Monday, February 9, 2015

The Amazons: Lives & Legends of Warrior Women Across The Ancient World - Adrienne Mayor

The Amazons: Lives And Legends Of Warrior Women Across The Ancient World - Adrienne Mayor
The Amazons: Lives And Legends Of Warrior Women Across The Ancient World
Adrienne Mayor
Princeton University Press
Copyright Date: September 22, 2014
978-0691147208

The amazon.com product description:
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 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.
This was the book I pre-ordered back in September on the strength of a friend's recommendation. I'm really glad I did, even though it took me a while to get through it.

The Amazons: Lives & Legends of Warrior Women Across The Ancient World is the first book I've heard of to specifically examine the evidence for the existence of the Amazons that we mostly know through ancient Greek legends.

Adrienne Mayor takes us through her conclusions in an orderly and easy to understand manner, using Greek primary source material - e.g. Herodotus and also the Greek myths as well as archaeological evidence - discussing where and how the two match up, as well as where they don't. After she's covered the Greek sources, she branches out into other cultures which have similar myths and does the same with them: India, the Persians, Chinese etc - as well as the surviving myths from the cultures that spawned the Amazons themselves.

Aiding in our journey through these myths are the numerous photographs and maps scattered throughout the book. Most of them are black and white, but there is also one section of colour-plates as well.

This was definitely an interesting read that's making me take a second look at what I thought I knew about some aspects of Greek culture and myth. Overall, I also have to say that Adrienne Mayor is a very good author who transmits information clearly and in an interesting manner - see also my review of her earlier book, Greek Fire, Poison Arrows and Scorpion Bombs.
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