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Form: Gr. Amazones; ="breastless".
A mythical nation of women-warriors, whose headquarters are placed by early Greek legend in Themiscyra, on the Thermodon, on the southern shore of the Euxine. In later accounts they also appear on the Caucasus and on the Don, where the nation called Sauromatae was supposed to have sprung from their union with the Scythians. They suffered no men among them; the sons born of their intercourse with neighbouring nations they either killed or sent back to their fathers; the girls they brought up to be warriors, burning the right breast off for the better handling of the bow. Their chief deities were said to be Ares and the Taurian Artemis. Even in Homer they are represented as making long marches into Asiatic territory; an army of them invading Lycia is cut to pieces by Bellerophon; Priam, then in his youth, hastens to help the Phrygians against them. They gained a firm footing in Greek song and story through Arctinus of Miletus, in whose poem their queen Penthesileia, daughter of Ares, as Priam's ally, presses hard on the Greeks, till she is slain by Achilles. After that they became a favourite subject with poets and artists, and a new crop of fable sprang up: Heracles wars against them, to win the girdle of their queen, Hippolyte; Theseus carries off her sister Antiope, they in revenge burst into Attica, encamp on the Areopagus of Athens, and are pacified by Antiope's mediation, or, according to another version, beaten in a great battle. Grave-mounds supposed to cover the bones of Amazons were shown near Megara, and in Euboea and Thessaly. In works of art the Amazons were represented as martial maids, though always with two breasts, and usually on horseback; sometimes in Scythian dress (a tight fur tunic, with a cloak of many folds over it, and a kind of Phrygian cap), sometimes in Grecian (a Dorian tunic tucked up and the right shoulder bare), armed with a half-moon shield, two-edged axe, spear, bow, and quiver, etc. The most famous statues of them in antiquity were those by Phidias, Polyclitus, and Cresilas, to one or other of which, as types, existing specimens are traceable. (See cut.) Among the surviving sculptures representing an Amazonian contest should be especially mentioned the reliefs from the frieze of Apollo's temple at Bassae in Arcadia (in the British Museum, London).

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