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The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women Across the Ancient World

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  858 ratings  ·  141 reviews
The real history of the Amazons in war and love

Amazons--fierce warrior women dwelling on the fringes of the known world--were the mythic archenemies of the ancient Greeks. Heracles and Achilles displayed their valor in duels with Amazon queens, and the Athenians reveled in their victory over a powerful Amazon army. In historical times, Cyrus of Persia, Alexander the Great,
Paperback, 544 pages
Published February 9th 2016 by Princeton University Press (first published January 1st 2014)
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Average rating 4.15  · 
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May 08, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015, non-fiction
The good first - this book was a solid example of scholarship that is accessible to the layperson, and Mayor does a good job of surveying the sources and information about Amazons and warrior women from Greece to China. Her writing is readable and while the archaeological catalogue of grave items can be exhausting, it is clear that Mayor knows a great deal about her subject.

That said - I cannot feel good about recommending this book casually, given the way Mayor lays fast and loose with aspects
This book was...quite frankly, it was amazing. I've been trying recently to read more non-fiction that's written by women and about women, because sometimes that can be difficult to find, particularly when you read predominantly history books. So this one, even though it cost me $40, seemed like it would fit the bill perfectly.

And it did.

This book is completely fascinating and full of badass ladies. The first half is all about the nomadic peoples who lived on the steppes of Central Asia (and p
I feel like I am cheating to give a book a review when I didn't read the whole thing. I'm only about halfway through, and I am abandoning ship, or, perhaps better for a book about equestrian nomads, dismounting from this horse. I picked up this book because of this fabulous New Yorker blog entry by my friend Josh Rothman, interviewing the author about the "real" Amazons: This quick, pithy account of their lives, intoxicants, fashion, and prowess gives wh ...more
5/5 — First I just want to thank Mayor for researching and writing this book. As women, it seems we have to fight to find our herstory. It is empowering to finally have evidence that in antiquity there were warrior women who were ‘the equals of men’. What a wonderful journey of discovery I’ve been on. These warrior women were respected, followed, feared, and desired. In the harsh conditions on the steppes, the boys and girls were raised the same, dressed the same, and fought the same.

“The archa
I have no hesitation whatsoever about recommending this book both to fellow history-lovers and my non-historian friends alike. Mayor covers just about every aspect that you’d ever want to know about the Amazons, from the most fantastical tales in myth to the practical artefacts of their real-life counterparts.

The evidence she presents is strong enough to convince me beyond reasonable doubt that there were real women behind the shroud of myth – though that does not mean that everything you’ve hea
4.5 stars, but possibly 5 depending on what you use it for.

The Amazons was not what I expected. I expected a smattering of well-known folklore superficially retold in an anthology; instead, Mayor put together a vividly detailed historical and cultural analysis on the origin and changing interpretation of tales of Amazons. The work is divided into four parts. In part one, Mayor lays out her thesis; she asserts that tales of the Amazons were not merely cautionary tales the Greeks told themselves a
❆ Crystal ❆
3 stars. I enjoyed reading about these brave, strong women. I think it's great that there are still archeological discoveries of these women with pieces of their history still intact. I found it amazing that burial sites in the past were thought to be male, but with recent DNA testing they found out they were women. I love that! It must have been quite a rugged life fraught with danger that they met head on. I think of the 10 year old warrior girl they found and just can't imagine what life woul ...more
Bryn Hammond
Jan 31, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: steppe-history
'Amazons' were Scythian women, simply.
There has been nothing to approach this book before in its examination of every piece of evidence from the Greek world.
Then, in a chapter wonderfully titled 'Amazonistan: Central Asia', she looks for the Amazons', or rather Scythians/steppe nomads', own sources. These were oral cultures, late written down, and she does slip into the middle ages, if that is as far back as we can go.

