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Amazons, ancient roman warriors in a battle.	Source: neurobite/Adobe Stock

“Vaginas Have Received You, And You Know Of Nothing Else!” - Finding The Amazons

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Feminist Amazons?

In the conclusion to her essay in the Feminist Theology magazine Olga Papamichali writes:

“The independent and radical nature of the Amazon spirit changed the way men used to see female gender in ancient Greece and in the ancient world, in general, questioning male domination by risking and sacrificing their lives for their feministic fight.” (Amazons: The Reality Behind Their Legend, Olga Papamichali, 2023)

Lesbian Amazons?

“The Amazon has been an enduring figure of inspiration for lesbians, women of all kinds, and transgender men...In the 1970s, lesbian feminists in the United States adopted the Amazons as their forebears as they defied patriarchy and decided to live without men, in a fashion that became known as lesbian separatism.” (Walter Duvall Penrose, Jr.: Introduction: The appeal of the Amazons, Journal of Lesbian Studies, 2024.)

Transgender Amazons?

However, the Amazons have not only been espoused by feminists and lesbians, gender nonconformists have also adopted them as their symbol, claiming thereby to be their direct inheritors. In many re-tellings of the myth, the Amazons are equated with men. This led author Leslie Feinberg (Transgender Warriors, 1996, pp. 22, 57–58) to include the Amazons in the book.

West Coast of Asia Minor, Scythia, or Sarmatia?

According to Greek mythological chronology the earliest stories about Amazons locate them in the regions of Lycia, Caria, Lydia, and Troy, and ultimately relocates them in Themiscyra near the coast of the Black Sea. Classical chronology dates this period to c.1335-1184 BC. This is centuries before the arrival of the Scythians or the Sarmatians with whom the Amazons were later equated, but which synchronizes closely with Hittite historical records concerning Arzawa and Ahhiyawa and events in western Asia Minor.

Amazon women triumph in battle. (Public Domain)

Amazon women triumph in battle. (Public Domain)

The Scythians do not appear until much later. They were a nomadic people who are known from as early as the 9th century BC who migrated west from Central Asia to southern Russia and Ukraine in the 8th and 7th centuries.

They established an empire centered on the Crimea. It survived for a few centuries before succumbing to the Sarmatians in the 4th century BC. The origins of the Sarmatians is revealed by their alternative name of Sauromatians, or ‘lizard eyes’ indicating thereby a far eastern origin. As can be readily seen, the peoples the Greeks and Romans designated as ‘Amazons’ were in fact ethnically diverse and not one cohesive group. The common element was that all these groups were located in regions which ultimately became subject to colonization by Greek speaking migrants.

The author’s work entitled Atlantis, the Amazons, and the Birth of Athene pinpoints the locations and identities of the earliest layers of the Amazon mythos. They in fact represent the indigenous populations encountered by the early Greeks as they rose to power on the Mediterranean seaboard of Asia Minor. It is this layer that is the focus of the present work.


The Amazons were portrayed by the Greeks as women. However as will be demonstrated, what one is dealing with is evidently propaganda perpetrated by the Greek victors against their enemies. Propaganda as defined by Arlin Cuncic:

 “is a type of communication that often involves sharing biased or misleading information to promote a particular agenda or point of view. Propaganda is used to influence people's opinions...Propaganda is often used in war...War propaganda often relies on misinformation and name-calling or the use of derogatory terms to achieve its goals.”  (The Anxiety Workbook 2017)

  • A wide variety of propaganda techniques are listed by Cuncic among which are:
  • Name-calling: using derogatory terms to describe an opponent or enemy.
  • Manipulating Information: involves distorting or misrepresenting the facts to influence people's opinions.
  • Stereotyping: is a technique that uses oversimplified and often inaccurate ideas or beliefs to describe an opponent or enemy.
  • Snob appeal: uses the idea of exclusivity to make something seem more desirable.
  • Loaded language: uses language to evoke certain emotions or feelings. (Donald Trump is a past master in the use of all these tactics)

In reality there were no armies or societies based exclusively upon women or transgender males. Having said this does not downplay the role of women in antiquity.

