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Meet the Amazonian Warriors That Inspired Wonder Woman

Things are getting pretty exciting in the world of movies based on comic books as the trailer for the long-anticipated Wonder Woman movie. Gal Gadot will portray the iconic superheroine in 2017, and I’m beyond excited to see if Gadot will do the character justice, and if director Zack Snyder will finally stop using lazily written ‘strong’ female leads as a crutch and instead actually writing a genuinely strong one (for failed attempts see: 300 or Immortals). One pretty cool fact about Wonder Woman that we’re interested to see portrayed is that she’s supposedly an Amazon Warrior. An even cooler fact is that these women actually existed thousands of years ago. While they may not have had super powers and alter egos, these ladies were a ruthless and powerful group, and I thought it would be fitting to attempt to give you all a brief crash course on what the real life Amazon Warriors were like so that you can go see Wonder Woman and judge for yourselves just how accurate her character is in terms of being an Amazon.

15 The Amazon Warriors did not actually come from the Amazon

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So, first of all, a lot of you are probably asking yourselves, “who the hell are these real life Amazon Warriors she’s talking about?” Well here’s the scoop: these “Amazon Warriors” were actually not based in the Amazon Rainforest, contrary to popular belief (and contrary to what their name implies). The women were natives to a place called Scythia, which can be linked to having female warriors based on clues from its burial sites, many female graves containing knives, daggers, tools, and other items previously associated purely with men. If you’ve ever read the ancient Greek playwright Aristophanes’ piece titled, “Lysistrata,” you’d be familiar with how the women of this region were perceived. They were tough, buff, and wouldn’t take any of anyone’s...stuff (there, now you can read this to your kids, and it rhymes). While the Scythian woman is also described in a pretty unflattering way by one of the main character, Lysistrata’s, friends, she proves herself to be undeniably loyal, level-headed, and brave.

14 Their name comes from root words rather than a place

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Now that where the Amazonian Warriors originate from and what their personalities were like has been explained, back to this whole "being called Amazons even though they’re not from the Amazon" thing, which, if you’re anything like me, is really bothering you. The "Amazon" in this group of women’s titled actually has nothing to do with where they lived. According to modern linguists, the name is actually based on ancient Iranian or Caucasian root words, meaning the word can be broken up into parts, each part translating into something that bears significance to who the women were. While linguists still aren't sure what exactly the term "Amazon" translates into, the indication of Iranian or Caucasian origins places these women far from the Amazon of South America.

13 A Greek meaning was still assigned to their name

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As mentioned before, no one really knows what "Amazon" means in relation to these women, but the term became subject to a bit of ancient mansplaining. Here’s what went down: a historian of old decided that he thought the only way these women could be such skilled fighters, specifically in the field of archery, was if they removed one of their ever so burdening breasts. To match his bias, he falsified a Greek meaning for the word “Amazones” from the prefix a for “lack” and -mazon, which kind of sounded like the Greek word for breast.

According to his totally scientific theory, the removal of the breast had some kind of aerodynamic effect that made their arrows move even more speedily than that of their opposing man’s through the air. Seems legit, right? Except for the fact there is no proof in any Ancient paintings that these women were ever observed with less than two breasts. Unfortunately, a bunch of historians of later times believed the myth and propagated it as fact for years after, resulting in the women still facing this fabricated identity to this day.

12 They were highly skilled archers

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Although they used all kinds of weapons, from swords to spears, as indicated in the previous entry, the Amazons obviously knew how to shoot a bow and arrow as well. Except they did more than shoot them, they mastered them. From the use of these weapons, to the creation of them, these natives to Scythia knew their way around this special type of weapon. Their native land was even said to have perfected the art of bow-making. Armed with these handmade bows, the women went off to battle alongside, and against men, with fine-tuned skills in the use of this difficult to master weapon. In short, these talented ladies were like the Katniss Everdeens of old.

