both, in eagerness to reach a new explanation.That is a major characteristic of this book - a need to include every possible new explanation for the origins of these myths and combining them with every piece of known archaeological evidence. Now this does lead to some 'stretching' of the available evidence, like taking samples from central Siberia or even the Chinese folk tale of Mulan. But in the vast majority of cases, this is a good thing, as Mayor's approacoh is a major contributor to the book's thorough questioning of past myths and historical assumptions.Yet even with these strong caveats, I can't help but feel that Mayor's on to something. I can't see this volume as the final word on Amazons, but instead something which will breathe life into a new field.

  • RavenclawReadingRoom
    2019-05-27 18:24

    This book was...quite frankly, it was amazing. I've been trying recently to read more non-fiction that's written by women and about women, because sometimes that can be difficult to find, particularly when you read predominantly history books. So this one, even though it cost me $40, seemed like it would fit the bill perfectly. And it did. This book is completely fascinating and full of badass ladies. The first half is all about the nomadic peoples who lived on the steppes of Central Asia (and parts of Europe - these people lived basically from Ukraine through Azerbaijan and all the way across to Kazakhstan) and who the Greeks called Amazons. It deals with the realities of their society and culture as well as Greek myths about them - no boobs were chopped off in order to shoot better, because their bows simply didn't work that way. It deals with archaeologists being predisposed to assume that graves containing weaponry belonged to men, and how DNA testing has proved that a significant number of graves containing swords and bows and daggers actually belonged to women. (And, similarly, how many graves containing combs and jewellery actually belonged to men!) Mayor argues that at a minimum, 20-25% of the warriors in Central Asian society were women. It deals with representations of Amazons on Greek pottery and jewellery, as well as discussing Amazons in Greek myths and legends. And then finally, it talks briefly about warrior women in other ancient cultures around the world - Egypt, India, Persia, China. There's a brief mention of Boadicea, but the primary focus is on the Greek world through to Asia. On the whole, it was very long and quite dense, but thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish. 10/10, would recommend.

  • Elise
    2019-06-05 12:26

    The good first - this book was a solid example of scholarship that is accessible to the layperson, and Mayor does a good job of surveying the sources and information about Amazons and warrior women from Greece to China. Her writing is readable and while the archaeological catalogue of grave items can be exhausting, it is clear that Mayor knows a great deal about her subject.That said - I cannot feel good about recommending this book casually, given the way Mayor lays fast and loose with aspects of her scholarship. She seems too quick to me, for one, to dismiss the idea that Amazons or warrior women in general might be used in myth or folklore to do some kind of cultural work, for instance having to do with gender roles or the Other, in the service of her point that the "Amazons" were a historical reality. The archaeological evidence is indeed compelling that there were at one time women who fought in ancient warfare, but too often Mayor leaps from these discoveries (comprising a quarter of burials found) to equating myth with history. Mayor in general seldom distinguishes between myth or folklore and historical record, and does little examining of her sources or their factual reliability. Every ancient writing appears to have some basis in factual events. Mayor also seems to lump a large number of cultures together in this book, with little examination of how their differences might be relevant to the role of warrior women in their myth/history. (This is evident in the frankly lazy way Mayor conflates the terms "Amazon" and "Scythian" with modern ethnic groups.) In short: Mayor's critical scholarship seems to have suffered in favor of overemphasizing her thesis that there were real women who were the equals of men. While a large and growing body of archaeological evidence supports her, Mayor stretches too far. In one particularly memorable instance, she lovingly imagines a romantic interlude between an Amazon and her lover, complete with tasteful fade to black. Maybe I am too accustomed to academic classical scholarship, which constantly hedges its bets and comments on the unreliability of ancient writers. However, I do not feel that caution, and careful examination of source material, must be sacrificed for the sake of drama. Mayor's survey of records of warrior women is undoubtedly valuable. Where she falters is the conclusions she draws from these records.

