Lives and Legends of Warrior Women across the Ancient World
Click the image above to read Story #159 from Bill T. Jones’s Story/Time: The Life of an Idea.
We have an Amazons personality quiz on PlayBuzz, here’s a bit more about the results! For more Amazon names and their meanings, please visit our Pinterest board: http://www.pinterest.com/princetonupress/the-amazons/
The meaning of Harman Dali is “Crazy-Brave”. Harman Dali was a beguiling berserker in the Turkmenistan region who thrived on killing would-be suitors who accepted her famous challenge: “I’ll only marry the man who beats me at wrestling and I chop off the heads of the losers.” She issued this challenge to Koroglu, a bandit hero, and in the course of their wrestling, he is overcome with desire and gives up. He sings for Harman Dali and she not only spares his life, but invites him to share her bed for one night.
Though Kepes appears on a 6th-century Circassian vase, little other than the meaning of her name is known. However, when the meaning of your name is “Hot Flanks/Eager Sex,” perhaps that is enough.
The meaning of Penthesilea is “She Who Brings Grief”. When Troy was under attack, they sent forth requests for help. One such request was sent to Penthesilea–a legendary warrior queen whose name would strike terror into the hearts of the Greeks. Penthesilea did have a starring role in the legendary Trojan War, though she did die there, struck down by Achilles.
The meaning of Sanape is “From Wine Country.” In Greek thinking, extreme passion for warfare went hand in hand with compulsive drinking, so it is not surprising that tipsy Amazons could be synonymous with war-loving Amazons. Sanape’s name is derived from a Circassian word for wine, though whether this was because she was from a wine-producing region or because she was a drunk is unknown. What we do know is that the Sinopeans celebrated their Amazonian history by issuing coins with Sanape’s image and held a bacchanalian procession on the city walls of women dressed as armed warriors.
The meaning of Sisyrbe is “Shaggy Goat-Skin”. Little is known of Sisyrbe, but given the meaning of her name, she must have cut a striking figure in the Ancient World. Actually, the reality is a little less hairy. Herodotus reported that several of the Libyan nomad tribes practiced free love, like the Amazons and the Massagetae, and noted that the women dressed in goat leather. In all likelihood, Sisyrbe is one of these nomad women.
The meaning of Pantariste is “Best of All,” so you have earned bragging rights. Use them wisely.
The meaning of Hypsicratea is “High or Mighty Power.” Hypsicratea was married to Mithradates, the famed Poison King, and they are often depicted riding together on horseback. “The queen Hypsicratea loved her husband Mithradates with boundless affection,” wrote Valerius Maximus. “She was happy to trade her splendid beauty for a masculine style, for she cut her hair and accustomed herself to riding horses and using weapons so that she could participate in the king’s toils and share his dangers.”
The meaning of Atalanta is “Equal, Balanced.” Atalanta is the original Amazon, selected to accompany Hercules on his quest for the Golden Fleece. Self-reliant, with a “fiery, masculine gaze,” she wrestled like a bear and could outrun any animal or man.
This information is taken from Adrienne Mayor’s new book The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women across the Ancient World. You can read a free excerpt from the book here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s10302.pdf
Inspired by new research by Adrienne Mayor, available for the first time in her forthcoming book The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women across the Ancient World, we present this personality quiz. Leave a comment below with your Amazon alter ego. If you want to read more information about these women, please click here.
Throwback Thursday: Week 3
It’s Thursday again, folks, and you know what that means: time for a Throwback (#TBT)! This week’s #TBT honors Erwin Goodenough’s Jewish Symbols in the Greco-Roman Period (1992), another fundamental text found in the Princeton Legacy Library. Here’s a little bit of information on your favorite relic – both a literal and figurative designation, in this case:
This volume presents the most important portions of Erwin Goodenough’s classic thirteen-volume work, a magisterial attempt to encompass human spiritual history in general through the study of Jewish symbols in particular. Revealing that the Jewish religion of the period was much more varied and complex than the extant Talmudic literature would lead us to believe, Goodenough offered evidence for the existence of a Hellenistic-Jewish mystic mythology far closer to the Qabbalah than to rabbinical Judaism.
David M. Hay of Studia Philonia Annual 1 praises the volume, saying that, “[s]ince [Jacob Neusner's one-volume abridgement] presents the fruits of Goodenough’s decades-long study of ancient Jewish art, climaxed by his study of the third-century synagogue at Dura-Europas, it is probably the best introduction to Goodenough’s mature thought. Neusner contributes a twenty-nine-page foreword that explains the enduring importance of the entire thirteen-volume work.”
And if we’ve peaked your interest with this book, you can find similar materials over in Mythos: The Princeton/Bollingen Series in World Mythology. We hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of Throwback Thursday (#TBT), and we’ll see you next week!
Throwback Thursday: Week 2
Hello again, everybody! Welcome to our second installment of Throwback Thursday (#TBT). This week’s #TBT goes to Bruce Aune’s Kant’s Theory of Morals (1980), another wonderful book brought back by the graces of the Princeton Legacy Library.
A brief description, for your viewing (and reading) pleasure:
Written for the general reader and the student of moral philosophy, this book provides a clear and unified treatment of Kant’s theory of morals. Bruce Aune takes into account all of Kant’s principal writings on morality and presents them in a contemporary idiom.
We hope you’re enjoying these soundbites - leave word in comments section below if there are any books you’d like to see featured in future #TBTs. Until next Thursday!
- Residents of colonial Cuba could be punished for insulting the Cuban Trogon, a red-breasted bird whose plumage was seen as representing the red sash worn by Spanish kings.