11 They actually had TONS of wealth

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These women were might very well have been the originators of the concept that men "don't need no man" to get things done and make lots of money while they're at it. The Amazons must have gone on some serious escapades, or had some hidden mining talents, because sites have been discovered where ancient Scythia once was that contain piles and piles of golden objects. Whether these were gifts, battle prizes, or made by the people themselves is unknown, but no matter the method, a whole lot of gold wound up in the hands of these fearsome warriors. Now, ladies, use that as a retort the next time someone tries to tell you that a woman can't support herself without a man. Fact is, we've been doing it for years (and years and years and years).

10 They rode horses

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Because the difficult task of riding a horse was often left to the men of a civilization in ancient times, women, for the most part, rarely traveled. However, the women of Scythia served as a drastic exception. They not only traveled with horses, they even battled with horses, and they did this all while riding bareback. Much like archery, this task took an immense amount of skill, requiring the women to find a centre of gravity and rigidly stick to it, all the while digging their feet as they hard as they could into the sides of their horses as there were no stirrups to pt there feet in. Imagine it: a woman wielding a bow and arrow is pretty intimidating; a woman with a bow and arrow on a horse? The opposition probably peed themselves.

9 They wore pants

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Maybe this fact is where the phrase "so and so where's the pants in the household" comes from? Seeing as the women's counterparts were still wearing mostly skirts and togas, it only makes sense. Who knows for sure, but what we do know is that the invention of trousers was credited by the Greeks to three different warrior women: the mythical sorceress Medea, Assyrian Queen Semiramis and Queen Rhodogune. The women's invention was then adopted by even more cool women. That's right, the Amazons. Trousers were invented for the riding of horses, which serves as even further proof of the Amazons dedication to being on horseback, while the Greek men and women rejected the trousers as an abomination worn by barbarians. As one of the principal kinds of pants for both genders in the modern day, who's laughing now?

8 Some women had battle scars so deep, they can be observed today

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So what evidence is it exactly that tells us these women were fearsome warriors? Sure, a good majority of women in what was once ancient Scythia have been found buried with weapons, but maybe that was just a Scythian thing, maybe they wanted to give their women weapons for the afterlife, like the ancient Egyptians wanted to give riches. Yet somehow, we know that isn't true. Why is that? Well, not only were these women buried with weapons, they were buried with scars. Some of those scars were so deep they hit bone and archaeologists of today can observe them and officially banish any doubt that these women fought and sustained injuries in battle.

7 Men didn't have the nerve to ridicule them

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Obviously if you're a woman in the modern day, your actions have probably been subject to scrutiny by some men. Whether you're a fashion blogger or a national hero, men don't seem to care what you do, as long as you're a woman. They pinpoint little things to criticize, like stretch marks and wearing makeup, while ignoring the impressive things the women are actually doing. In ancient times, when speaking of Scythian women, the men did not have that kind of nerve. They knew their places as well as they knew what these women were capable of. From historians to Hesiod's (mythical) histories, the women made appearances as worthy opponents. While their clothes might have been ridiculed, and false stories may have been spread about maiming male offspring, no one dared to discount what the women were doing in terms of their fight.

6 Through ancient art, they are one of the most courageously depicted groups

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Although the Greeks were disturbed by many of the Amazons' practices, they were also extremely fascinated by these strange women. Seemingly from a different world than their wives, daughters, and the other women they drew inspiration from, Greek artists in particular took special interest in the Amazons and their visual depiction. It is evident that there was at least some level of respect among Greek artists for these women as the Amazons appeared on vases as beautiful, strong, and esteemed warriors, rather than as scary and depraved monsters as seen in paintings of other opposing women, like Medusa. They are even hardly ever shown gesturing for mercy, encapsulating the undying courageous Amazon spirit that even the Greeks couldn't hate on.