  • Cat
    2019-06-09 12:26

    I feel like I am cheating to give a book a review when I didn't read the whole thing. I'm only about halfway through, and I am abandoning ship, or, perhaps better for a book about equestrian nomads, dismounting from this horse. I picked up this book because of this fabulous New Yorker blog entry by my friend Josh Rothman, interviewing the author about the "real" Amazons: This quick, pithy account of their lives, intoxicants, fashion, and prowess gives what was for me the perfect amount of information and drama to illuminate an aspect of the ancient world I had never thought of before and also to open up my conception of classical culture to include more geography and social roles than encompassed by Greece or Rome. Mayor does all of this in her book, and so if you are interested in reading more after the New Yorker blog post, I recommend reading her introduction and even perhaps her first chapter. This frames the classical literature and history that invokes the Amazons most prominently, the scholarship that tried to see them as a metaphor or a fantasy, and the exciting overlaps between archaeology discoveries (the tombs of nomads on the steppes) and the vision of gender equity and warrior ability that Amazonian allusions allowed the Greeks. In other words, she talks about how and why it's profitable to think of these nomad groups as the historical basis for the literary Amazons, and she even indicates how the Greeks might have misread their social structures and rituals. Mayor's chapters focus on inherently interesting things--what animals Amazons domesticated, what fashions they wore, what intoxicants they consumed, who they slept with and what kind of relationships these were, how they tattooed themselves--but they get supremely listy. She actually advises in the introduction that you not read straight through it, saying that she will contextualize all of her evidence with similar material. She's telling the truth. After a really captivating introduction and first chapter, the book devolved (for me) into lists of archaelogical finds, and since I am a lay reader, that just couldn't maintain my flagging interest. It seems to me like the book includes very compelling evidence and is doing important work linking together research on different regions of the classical world, reminding us that they made cultural, economic, and material exchanges, but I just don't have the patience for lists of every vase where an Amazon appears with a dog or a horse and everything we can learn from those vases.

  • Bryn Hammond
    2019-06-05 13:20

    'Amazons' were Scythian women, simply.There has been nothing to approach this book before in its examination of every piece of evidence from the Greek world. Then, in a chapter wonderfully titled 'Amazonistan: Central Asia', she looks for the Amazons', or rather Scythians/steppe nomads', own sources. These were oral cultures, late written down, and she does slip into the middle ages, if that is as far back as we can go.It's pitched to a 21st century (wide) audience, and I felt it normalised towards that audience. I'd like more analysis of gender (what Greeks said about steppe nomad masculinity, too, for example). Most certainly recommended.

  • ❆ Crystal ❆
    2019-06-06 13:22

    3 stars. I enjoyed reading about these brave, strong women. I think it's great that there are still archeological discoveries of these women with pieces of their history still intact. I found it amazing that burial sites in the past were thought to be male, but with recent DNA testing they found out they were women. I love that! It must have been quite a rugged life fraught with danger that they met head on. I think of the 10 year old warrior girl they found and just can't imagine what life would have been like for them as children. There's lot's of information with this book. I did enjoy reading and I loved hearing about all the new developments in science that gives more insight into these amazing women. It also tied in nicely with the last book I read... references to name/times/places that coincided. I enjoyed!