Victorian Misconceptions

Martine de Mare writes:

“Valor was almost exclusively the preserve of men and being publicly honored for that valor remained overwhelmingly the preserve of the elite male. If you were not at the top of the social hierarchy of the ancient world, it meant, firstly, that your story — that of sub-elite classes, of other ethnic groups and of women — was tangential to that of the male elite warrior. Fortunately for us, this tangential information reveals that women and other marginalized groups played more of a role in the military conflicts of their cities than might be supposed... even if you were not fighting on the battlefield, in times of crisis it was in the interest of every inhabitant of a besieged city to play a role, however small, in its defense —the poor, the disabled, slaves and women.”

Whilst they didn’t form marauding armies, women have always played an important role in the maintenance and defense of their communities. Thus, the extreme portrayal of women as helpless and cowering in the corner, while their men valiantly defend them against unspeakable odds, as depicted by upper-class Victorian ethos and early 20th-century Hollywood potboilers, is equally false.

De Mare notes:

Polarization of the Other was intensified in periods of extreme conflict, and often a narrative of propaganda in the hands of the elite. War was therefore a great catalyst of polarities which defined and boosted the identity of those who engaged in battle. It therefore also intensified polarities in the areas of class and gender: it was thought shameful for a soldier to be identified with the Other, a slave or a woman.” (Women and Warfare in the Ancient World, Martine De Marre 2021)

Not Women, Not Transgender

The designation of woman in antiquity delineated physical weakness in relation to a male. It was commonly used as an insult - it still is. Thus, in the Iliad at 7.80, Menelaus addresses his troops and calls them women for not meeting Hector’s challenge. Even Plato consistently characterizes women as being weak and cowardly. In Timaeus (90e-91a) he states that men who have lived cowardly lives will be reincarnated as women. However it is a grave error of modern scholarship to merely assert that “ the myths of the Amazons being defeated at the hands of Greek men certainly may have served an ideo­logical function—to reinforce traditional Greek gender roles” (Walter Duvall Penrose, Jr.) or to focus on questions such as “ Could these myths be a reflection of the patriarchal society in Greece, in which violence against women was normalized or even eroticized?” (The Amazons, Classical Association 2023). The latter are certainly not the underlying reasons as to why the Amazon mythos arose.

Roman mosaic depicting hippeus in combat with Amazon, 4th century AD. (Jacques MOSSOT/ CC BY-SA 4.0)

 Roman mosaic depicting hippeus in combat with Amazon, 4th century AD. (Jacques MOSSOT/ CC BY-SA 4.0)

Defeated Enemies

The common element in the Amazon myths is that they are invariably defeated by the Greek heroes. Indeed the only time Amazons were depicted as victorious is in the myth of Myrina as told by Diodorus Siculus (although even she too is ultimately defeated on her return to Asia Minor). The latter myth however pertains to a much earlier period, 1700 BC and reflects elements of the Hyksos takeover of Egypt rather than the post 1300 BC era as explained in the author’s work entitled Atlantis, the Amazons, and the Birth of Athene and subsequent articles published on the Ancient Origins website.

There is one overriding element that the entire Middle Eastern region (if not the world) shares throughout its diverse cultures is that defeated enemies were consistently referred to as women.

For example, an Amorite leader criticized another for not joining him to campaign with Zimrilim of Mari (c. 1775–1761 BC) as follows:

“You’re unworthy of your race! At the very place where your father and mother first saw your face when you dropped from her vagina, vaginas have received you, and you know of nothing else!”

Gina Konstantopoulos writes:

The trope of equating masculinity with warrior qualities and martial prow­ess is broadly represented throughout the ancient Near East. Arising from the ubiquity of this imagery, we see the emergence, primarily in the latter half of the second millennium BC, of specific type of insults and curses, whereby men, particularly in a martial context, are threatened with the removal of their masculine (namely warrior) abilities and the imposition of enforced feminin­ity. Their weapons are taken from them, and they are rendered powerless and equated directly to women.” (Gender, Identity, and Cursing in Mesopotamia, Gina Konstantopoulos, 2020)

Amazon queen with her bow preparing for a battle. (Public Domain)

Amazon queen with her bow preparing for a battle. (Public Domain)

The Bow as a Metaphor

Greek texts characterized the Amazon women as experts with the bow. Ilona Zsolnay points out the significance of the bow in the middle east, she writes:

“The bow in Akkadian curses, incantations and other literature, also directly formed part of this constellation as a particularized simile for the erect penis or for an aggressive male sexuality... In one, for instance, taking away the enemy’s bow is enough to turn him into a woman. The enemy warrior without a bow is then a man without a penis. But a man without a bow/penis is not a eunuch. He is worse. He is a woman.”

