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Postcolonial AmazonsFemale Masculinity and Courage in Ancient Greek and Sanskrit Literature$
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Walter Duvall Penrose, Jr.

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780199533374

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199533374.001.0001

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Orientalized Amazons

Orientalized Amazons

From imagined to historical warrior women

(p.67) 2 Orientalized Amazons
Postcolonial Amazons

Walter Duvall Penrose

Oxford University Press

In Greek legend, the Amazons were considered to be better, faster, and smarter than men. Amazons were the prototype of female masculinity, but their historicity has been controversial. Archaeological evidence of women buried with weapons among ancient Scythians, Sauromatians, and Thracians suggests that there is a kernel of truth in the Amazon legends, but that the ancient Greeks subsumed women warriors from these various ethnicities into one single ethnic group: the Amazons. Once the imaginary Amazons had been created out of the raw material of history, they took on a life of their own in ancient Greek culture. Although Amazons are often thought of as an “other,” they played a central role in Greek religion. A thorough investigation of the Amazons problematizes the theory of the “other” through which the myth of the Amazons has been largely understood. The Amazons were an “Orientalized” fabrication of historical warrior women.

Keywords:   Amazon, warrior women, Scythian, Sauromatian, Orientalism, Greek religion, initiation rites, eroticism, other, female homoeroticism

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