  • Nicholas
    2019-05-29 13:06

    4.5 stars, but possibly 5 depending on what you use it for.The Amazons was not what I expected. I expected a smattering of well-known folklore superficially retold in an anthology; instead, Mayor put together a vividly detailed historical and cultural analysis on the origin and changing interpretation of tales of Amazons. The work is divided into four parts. In part one, Mayor lays out her thesis; she asserts that tales of the Amazons were not merely cautionary tales the Greeks told themselves about the dangers of sexual equality (though they certainly were at that), but a distorted interpretation of existent cultures foreign to the Greeks—namely Scythian as well as other steppe cultures from Central Asia—that showed a marked degree of sexual equality. Essentially, Mayor argues that because of the practical necessities of life on the plains, there was greater participation among women in roles that the Greeks deemed the exclusive province of males, which included warfare and hunting. Mayor succinctly lays out her evidence for such a claim in this first section and it's based on a satisfying variety of factors that include interpretation of the Amazonian mythological geography, depictions of traditional Amazon costume on Greek pottery and its similarity to the traditional garb of steppe cultures, an examination of the osteological evidence (in particular, more recent evidence that as many as 40% of the tombs and barrows unearthed of "male" warriors in the Black Sea region were actually women), as well as linguistic and philological evidence of loan words the Greeks borrowed from Persian or other Central Asian sources. I think she proves her case more than satisfactorily.Part two contains an analysis of themes from famous Amazon stories to assemble a sort of cultural analysis of the Amazonian culture - and a parallel analysis of Central Asian horse culture to further strengthen the arguments presented in part one. Here's where the analysis can become somewhat redundant. It almost feels as if Mayor is worried that her conclusions are going to be dismissed out of hand—and perhaps that's a legitimate fear, when challenging the accepted wisdom of Greek historical orthodoxy after centuries with a thesis that states that the Amazons were, in fact, quite real. Here Mayor takes great care to point out that the myths themselves aren't to be taken at face value and presents a sort of hybrid interpretation of the traditional stories in the Greek tradition while recounting historical studies of Central Asian cultures. For example, rather than asserting that a real society of dominant women with no males was the source of the tales, Mayor suggests that the high degree of equality, the confrontation of women warriors in armor and on horseback, the relatively liberal attitudes towards sex led the sexually conservative Greeks to use these cultures as a touchstone for imagining their wildest fears: women holding men in submission, women running society (shudder). Mayor explores fashion, drug use, tattooing, sex, politics, music, and, of course, warfare to show how stunned Greeks could draw such conclusions and place them in their mythology. Again, the analysis is thorough, but very repetitive in places (a problem I'll address later).Part three is the catalogue of famous Amazon stories that I anticipated would be the bulk of the book. To my surprise in addition to a simple recounting of tales of women such as Hippolyte and Penthesilea, Mayor once again outdoes herself by recounting alternate versions of the tale and the evolution of the tales through time before providing a synthesized version that attempts to look for real historical roots. It's cleverly and exhaustively done and extraordinarily well sourced.Part four is the icing on the cake as Mayor recounts Amazon-like tales from cultures other than the Greek, including tales from both China and Iran, that might once again pin down the truth and lift the mythological veil. The section is an added bonus I didn't expect.There aren't many shortcomings here. The Amazons is a readable but academically rigorous study of the mythology and history that highlights the syncretism of Greek and Central Asian culture where they mingled along the edges of the Black Sea. Mayor herself admits in the introduction that she anticipates her work to be perused in pieces, with the reader choosing what interests them, like an anthology. I strongly suspect that's the major reason for her choice to repeat and weave the same essential facts throughout the narrative. She self-references copiously pointing to other chapters in-text to direct readers to other potential areas of interest and if I was reading this over a longer period of time or in pieces, I don't think I'd have found the repetition as tedious as I did trying to blast through it in a couple of sessions. That being said, I couldn't help but be impressed with the depth and breadth of Mayor's knowledge. Everything from osteological archeology to philology is covered in laborious, but fascinating detail. She's an expert and she's good at telling a tale and letting her enthusiasm for her subject shine through. I definitely plan to add this to my collection in the future.

  • Amy Raby
    2019-06-17 17:34

    An amazing book which makes the case, quite persuasively, that the Amazon women of Greek myth were not fictional. They were female Scythian horse archers, and they were real. This is not a light or quick read, as a typical chapter presents some information about the Amazons and then backs up it with lots of evidence from archeology and ancient literature. But the content makes it well worth a close read.It turns out stories about the Amazons were told in many cultures, not just by the Greeks, so one can contrast and compare ancient accounts of them. Some tantalizing details backed up with archeological evidence: they were tattooed; they were expert mounted archers; they smoked cannabis; they may have been the first people to domesticate the horse, to work iron, and to wear trousers. They did NOT cut off one breast.If you have an interest in the ancient world, or in women warriors, you should absolutely read this book.

