Amazonomachy

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In Greek mythology, Amazonomachy (English translation: "Amazon battle"; plural, Amazonomachiai (Ancient Greek: Ἀμαζονομαχίαι) or Amazonomachies (Greek: Αμαζονομαχίες)) was the portrayal of the mythical battle between the Ancient Greeks and the Amazons, a nation of all-female warriors. Many of the myths portrayed were that of Heracles' ninth labor, which was the retrieval of the girdle of Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, and of Theseus' abduction of Hippolyta, whom he claimed as his wife. Another famous scene portrayed is that of Achilles' victorious battle against Penthesilea during the Trojan war.

Symbolism of Amazonomachy[edit]

Amazonomachy represents the Greek ideal of civilization. The Amazons were portrayed as a savage and barbaric race, while the Greeks were portrayed as a civilized race of human progress. According to Bruno Snell's view of Amazonomachy

For the Greeks, the Titanomachy and the battle against the giants remained symbols of the victory which their own world had won over a strange universe; along with the battles against the Amazons and Centaurs they continue to signalize the Greek conquest of everything barbarous, of all monstrosity and grossness.[1]

Amazonomachy is also seen as the rise of feminism in Greek culture. In Homer's Iliad, Penthesilea, an Amazonian queen, who joined on the side of the Trojans during the Trojan war, was quoted at Troy, saying:

Not in strength are we inferior to men; the same our eyes, our limbs the same; one common light we see, one air we breathe; nor different is the food we eat. What then denied to us hath heaven on man bestowed?[2]

According to Josine Blok, Amazonomachy provides two different contexts in defining a Greek hero. Either the Amazons are one of the disasters from which the hero rids the country after his victory over a monster; or they are an expression of the underlying Attis motif, in which the hero shuns human sexuality in marriage and procreation.[3]

In the 5th century, the Achaemenid Empire of Persia began a series of invasions against Ancient Greece. Because of this, some scholars believe that on most 5th-century Greek art, the Persians were shown allegorically, through the figure of centaurs and Amazons.[4]

In art[edit]

West metopes of Parthenon[edit]

Kalamis, a Greek sculptor, is attributed to designing the west metopes of the Parthenon, a temple on the Athenian Acropolis dedicated to the Greek goddess Athena. The west metopes of the Parthenon depict a battle between Greeks and Amazons. Despite its mutilated state, scholars generally concur that the scene represents the Amazon invasion of Attica.[5]

Shield of Athena Parthenos[edit]

The shield of Athena Parthenos, sculpted by Phideas, depicts a fallen Amazon. Athena Parthenos was a massive chryselephantine sculpture dedicated to Athena, created inside the Parthenon at Athens, but later removed by the Romans.[6]

Bassae Frieze in Temple of Apollo[edit]

The Bassae Frieze in the Temple of Apollo at Bassae contains a number of slabs portraying Trojan Amazonomachy and Heraclean Amazonomachy. The Trojan Amazonomachy spans three blocks, displaying the eventual death of Penthesilea at the hands of Achilles. The Heraclean Amazonomachy spans eight blocks and represents the struggle of Heracles to seize the belt of the Amazon queen Hippolyta.[7]

Amazonomachy frieze from Mausoleum at Halicarnassos[edit]

The Amazonomachy frieze depicts Heracles grasping an Amazon by the hair, while holding a club behind his head in a striking manner. This Amazon is believed to be the Amazon queen Hippolyta. Behind Heracles is a scene of a Greek warrior clashing shields with an Amazon warrior. The opposite side of the slab displays a mounted Amazon charging at a Greek, who is defending himself with a raised shield. This Greek is believed to be Theseus, who joined Heracles during his labors.

Gallery[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ DuBois, Page (1982). Centaurs and Amazons: Women and the Pre-History of the Great Chain of Being
  2. ^ Homer, Iliad
  3. ^ Blok, Josine (1994). The Early Amazons: Modern and Ancient Perspectives on a Persistent Myth
  4. ^ DuBois, Page (1982). Centaurs and Amazons: Women and the Pre-History of the Great Chain of Being
  5. ^ Castriota, David (1992). Myth, Ethos, and Actuality: Official Art in Fifth Century B.C. Athens
  6. ^ Castriota, David (1992). Myth, Ethos, and Actuality: Official Art in Fifth Century B.C. Athens
  7. ^ Cooper, Frederick (1992). The Temple of Apollo Bassitas: The Sculpture, Volume 2

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]