It's pitched to a 21st century (wide) audience, and I felt it normalised towa
David Dinaburg
Nov 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Release yourself from expectation; powerful Amazons battling legendary Greek heroes; the Diablo 2 character class; Wonder Woman’s civilization. These cultural touchstones are why I came to The Amazons: Lives & Legends of Warrior Women Across the Ancient World but when the book touches on them, they are the least of it. The book shines when it supports its core thesis: real history. And it does this nearly every step of the way, staying true to its narrative with constant citation and support:
Jun 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Filed under Things I Wish I’d Learned in World History when we spent all that time learning about the Greeks and not the Scythians. I am astounded by everything I’ve learned from this book. And I really want to know what gender equality could have looked like if we’d been more influenced by (why couldn’t we have been more influenced by???) the nomadic steppe tribes instead of the Greeks and Romans.

This book is incredibly well-researched and comprehensive. It includes the history, the myths and
MrsJoseph *grouchy*
So, anything can be an insult - it just depends on how you say it.

I'm a rather tall woman. I'm not WNBA tall but I am close to 6 feet - I certainly hit 6 feet while in heels and if I'm wearing heels of 3+ inches I'm over 6 feet tall.

Most of my friends and a lot of my family is short. I suffered the indignity of being called "Amazon Smurf" for years due to having short friends with mean boyfriends.

My husband says that it is not an insult - that all men dream of an Amazon. I say HA! but would lik
Really interesting read! (very well researched with a big bibliography in the back).

This is definitely more of a history book rather than a mythology book, however, that is why I liked it. It introduced a lot of new archaeological information from the Scythian nomads. It was really interesting to read about the new technologies being used to test old remains; one of the biggest revelations was that up to 30% of warrior tombs that have been found in the area have been revealed to be women thanks
Amy Raby
Sep 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An amazing book which makes the case, quite persuasively, that the Amazon women of Greek myth were not fictional. They were female Scythian horse archers, and they were real. This is not a light or quick read, as a typical chapter presents some information about the Amazons and then backs up it with lots of evidence from archeology and ancient literature. But the content makes it well worth a close read.

It turns out stories about the Amazons were told in many cultures, not just by the Greeks, so
Diana C. Nearhos
Feb 29, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, nonfiction
I had to put this down. There was too much cataloging and I gave up.
Sep 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Book of the year! (Even though it came out 4 years ago.) Mayor's fascinating story of the "real" Amazons, based on depictions of them in Greek art, myth, and history. She draws together these artistic depictions directly to archeological discoveries and artifacts. There's a dearth of ancient history that isn't Greco-Roman focused, so to learn of ancient Scythia and (though far too briefly) Persia and China was outright cool. Archeological evidence shows that women of the Eurasian steppe region ( ...more
A little drier than I thought it would be based on the super cool subject matter, but this scholarly book did cover some pretty incredible material for real-life Amazon women (who were many different tribes across the world and have only now been categorized as a titled group of Amazons, which is misleading and inaccurate). Basically, warrior women who rode horses without tack and could flip around in their seat to continue shooting bows and arrows while riding away from a fight, who most certai ...more
Feb 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
4,5 stars

I learnt so many things about women warriors!! I'm glad to know that Amazons were, in a way, real persons, and that they are still remembered in certain regions of the world. I also love that the author doesn't only speak about Greeks, but goes from Greece to China.

The author presents myths, historical facts, archeology; there are some repetitions, but she warned the reader in the beginning, informing him that there would be indications as to what chapter alludes to another chapter.