  • Sotiris Karaiskos
    2019-05-27 11:19

    Με αφορμή την ανάγνωση του βιβλίου Last of the Amazons του Steven Pressfield άρχισα να διαβάζω και αυτό εδώ για να έχω μία ιστορική αναφορά. Πρόκειται για ένα εξαιρετικό βιβλίο που περιέχει πλήθος πληροφοριών για τα ιστορικά δεδομένα πίσω από τον μύθο των Αμαζόνων. Ξεκινάει με τα αρχαιολογικά δεδομένα που έχουμε για την ύπαρξη γυναικών που συμμετείχαν στον πόλεμο μαζί με τους άντρες, στη συνέχεια περιγράφει με τη συνοδεία πλούσιου φωτογραφικού υλικού την αρχαία ελληνική τέχνη γύρω από το θέμα και καταλήγει στην αφήγηση των ελληνικών και όχι μόνο μύθων και ιστοριών για τις Αμαζόνες και γενικότερα τις πολεμίστριες. Μία πραγματικά πληρέστατη παρουσίαση και ανάλυση αυτού του πολύ ενδιαφέροντος θέματος.

  • Bronwen
    2019-05-26 13:18

    I think I was putting off reading the last chapter of this book simply because I didn't actually want it to be over. One of the best books I have ever read on the topic of the Amazons, hands down. The way that Mayor marries the archeological evidence with her literature review is seamless and fascinating. This is definitely a book I am going to return to again and again, both as a classicist and as an artist.

  • Rose
    2019-06-12 19:24

    Fascinating, accessible but still impecably documented. Many in text illustrations as well as a nice selection of color ones.

  • Diana C. Nearhos
    2019-05-29 13:19

    I had to put this down. There was too much cataloging and I gave up.

  • Quanjun
    2019-06-08 16:29

    At last, the native peoples rose up. They ambushed and slaughtered most of the Scythian men. "The Scythian wives now perceived that they were widows as well as outsiders. They took up arms and defended their territory. And then the women went on the attack. they refused to marry, calling it slavery. "These women," says Justin, "embarked on an enterprise unparalleled in all history," creating and defending a state without men. they even killed the husbands who had survived by remaining at home, so that no woman would seem more fortunate than those who had lost their men. Such is the legend of the Amazons (synonymous with strong women or the big time online retailer, book talks about the former). The imagery of a woman whose business is war is at once incredible and awe-inspiring, which has led us to both reject the Amazons as actual historical women but at the same time obsess over their mythology. In this book, Adrienne Mayor sets out to separate fact from fiction and tell the tales of the warrior women who once lived.Book is organized as such:Part 1: Who were the Amazons? Short myths and stories to set up the premise. Geography of amazonian homelands, and the mythical "birth" of the amazonian race. Very short section.Part 2: Historical Women Warriors and Classical Traditions Archaelogical evidence that lays down the basics for the amazonian lifestyle. Includes tattoos, breasts, sex, love, drugs, pets, hunting, attire, weapons, way of life, etc. Largely based on archaeological data and artwork.Part 3: Amazons in Greek and Roman myth, legend, and history Individual amazons in myths and legends of this part. Very woozy section, have to pay close attention to figure out if myth or fact. Mostly myths as these places did not host amazons themselves, amazons are barbarian tribes north of Greeks and Romans. Notable actual "amazons" (actually warrior women, not amazons, as these places do not have amazons, only stories of them): Artemisia I and Artemisia II.Part 4: Beyond the Greek World Survey of neighbouring places where there are stories/archaeological findings of amazons. From Caucasia, moving east and ending in China (who has the largest number of actual warrior women).I find that this book delivers its promise, it's a detailed study of amazons, their myths and legends as well as history of actual warrior women. It presents the facts in a way that forces you to make your own conclusion, you have to pause and think about the passage you read, it doesn't present the facts in a smooth narration as if everything is set in stone. Therefore it's rather hard to read and keep track without taking notes, but I quite enjoyed it because it makes me look up on the things I'm interested in and learn more. I appreciate that the book doesn't present the most sensationalized version of events or only present the sensationalized parts.After reading, I have thought long and hard about why is it that Amazons have remained a myth and legend for so long, they possess no superpowers and there's nothing so unbelievable about them. Except that there is, because they're women. Greeks were extremely sexist and did not allow their women to engage in war, these Amazons fascinated them so much because they could not conceive of a society where women went to war with their men. Judgmental of the lifestyle, but secretly curious (and envious?), they made myths of these women, where they all perish in the hands of Greek heroes. Subsequently, the men who study these myths (influenced by the patriarchy) find them equally unbelievable, making tons of absurd reasonings about who the Greeks could've been talking about when they're talking about Amazons. Anything is possible except for actual warrior women (even the theory that amazons in artwork is actually code for Persians). In the section where the book talks about Iranian warrior women, the author says that modern Iranian scholars do not think that these women existed, they must symbolize some Islamic concept. Even when graves of amazons were found, they were immediately labelled male because of the wealth and weapons they were buried with. DNA evidence has shown that many of these graves had women in them. Women warriors are more accepted and are the norm once we get to the last section. China especially has a whole host of actual, historical women who were legendary warriors (of which sadly, Mulan remains just a myth).Women who go to war is not such a crazy concept. Women have been going to war since time immemorial, even today women are serving in armies. What we really need to think about, is why do we find that such a hard idea to swallow?Book has made some mistake with its "chinese" in the China chapter.1. The Mosuo people's system of polyamory is called 走婚 (zouhun), meaning walking marriage, not zuohun, which means sitting marriage (坐婚).2. Huang Guigu is translated into Huang: Golden-Yellow, Guigu: Ghost valley. Chinese names are not meant to be translated for meaning, especially the first character, as it is the surname and tells you someone's ancestry (if you're actively trying to track it) and nothing else, every chinese character has an inherent meaning but that meaning is not applied when it's just the surname. Translating the rest of the name is fair play, sometimes it means something, sometimes people just pick something that sounds good. This reminds me of a QI episode where Stephen Fry claims that Chinese call Americans "Beautiful Country People", they don't, they call americans 美国人, the first character stands for america, the last two means people of a country. It's phonetics, 美 is short for 亚美利加(ya mei li jia) which attempts to sound like America, and one character is picked for convenience, not its meaning.