Victory Stele of Naram-Sin. The Curse of Agade is a story from the Ur III Period of Mesopotamia. It narrates the tale of Akkadian king Naram-Sin and his confrontation with the gods. (Rama/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Victory Stele of Naram-Sin. The Curse of Agade is a story from the Ur III Period of Mesopotamia. It narrates the tale of Akkadian king Naram-Sin and his confrontation with the gods. (Rama/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Turning Men into Women

The defeated were not only routinely described as women, they were also in many instances literally emasculated. The rape of enemy soldiers on the battlefield, a well-documented ancient practice, is similarly a gendered act that womanizes the defeated.

Israel (Late 11th Century BC)

In 1 Samuel 18: 25 Saul demands one hundred Philistine ‘foreskins’ (i.e. penises) from David in return for his daughter. This is not just an act of castration, it is an affront to gender, calling into question Philistine manly honor. David delivers twice what is required.

“David arose and went, he and his men, and slew of the Philistines two hundred men; and David brought their foreskins, and they gave them in full tale to the king, that he might be the king’s son in law. And Saul gave him Michal his daughter to wife.” (Samuel 18:27)

Cynthia R. Chapman writes:

"Feminization in both sets of texts [ancient Near East and Hebrew Bible] is used metaphorically to discredit a man on the battlefield, and the associated commonplaces of feminization are broken, missing, or removed weapons, implements of weaving, a bowed posture, labor pains, sexual exposure, and prostitution." (The Gendered Language of Warfare in the Israelite-Assyrian Encounter, 2004)


Reprisals against the dead became a feature of Assyrian royal inscriptions in the reign of TukultÏ-Ninurta I (r. 1243–1207 BC). By Sennacherib’s time the description of the battle of Æalulê (691 BC) states:

 “With the bodies of their warriors I filled the plain like grass. Their testicles I cut off and tore out their privates like the seeds of cucumbers of Siwan.”

(Death and Dismemberment in Mesopotamia, Seth Richardson 2007)

Detail of a symbolic base with a cuneiform inscription of Tukulti-Ninurta I, 13th century BCE. From the Temple of Ishtar at Assur, Iraq. Pergamon Museum, Berlin, Germany. (Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP(Glasg)/CC BY-SA 4.0)

Detail of a symbolic base with a cuneiform inscription of Tukulti-Ninurta I, 13th century BCE. From the Temple of Ishtar at Assur, Iraq. Pergamon Museum, Berlin, Germany. (Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP(Glasg)/CC BY-SA 4.0)


Uroš Matić writes:

“In ancient Egypt, there seems to have been a long tradition of feminization rhetoric with early examples dating to the Middle Kingdom. Similar expressions are found in Nubian texts, too. Pharaoh is the representative of ideal masculinity and his enemies of failed masculinity associated to femininity.”

(Violence and Gender in Ancient Egypt, Uroš Matić, 2021)

The Narmer Palette dating from the reign of the king Narmer (c. 3273–2987 BC) depicts two rows of decapitated and bound enemies, with their genitalia placed on their heads. This detail commemorates a victory celebration. The scene has been described as the “aftermath of an act of punishment, the execution and deliberate humiliation of enemy prisoners, decapitated and emasculated”; the severed phalli are displayed prominently as a way to “heap insult upon injury” to the slain enemies. (The Narmer Palette: An Overlooked Detail. Davies V, Friedman R, 2002.)

Both sides of the Narmer Palette (Public Domain)

Both sides of the Narmer Palette (Public Domain)

Pharaoh Merenptah (ruled c. 1213 -1203 BC) of the 19th Dynasty sought to humiliate his traditional enemies, referred to as “Nine Bows”:

Nine Bows are before him [the king] like women of the harem.” (Kom el-Ahmar Stele; Matić 2021, 116)

Merneptah waged war  in 1208 against a combined “Libyan” army and an invading horde of “Sea Peoples”. He was victorious and, as recorded in the Ahthribis Stele in the Cairo Museum:

“the uncircumcised phalli from the slain Libyans were carried off…to the place where the king was totaling 6,111 men…” In total, the Egyptians amassed 13,240 severed penises and did not discriminate among rank or nation.