Jun 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think I was putting off reading the last chapter of this book simply because I didn't actually want it to be over. One of the best books I have ever read on the topic of the Amazons, hands down. The way that Mayor marries the archeological evidence with her literature review is seamless and fascinating. This is definitely a book I am going to return to again and again, both as a classicist and as an artist. ...more
Dec 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating, accessible but still impecably documented. Many in text illustrations as well as a nice selection of color ones.
Jul 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book just needs a concluding chapter. Detailed archaeological research with known mythology to verify amazon women existed throughout regions near and around the Black Sea.
Nov 10, 2020 rated it liked it
Very interesting. Sections 1 and 2 could afford to be roughly half the length, as they tend to repeat the same point every few paragraphs. Things pick back up beyond the initial proposal (Amazons as nomadic horsewomen on the Eurasian steppes) in Section 3, and Section 4 is a light overview of non-Greek cultures. It is noticeable that Mayor's background is in Ancient Greek history, and the areas where she looks into other cultures often take large leaps to come to conclusions based more on the Gr ...more
Vaughn Roycroft
Sep 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Engaging. Thorough. Fascinating.

Harmony Williams
A fascinating, beautiful, and deeply researched account of Amazons in myth and fact. I highly recommend to anyone curious about these ancient women warriors!
Susan Pola Staples
Sep 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: to-review
This is a scholarly book on the Amazon origin and how that influenced Greek mythology. The author shows that the Scythian origin of the word amazen and the its Greek equivalent and counterpart means equality. Both women and men fought in the Amazon culture.
Ms Mayor traces the cross-cultural presence of female warriors not only in Scythian society but that of the Chinese steppe region and even India.

Continued at later date
Chris Farrell
Mar 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Amazons is a fairly in-depth look at the ancient mythological stories about Amazons and what they say about ancient Greek and other cultures, and also a fascinating look at the Scythian steppe tribes in which we now are pretty certain women served regularly as warriors - their horses and archery serving as a great equalizer between the sexes compared to the brute muscle-powered hoplite warfare practiced by the Greeks (and later perfected by the Romans).

For me, the most interesting parts of t
Matthew Lipson
Oct 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Browsing book store shelves, I found myself in the History aisle, which I often do. Playing in my unconscious are always little questions. Being a person with a history degree and a comic book geek one of those questions was -- What is the reality behind Amazons? Lo and behold sitting on the shelf in front of my was this book and one other. As I compared the two, I put the other one on the shelf and ultimately walked out with Adrienne Mayor's The Amazons.

I was not to be disappointed. Mayor, a lo
Victoria M Solomon
This book is like a delicious cup of creamy coffee. It's history mixed with all the good things in life: girls, weapons, heroes, legends, and fashion. Mayor cleverly picks apart the "myth" of the Amazons and reveals how many of the stories were based on historical realities of the nomadic cultures of the Scythians. And she shows how stories of the Amazons have been disregarded by historians in a specular display of gender bias.

One example: When archeologists in the 20th century examined the bur
Mar 07, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Once you got past the author beating over the head that the Amazons were real people, it was pretty informative who exactly were the Amazons.
Once the Greeks began colonizing and trading in the Black Sea region, they encountered the Scythians (Amazons). The Greeks were intrigued by a society completely unlike themselves; egalitarian, nomadic, and skilled horsemen. The nomadic women who can ride, who are excellent archers and fierce warriors and considered to be equal to the men, especially caught
Margaret Sankey
Jun 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mayor is a past master of excavating the kernel of fact from ancient beliefs, whether it is the cyclops coming from Greek encounters with mammoth skulls, to Roman propaganda about the Poison Master Mithradates. In this new book, she takes what is now known about the steppe people from their frozen burials (with DNA, bone analysis, animal genetics of their horses, diets, grave goods and the artistic themes of their tattoos and felted saddle blankets) and triangulates it with Greek Amazon mytholog ...more
Rose Joyce
Nov 13, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Scholarly and well researched book about the women who inspired the Greek Amazon stories. The researcher makes a strong case the the warrior nomadic women of the steps(Central Asia) were the true Amazons. Due to the harsh physical and political environment and the use of horses men and women had to be able to hunt and fight. This created a more equal society. The researcher provides archaeological proof, such as graves of these women which held armor, sacrificed horse remains as well as their wa ...more
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“Archaeology reveals that about one out of three or four nomad women of the steppes was an active warrior buried with her weapons.” 2 likes
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