5 They had their own island

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We all hear about celebrities buying their own islands and immediately start boiling with jealousy, right? Fun fact: the Amazons had one too. The only island off the southern coast of the Black Sea seems a fitting location for these dark-hearted independent women. An altar on this island where the Amazons supposedly sacrificed horses and performed rituals before going to war was first mentioned in the epic poem The Argonauts penned by Apollonius of Rhodes. The famed argonaut, Jason, discovers this altar on what he describes as Amazon Island, meaning even during his time period, The Bronze Age, tales of Amazon women were being told. Now called Giresun Island, Turkish archaeologists recently backed up Jason's ancient claims by discovering the altar and temple ruins mentioned in the epic poem.

4 They were not total man-haters

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These women are also stereotyped as lesbian man-haters, much like modern day feminists. Like any sample of people, some of the women probably were not heterosexual, especially given the discovered vase that details a Thracian huntress giving what appears to be a love gift to the Queen of Amazons, but there is no evidence that all of them were lesbians. In fact, Classics scholar Adrienne Mayor speculates that if they were all lesbians, ancient scholars definitely would have written about it, considering how comfortable people of that time were with the discussion of both male and female sexuality. Their emphasis on sisterhood was taken to be universal lesbianism first by the Russian poet Marina Tsetaeva in the 20th century and then more and more people took on that belief. But the ancient Greeks, (you know, the ones we're actually supposed to be believing), did not describe the Amazons as lesbians. In fact, they discussed a dichotomy among the women's temperaments towards men: both man-hating and man-loving, depending on the circumstances.

3 They gave each other tattoos

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Alright, so now we know all the things that made these women formidable enemies, and got some facts set straight, but now it’s time to spill some facts that support the claim that these women were just straight up cool. You know how tattoos have kind of lost their association with being scary after being adopted into hipster culture? Well, there were no hipsters around in the Amazons’ day, and the women took advantage of that. These images, delivered by hand rather than machine, served as symbols of these fierce women’s strength and endurance.

Similar to what cave drawings tell us about life in prehistoric times, preserved skins of uncovered Amazons tell us about the art and unique use of tattooing as decoration rather than punishment among this group. While it is still under speculation whether their tattoos were part of initiation, representative of special experiences, or just decorations, we do know that these women were among the first to bear animals and geometric designs upon their skins. Now next time your annoying hipster friend says they were into geometric design tattoos before it was cool, you can tell them they’re actually thousands of years too late.

2 They knew how to 'turn up'

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So I've already emphasized how important horses were to these women in terms of traveling, but what about in terms of providing, say, intoxicating substances? The mares that these women bred were used as modes of transportation as well as sources of milk. Except, the Amazons weren't putting the milk in their cereal or using it to make cheese as one might assume. No, this group of people made a powerful concoction called kumis by fermenting the mare's milk. They even used this powerful beverage during rituals, so those gatherings must have been pretty intense considering everyone was drunk at the time. Basically, if you didn't find these women relatable before, you ought to now if you've ever gone to a party with a friend to see if you really get along on that level.

1 The Amazons knew exactly how to relax

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If you’re still not impressed by these women’s wild, ahead of their time antics, I’ve got one more fact for you that might just change your mind. While historians can’t say for absolute certain this is true, there’s a whole lot of evidence that points to these women being very well-versed ‘herbologists.’ No, not like Professor Sprout in Harry Potter, more like James Franco in The Pineapple Express. If you’re not really into pop culture and are not following the references I’ll just come out and say it: these lovely ladies smoked pot. That’s right, you heard it here folks, these ancient women figured out the special properties of cannabis long before Bob Marley died for our sins on 4/20. According to studies, the women would get together in a tent (yeah, they hotboxed too), and use their "hemp-smoking kits," just like you favourite neghbourhood stoners of the modern day. In conclusion, yeah Wonder Woman (with luck) will be a great film, but, considering a lot of children will be going out to see it, it probably won’t offer full coverage on how Amazonian Warriors, Scythian women, or whatever you want to call them lived their lives.

 

Sources: nationalgeographic.com, nationalgeographic.com

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