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AMAZONS at the Moonspeaker

I have maintained an abiding interest in Amazons for many years, not least because despite how garbled the stories about them in popular culture are, there was still enough detail getting through that indicated they were real people. The confused renditions of their speech on pottery, the insistence in various ancient greek sources that Amazons founded almost every major city in Anatolia indicated a conflation between Amazons, local Goddesses, and unfamiliar cultures. The most repeated "pop culture" versions expressed extraordinary anxiety and hostility as again and again male writers tried to depict the Amazons as aberrant and doomed to die because they refused to be slaves to men. Luckily I learned enough to begin locating actual ancient greek sources and a few latin ones to better understand what the men from those cultures were saying in their own time. As a Feminist, I am also interested in the ways tracing Amazons and using their example as a way to help recognize meaningful images of strong women and imagining better stories where the women are the heroes.

When it comes to tracing information in the literary, historical, and archaeological record about Amazons, there are far more sources available than in the mid to late 1990s, when I began researching. These sources are both on and offline, and range from general interest to very academic. There is definitely more out there for those able to read languages other than english, especially anyone who is comfortable with russian and german. For the Amazons as described in ancient greek sources, a solid starting point available today is Theoi Greek Mythology, founded in 2000. The site founder Aaron J. Atsma has documented the site's affiliations and origins in an explicit about page and provides an extensive and growing bibliography. More generally, it is now, if not respectable at least acceptable to seriously study and write about Amazons in the fields of archaeology and Greek and Roman studies. Archaeologists led by scholars such as Jeannine Davis-Kimball have excavated the physical evidence of warrior women who lived in the right time and place to make a serious impression on the ancient greeks. Her team's data is presented in Warrior Women: An Archaeologist's Search for History's Hidden Heroines, as well as several articles in Archaeology magazine. Adrienne Mayor released her book Amazons in 2014, tracing Amazon imagery through ancient greek myth and history to identify real life sources. A critical element besides archaeological data was an often puzzled over apparent nonsense syllables attributed to Amazons depicted on ancient greek pottery. Mayor collaborated with linguist John Colarusso and art historian David Saunders to show that a significant number of these syllables are not nonsense but attempts to represent unfamiliar languages from the black sea and caucasus regions. Many of the languages spoken in these regions to this day are non-indo-european and use a more elaborated system of consonant sounds.

For those more inclined to a Feminist and women's culture angle on the Amazons, there are at least as many possibilities. One longtime resource online is The New Amazon Nation, which brings together a many links and snippets of material. The earlier version of Amazon Nation on this site provides a great deal of material as well, but it is important to note that it is an early draft of a work that is a combination of creative non-fiction interspersed with sections of speculative fiction. I should also mention John Bruno Hare's Internet Sacred Text Archive, which includes several important now public domain Amazon-related books in the Women and Religion section. It is usually possible to track down pdfs of these books on the internet archive as well (e.g. Religious Cults Associated With the Amazons by Florence Mary Bennet). For published books not yet in the public domain, there are important Feminist classics, many of which are still in print or back in print after a short hiatus. It is worth starting with Merlin Stone's Ancient Mirrors of Womanhood and Jessica Amanda Salmonson's The Encyclopedia of Amazons. Then continue with Patricia Monaghan's The New Book of Goddesses and Heroines and Norma Lorre Goodrich's Priestesses.

This section of The Moonspeaker is the place to check for the updated version of Amazon Nation, as well as a number of other Feminist writing projects as they are ready to go live. Originally this section included the ongoing essay series Allocentric Perceptions, which has since developed into an independent project. The Amazonian Bibliography is a crossover piece appearing both here and in Allocentric Perceptions. It is an annotated select bibliography of sources especially useful for fuelling reimagining of Amazons in new stories and artwork. Some of the fuel is of a provoking kind, in that the authors make suggestions and arguments that I do not agree with and led me to constructively sort out why and what I was going to argue or write instead.

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Copyright © C. Osborne 2024
Last Modified: Monday, January 01, 2024 01:25:42