  • Susan Pola Staples
    2019-06-24 14:15

    This is a scholarly book on the Amazon origin and how that influenced Greek mythology. The author shows that the Scythian origin of the word amazen and the its Greek equivalent and counterpart means equality. Both women and men fought in the Amazon culture.Ms Mayor traces the cross-cultural presence of female warriors not only in Scythian society but that of the Chinese steppe region and even India.Continued at later date

  • Chris Farrell
    2019-06-03 15:13

    The Amazons is a fairly in-depth look at the ancient mythological stories about Amazons and what they say about ancient Greek and other cultures, and also a fascinating look at the Scythian steppe tribes in which we now are pretty certain women served regularly as warriors - their horses and archery serving as a great equalizer between the sexes compared to the brute muscle-powered hoplite warfare practiced by the Greeks (and later perfected by the Romans).For me, the most interesting parts of the book were the recent archaeological findings that have given us some insight into the Scythian tribes and their way of life. The preponderance of the evidence now is that prehistoric hunter-gatherer tribes were far more egalitarian, especially between the sexes, then cultures would become after agriculture and city-states. The Scythians were still fairly primitive at the time of the ancient Greeks and this book makes a pretty strong case that they probably retained a fairly egalitarian society in which women retained most of their autonomy and were at least sometimes, and possibly often, allowed to train as warriors. The Greeks had early contact with the Scythians in Asia Minor and around the Black Sea, and the book shows how the traditional Scythian dress and names found their way into Greek culture as depictions of Amazons.The Amazons has a bit of an academic feel, and for the amateur historian it can be a bit of a slog at times. But it's worth getting through for its terrific look at myth, legend, symbolism, and history, and where they collide. My knowledge of the ancient world and Greek and Roman culture is not insignificant, and I found a lot of this book totally new to me and incredibly fascinating. If you have an interest in this time period and these cultures I would highly recommend it.

  • Rose Joyce
    2019-06-12 12:07

    Scholarly and well researched book about the women who inspired the Greek Amazon stories. The researcher makes a strong case the the warrior nomadic women of the steps(Central Asia) were the true Amazons. Due to the harsh physical and political environment and the use of horses men and women had to be able to hunt and fight. This created a more equal society. The researcher provides archaeological proof, such as graves of these women which held armor, sacrificed horse remains as well as their war injured bodies. She cites ancient historical Greek, Chinese and Indian writings as well as examining the art of these cultures.

