Culture Trips

The ancient roots of Wonder Woman

According to Herodotus, a 5th-Century Greek writer and geographer often credited with being the first historian, the Amazons maintained an idyllic all-female existence in modern-day Turkey. They pillaged the Persian Empire and procreated with neighbouring tribes, keeping the baby girls to raise as the next generation of warriors. They would meet their ultimate fate at an encounter with the Greeks in the battle of Thermodon. Sent out to sea, The Amazons eventually entered Scythia near the Black Sea. The Amazons and Scythians, slated to fight one another, would instead join forces, whose descendants are the Sarmatians. Both the Scythians and Sarmatians are connected to modern-day Iran.

Real Wonder Women

Real-life warrior women existed far beyond the Scythians and Sarmatians, however. “Many ancient cultures besides Greece told exhilarating stories of warrior women – such tales are found in Persia, Egypt, Rome, Caucasus, Central Asia, Mongolia, India, and China,” explains Mayor, who also runs a Facebook group, Amazons Ancient and Modern, for fellow scholars and enthusiasts. And history reveals countless examples of real-life female warriors, like Cynane, half-sister to Alexander the Great, who came from a tradition of warrior women and was taught the same military skills as the young Alexander. Pantea Arteshbod, a female Persian commander during the reign of Cyrus the Great, was integral to maintaining law and order after Cyrus’s Neo-Babylonian conquest. The Arab queen Zenobia, of the Palmyrene Empire in Syria, rebelled against Rome to conquer the eastern third of the Roman Empire. And Joan of Arc, the most famous warrior woman in European history, in turn inspired others across Europe: Spain’s Isabella of Castile, granddaughter of Mary Tudor of England and a warrior in her own right, is said to have kept a chronicle of Joan’s life on her bookshelf.

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