Sponsored by: Archaeological Institute of America
From their early Greek portrayal as bellicose antagonists to their modern depictions as heroes in Wonder Woman comics, Amazons have been subject to frequent reinvention in myth and image. In mainland Greece in the Archaic and Classical periods, Amazons were constructed both as worthy opponents for great heroes like Herakles and Achilles, and as others who transgressed against societal norms and upended gender roles. In the Hellenized cities of Anatolia, however, Amazons were frequently depicted in a different manner. This lecture argues that, in Anatolia, Amazons were regularly depicted not as barbarians from exotic locales, but rather as heroes and champions with whom the local population identified. In mythology, Anatolia was a traditional homeland for the warrior women, and local stories frequently cast the Amazons as an integral part of their histories. Amazons were the founders of the Temple of Artemis at Ephesos, and their images decorated this sanctuary as well as that of the nearby and closely related Temple of Artemis at Magnesia. The cities of Smyrna and Kyme claimed Amazons as eponymous founders and placed images of these Amazons on their coinage. In nearby Karia, the axe of the Amazon Hippolyta was a symbol of the region, and the north frieze of the Karian Temple of Hekate at Lagina depicted an allegory of a treaty between Karia and Rome where Amazons stood in for the people of Karia. For each of these cities, with their hybridized Greek and Anatolian populations, the Amazons’ gender was integral to their symbolic value as it identified the women as part of a mythical past that played a key role in the formation of civic and regional identities in the region. Through a comparative analysis of representations of images and myths of Amazons within their original historical and cultural contexts, this lecture reevaluates of one of the most iconic subjects in Greek art and its re-imagining in Anatolia.
Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:
Josine H. Blok, The Early Amazons: Modern and Ancient Perspectives on a Persistent Myth (Leiden: Brill, 1995).
Adrienne Mayor, The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women across the Ancient World (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014).
Walter Duvall Penrose, Jr., Postcolonial Amazons: Female Masculinity and Courage in Ancient Greek and Sanskrit Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017).