  • Elentarri
    2019-06-25 17:13

    Adrienne Mayor has written another interesting and informative book about an uncommon topic. Mayor starts by taking a look at how the ancient Greeks described the Amazons in their myths. legends, literature and art, then comparing this with archaeological evidence (bones, burial sites, vases, coins etc) to determine truth from fiction. She also takes a look at what the ancient Chinese had to say about the Amazons. This beautifully written book includes many black and white illustrations, maps and colour plates.

  • Ian
    2019-06-26 13:20

    This is a beautifully detailed romp through every red-blooded Roman's favorite subject. The good news? The Amazons were real! Mayor does a great job of combining legend and archaeology, and she has a convincing analysis of the faults of previous scholarship, which has dismissed the stories of the Amazons as a mere manifestation of Greco-Roman gender ideology. The only downside is that her handling of the evidence is often irresponsible. She will introduce a shred of evidence, make a wild guess about its implications, and then proceed as if her wild guess is a given.

  • elbren
    2019-06-02 15:17

    for a book that's largely about pointing out other scholars' blind spots, it has weird gaps to my interests: she mentions a famous persian warrior queen (shirin) without mentioning her christianity - the auther seems to not know about native asian christian history at all.but I want it on hand as a reference, and I learned some interesting things, so there's that.

  • Colin
    2019-06-21 15:09

    A very thorough and scholarly treatment of the Amazon legends of ancient Greece and a number of other cultures, and an attempt to find the truth behind the legends. Not for the casual reader - a very weighty and scholarly tome!

  • Luis Hernandez
    2019-05-30 17:30

    An excellent account on the lives and legends of the Amazons. This was a book that took me a long time to read because even though I wanted to finish it I found myself googling everything it described!

  • Elizabeth Judd Taylor
    2019-06-07 19:25

    I really enjoyed this book, which mixes anthropology, archaeology, myth, history all in a search for historic women warriors. There's lots of interesting information and the book is well written and wide-ranging.

  • Eleni
    2019-06-01 17:12

    Great book just needs a concluding chapter. Detailed archaeological research with known mythology to verify amazon women existed throughout regions near and around the Black Sea.

  • Haylee Collins
    2019-06-12 17:12

    For anyone with an interest in ancient history or the role of women in history, The Amazons is an essential read that takes into account the recent scientific, anthropological and archeological developments that have revolutionised the way ancient history has been reported on up until now. Rather than the gendered assumptions that have lead to the narrow pigeon-holing of buried human remains being either male or female, we now have technology that allows biological sex to be accurately determined.This, of course, completely rewrites what the modern world has held as fact for millennia - though you wouldn't know it from the lack of reporting that's been done around it. Adrienne Mayor analyses these developments alongside the extensive written and verbal mythology and tradition from several cultures across Europe, Asia and Africa, which heavily references not only the existence but the detailed lifestyles of nomadic warrior women who roamed the Eurasian steppes for hundreds of years.Looking beyond the extreme caricatures of the Ancient Greek portrayals of supposedly one-breasted, man-killing harridans, Mayor's Amazons are undisputedly real, their skill and bravery evident. For many, the implications of this research may not be evident, but it threw into stark relief how far-reaching the deeply intrenched patriarchal values that have at least partially been informed by the well-recorded Greek perspective of the ancient world, have been. It's terrifying to realise that our false ideas about the limited capabilities of women stretch so far back, but it's also thrilling to receive extensive confirmation to the contrary.Mayor writes each chapter in The Amazons to be comprehensive unto itself. It's very easy to flip back and forth, picking chapters based on areas or periods of interest. You won't get lost if rereading random chapters - I read the entire tomb with a highlighter in my hand and backtracking for context has been surprisingly easy.I had to order The Amazons from the U.S. but the price and the wait for delivery was well worth the flood of knowledge I received in return.