- Ackee with salt fish is Jamaica’s national dish, but the fruit can be highly poisonous if harvested or cooked incorrectly
- The earliest attempt to import breadfruit into the Caribbean was thwarted by a famous mutiny — the one on the H.M.S. Bounty, which was carrying the seedlings among its cargo.
- You can tell which way the wind blows on a given island by looking at the coconut palm trees, which often leans in the direction of the prevailing breeze.
- The Caribbean is home to dozens of species of bats, about half of which are endemic to the islands.
- The Red Junglefowl found in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and the Grenadines is actually the feral offspring of formerly domesticated roosters and chickens.
- Crocodiles are native to Cuba, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti.
- Barracudas have been known to attack divers wearing sparkly clothing, which they can mistake for prey.
- The black grouper can grow to four feet long and change its sex from female to male.
- The Caribbean spiny lobster can swim backwards by flipping its tail.
Whether you are traveling to the Caribbean by plane or by cruise ship, make sure you pack a copy of Wildlife of the Caribbean by Herbert A. Raffaele and James W. Wiley so you can learn more about the birds, fish, mammals, and plants you might see.
Credit — these fun facts were included in About.com Caribbean Travel’s review of Wildlife of the Caribbean.
Quick Questions for Adrienne Mayor, author of The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women Across the Ancient World
Adrienne Mayor is a research scholar in classics and the history of science at Stanford University. Her work searches for precursors to modern science in mythologies and folk traditions of peoples around the world. Mayor’s previous books include The First Fossil Hunters: Paleontology in Greek and Roman Times (2000) and Fossil Legends of the First Americans (2007), which examine pre-Darwinian cultural awareness of prehistoric life in antiquity and Native America, linking legends of monsters to the discovery of fossils. Her biography The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome’s Deadliest Enemy was a finalist for 2009 National Book Award in Nonfiction and won the 2010 Gold Medal in Biography at the Independent Publisher Book Awards.
Mayor’s upcoming book, The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women across the Ancient World, explores the familiar Greek myth of warrior women from a global perspective. Citing stories from China, India, Egypt, Persia, and Central Asia, as well as new archaeological discoveries, Mayor unearths the roots of Amazon legends and reveals some surprising insights on gender in the ancient world.
Now, on to the questions!
What would you have been if not an historian?
If I had not become so obsessed with uncovering germs of historical and scientific realities in ancient mythology and legends, I would still be a full-time freelance copyeditor for about a dozen trade publishers and university presses (including Princeton University Press). That was my career until I published my first book (The First Fossil Hunters for PUP, 2000). Before I began concentrating on writing, in my free time I was an artist, making and selling etchings illustrating stories based on my readings in classical literature.
“I find writing a book a slow, intricate process, a kind of obstacle course punctuated with great rewards.”
What was the most influential book you’ve read?
Two influential books: The Histories of Herodotus, the world’s first “anthropologist,” an insatiably curious Greek historian who reported on barbarian cultures based on his research, travels, and interviews in the fifth century BC. I was also influenced by Mott T. Greene’s Natural Knowledge in Preclassical Antiquity (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992).
Describe your writing process. How long did it take you to finish your book? Where do you write?
I had been gathering material about ancient women warriors for decades. But I began the serious research for The Amazons in 2009 and started the actual writing in 2012. I find writing a book a slow, intricate process, a kind of obstacle course punctuated with great rewards. But research is always thrilling and I tend to incorporate newfound material up to the very last minute. I write in two very different places: my desk in Palo Alto, California is piled high with myriad jumbled books and papers whose stratigraphy is a challenge. Summers in Bozeman, Montana, I write in a spare space, surrounded by interesting rocks and fossils instead of books, on an old oak table with nothing but my laptop.
What was the most interesting thing you learned from writing this book?
Thanks to modern DNA testing, we now know that a significant number of battle-scarred skeletons buried with weapons in ancient steppe nomad graves belonged to women, the real-life models for Greek myths about Amazons. So Amazons were not just a figment of the Greek imagination, brought to life in exciting myths only to be killed off by Greek heroes. But even more surprising, it turns out that the Greeks were not the only people of antiquity to spin tales about heroic warrior women. And the non-Greek stories of warlike women differ radically from the dark mythic script demanding death for all Amazons. Instead, legendary heroes of Persia, Egypt, and Asia were so impressed with the valor of their female foes that they desired the women as companions in love and war. We are used to thinking of Amazon myths in terms of violence against uppity women, but the ancient evidence also reveals a vision of gender equality.
How did you come up with the title and jacket?
My working title was “Amazons in Love and War” because there are as many romances as battle stories about warrior women. The final title embraces both mythology and history and conveys the geographic scope of the book far beyond the ancient Mediterranean world. I wanted to find a unique picture for the cover, something arresting and unexpected, a departure from the standard classical Greek vase or Roman statue. I was struck by the strong image and narrative quality of a postage stamp issued by the Kyrgyz Republic. It shows the horsewoman-archer Saikal, heroine of the most famous Central Asian epic poem Manas. The black and white illustration is by Teodor Gercen, a German artist who worked in Kyrgyzstan.
What are you reading right now?
I am enjoying a well-researched adventure novel translated from Danish, The Lost Sisterhood (Random House, 2014) by Anne Fortier (Ph.D. Aarhus University, History of Ideas). The story follows an Oxford professor on a quest in North Africa and Troy to discover a legendary “Amazon treasure,” following clues left by her eccentric grandmother who claimed an Amazon queen as her ancestor.
Adrienne Mayor is the author of:
|The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women across the Ancient World by Adrienne Mayor
Hardcover | September 2014 | $29.95 / £19.95 | ISBN: 9780691147208
536 pp. | 6 x 9 | 10 maps | Reviews