WHO ARE THE AMAZONS?
In Greek mythology, Amazons represented a race of female warriors who were noted for their proficient horse riding skills and were both hunting and fighting on horseback. They appear in Greek art since the 8th century BC and are first mentioned in Homer’s Iliad. Even though the legendary author describes them as “the equal of men”, the Amazons fought and lost separate battles against some of the greatest Greek heroes known, such as Heracles, Theseus, Achilles, and others. Men, however, were excluded from their community, and only occasionally they would mate with males from neighboring tribes in order to continue their race.
Amazons became an important subject in many works of art from antiquity. A great number of pieces “accommodate” various battle scenes between the mythical female warriors and Greeks and one such piece is this silver phiale from Vassil Bojkov Collection. The phiale is of the so-called Greek type (with typical continuous profile without carination) and has Amazonomachy scene (Amazon battles). Around the omphalos, there are seven gilded figures – four of Greek warriors and three of Amazons.
Such battles between Amazons and Greeks are very popular during the Classical period, both in the monumental and the minor arts. The Greek warrior is almost invariably represented as young, beardless, and naked but for a chlamys and his weapons, whilst the Amazon is always dressed (albeit lightly) and is often shown falling on the ground wounded.
Another equally impressive figural scene is present on a bronze bell situla, again part of Vasil Bojkov Collection. It has two low relief figures on both sides and is dated back to 360-340 BC. One of the figures shows a naked Greek warrior, dressed only with a chlamys and a crested Athenian helmet. On his left arm, he holds a shield, on the interior of which there is a palmette; in his right hand he holds a spear. On the opposite site, an Amazon advances to the left. She wears a short chiton, a billowing chlamys, and high laced boots. On her head, she has a long-crested Phrygian-Thracian helmet decorated with volutes. Her round shield, held in the left hand, bears a star emblem. In the same hand, she also carries two spears and a short combat knife with a back-curved blade.
On the left picture we see a bronze bell-situla with an ovoid shape. Its two opposite sides are adorned with relief figures of a Greek warrior and an Amazon. The vessel’s original attachment loops for the swinging handles have been cut away. The added secondary lid indicates that the situla has been used as a funerary urn.
Both figures are running to the right. The Greek is depicted in heroic nudity, with his himation draped around his left hand and billowing out behind him. He wears a Corinthian type helmet, with long crest, lifted up on his forehead to leave his face uncovered. On his left arm, there is a round shield, while in his right hand he holds a sword. Behind him, the trunk and the beginning of the branches of a tree are shown in lower relief to signify the landscape.
The Amazon, opposite, is shown in a short chiton with long sleeves, a billowing himation behind her and skin-tight pants.
She wears a Phrygian bonnet on her head; she holds a pelte on the left arm; and has an axe in the right hand. The trunk of a tree, similar to the one on the opposite side, appears behind her.
The image of Amazons became so popular that it was portrayed in ancient sculpture, on pottery, and metal ware. Nevertheless, there is a sort of modern-day Amazonian legacy we know today. It comes in the form of novels, plays, comic books and movies, fiction films, animated series, other TV adaptations, and even video games.
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