  • Jack Magruder
    2019-06-11 16:25

    This book is awesome! Dr. Mayor provides an incredibly dense and well researched scholarly read while making it exceptionally accessible and fun. She blends history, mythology, literature, archaeology, forensic science and historical hearsay to create a compelling picture of "barbarian" women warriors we ow know today as such as the ancient Scythians, Sarmations, Thracians and the like. She also extends beyond them to show their influence even into our modern day, despite the fact that as an illiterate culture themselves, much of who they were is still cloaked in mystery. Anyway, LOVED it! We used much of this material to set a vision for our daughter of what balanced feminine strength can look like, though we inserted copious amounts of our Faith into the mix as well. I found myself laughing at the ribald historical accounts of Scythian women standing defiantly (sometimes hillariously so) against a "civilized" notion of gender roles in the Hellenic and Roman worldview that really didn't know what to do with them while also giving them a level of reality and humanity that took them off the shelves of legend and myth and made them real women who loved and fought and really existed.

  • Csenge
    2019-06-10 12:25

    I was not as impressed with this book as I was with the other two I read from the author (about paleonthology and geomythology). It is very well researched and well sourced, but I found some questionable statements and ideas in it that the archaeologist in me did not take quite well. I was also sad that the Nart sagas did not get more attention in the volume, since the basic claim (Amazons as steppe nomadic women) would have been greatly supported by more Nart examples of stories and traditions. The catalog of graves and warrior women was detailed and well sourced, but it got a little boring if I tried to read it all in one breath. Still, I did not regret buying or reading this book; I think it does a whole lot in getting the fact through that women warriors have always existed, and that patriarchal outside societies like the Greeks have done a lot to distort and exoticize just how common their existence was in certain cultures. All in all, a very useful book and an interesting read, but better used as a reference volume or a slow read, rather than a cover-to-cover experience.

  • Theisobelgarcia
    2019-06-22 11:18

    This book was well-researched, and the subject matter is fascinating. The writing, however, is rather dry, and there are certainly some statements made that I felt were not necessarily fact. The thing about academic research, is that ultimately, the academic needs to make an argument - in this case, that the Amazons were real people, and that they were, specifically, Scythians. I am convinced of the former, not entirely of the latter, and also don’t know that the latter even matters that much. The Amazons were real women, and there were numerous nomadic tribes of varying ethnicities in the areas in which the Greeks claimed they lived, all with similar treatment of women as equals, use of horses and archery, clothing style, etc.Decent read, but would not recommend unless you are specifically researching the Amazons, and then, recommend keeping an eye out for bold, declarative statements, and thinking through for yourself whether or not those statements have been sufficiently proven.

  • LillyBooks
    2019-06-12 11:32

    Three stars because this book is exactly what it claims to be, but it just wasn't what I wanted (it was checked out at the library based on title alone).This is an extremely thorough and well-researched academic style text that examines, as the subtitle states, different myths and realities about various groups of warrior women in ancient history. Chapters are devoted to Greek myths, injuries as found in unearthed graves, tattooing, geography, their probable love lives, etc. All the facts are clearly presented and properly notated, even if no effort is made to it give it some pep with pacing. That's exactly what an academic text should be. However, one has to be the mood for an academic text and I really wasn't. I read about half and then decided I really didn't need to know what was found in every single grave of every single Scythian steppe horse archer, even if it was fascinating and educational at first.

  • J
    2019-05-29 14:24

    Interesting exploration of an alternative view of history. It was eye-opening to read about various female warriors, rulers and nomads. Mayor does an excellent job of teasing out the probabilities of histories which have been actively suppressed by later societies (which probably relied economically on the exploitation of unpaid female domestic labour and didn't want to encourage too much independence).The book's value to me was the breadth of information and its open-minded approach to the exploration of history from a more gender-neutral perspective than usual. But it's in no way an "identity politics" text - it's just a thorough, thoughtful approach to the available facts.I recommend buying the print version. I couldn't see the pictures properly on my e-reader.

  • Justine
    2019-05-30 12:32

    4,5 stars I learnt so many things about women warriors!! I'm glad to know that Amazons were, in a way, real persons, and that they are still remembered in certain regions of the world. I also love that the author doesn't only speak about Greeks, but goes from Greece to China. The author presents myths, historical facts, archeology; there are some repetitions, but she warned the reader in the beginning, informing him that there would be indications as to what chapter alludes to another chapter. The only thing this book is lacking is a conclusion! If only women could be treated like Amazons were by their male partners! Now I would like to own this book to go back to it regularly!