Ramses III (c. 1186-1155 BC):

His soldiers collected thousands of penises following the battle of Khesef-Tamahu (in present day Syria).These offerings are depicted on the walls of Medinet Habu Temple, where Ramses’ subjects are seen laying enemy hands and penises at his feet. Notably the defeated enemies a coalition of Peleset, Tjeker, Denyen, Shekelesh and Weshesh were possibly peoples who originated from regions in western Asia Minor the very same regions the Greek myths ascribe to the early Amazons. Rameses by emasculating his enemies had effectively turned them into an army of women.

Medinet Habu Temple, Piles of Genitals. An accounting method of determining how many killed in battle. (Steven C. Price/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Medinet Habu Temple, Piles of Genitals. An accounting method of determining how many killed in battle. (Steven C. Price/CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Triumphal Stela of Piye, a Kushite king, and founder of the 25th dynasty (Cairo JE 48862, 47086–47089, lines149–150): “Now these kings and counts of North-land came to behold His Majesty’s beauty, their legs being the legs of women...You return having conquered North-land; making bulls into women”

The Amazon Breast

Much has been written as to whether or not the Amazons seared or removed one breast in order to be able to shoot arrows, and as to whether the word Amazon is linked to the Greek words for without a breast (amaston/ άμαστον/ ἀμαζός). This masculine form therefore implies “without a manly breast” or lacking in courage. There are many theories, but hitherto scant attention has been paid to the fact, as elucidated in this article, that referring to defeated enemies as women, lacking courage, was commonplace throughout the middle east in antiquity. The fact that the Greeks portrayed their enemies as women is in fact a huge joke. It was propaganda of the first order and nothing more.  Likewise the imagery of Amazons as being expert with the bow. The bow as noted earlier was itself a metaphor in the middle east for the penis and manliness.

Clay statue of a Mattei-type Amazon, Numismatic Museum of Athens, Greece. (George E. Koronaios/CC BY-SA 4.0)

Clay statue of a Mattei-type Amazon, Numismatic Museum of Athens, Greece. (George E. Koronaios/CC BY-SA 4.0)

It is in this context that one needs to read into the story of the women amputating one breast in order to fight more effectively which is a patently false assertion. Men do not have breasts, but they do have penises which when severed effectively turned them into women. Was the word Amazon therefore actually at an early metaphor for a castrated enemy?

Nic Costa the author of Searching for Joanna- the Real Arodafnousa: Pierre I de Lusignan and Joanna L'Aleman and Atlantis, the Amazons, and the Birth of Athene: The True Story

Top image: Amazons, ancient roman warriors in a battle.               Source: neurobite/Adobe Stock

By Nicholas Costa


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Costa, N. 2023. Atlantis, the Amazons, and the Birth of Athene.

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2024. The Rise And Fall Of Seth, Egyptian God Of Volcanism

2024. The Enigma Of Egyptian Sekhmet And Leonine Deities

2024. Amazon Myrina, Destroyer of Cerne, Conqueror of Atlantians – Myth Or Proto History?

2024. Ancient Markers of Traumatic Events: The Era of Menophres, Sothis, Osiris, and Noah


Frequently Asked Questions

In Greek mythology, the Amazons were depicted as a tribe of warrior women who lived in a matriarchal society with minimal male presence, primarily interacting with men only for reproduction. Male offspring were often sent away or abandoned, and any males within Amazonian society typically held subordinate roles.

Yes, in Greek mythology, the Amazons were renowned as formidable warrior women. They were depicted as highly skilled in combat, often engaging in battles with Greek heroes and participating in significant mythological events such as the Trojan War.


Nic Costa is a graduate of the Royal College of Art. He is a freelance writer, lecturer, and artist who boasts the unique distinction of having discovered the site of a hitherto unknown crusader castle in the west of Cyprus.... Read More

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