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Searching for the Amazons: The Real Warrior Women of the Ancient World

3.52  ·  Rating details ·  334 ratings  ·  64 reviews
Since the time of the ancient Greeks we have been fascinated by accounts of the Amazons, an elusive tribe of hard-fighting, horse-riding female warriors. Equal to men in battle, legends claimed they cut off their right breasts to improve their archery skills and routinely killed their male children to purify their ranks.

For centuries people believed in their existence and
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published February 27th 2018 by Pegasus Books (first published June 15th 2017)
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For the first few chapters of this book, I thought I would be comparing it to Adrienne Mayor’s The Amazons. It aimed to take a long hard look at the truth behind the legends, and dispel the myths. The initial chapters mimic Mayor’s first chapters, delving into the etymology of ‘Amazon’ (and why it does not mean ‘single-breasted’), the culture and society of the Scythians, and the archaeological finds of women warrior graves, the evidence of battle wounds, and the weaponry they were buried with.
Anna Stephens
Nov 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A thoroughly fascinating look, not only into the myths, legends and evidence for Amazons, but also what defined them as such and then, throughout history, examples of these being shown in the centuries since.
With tangents taken into art, the Renaissance, Romanticism, religion and empire-building, John Man has introduced groups of women throughout history I'd never heard of and found to be fascinating.
From the Scythians to the Sarmartians, the Dahomey (now Benin) ahosi to the Russian Night Witc
Nov 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
Jan 25, 2021 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction, reviewed
First, let us all pause to appreciate the fact that this book about a mythical all-female society was written by John Man. Every time I remembered that, I found myself thinking 'at least it wasn't Kerklyas of Andros' and snickering immaturely.


I think what wanted from this book was more along the lines of The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women Across the Ancient World, which is apparently way more in-depth and focused purely on the history. Searching for the Amazons feels li
For me, this was a good introduction to the "real" Amazons. The first half of the book concerns itself with the etymology of ‘Amazon’ (and why it does not mean ‘single-breasted’), the culture and society of the Scythians (nomads who taught all their children regardless of gender how to fight and came to dominate the entire Eurasian Steppe from the Carpathian Mountains in the west to Ordos Plateau in the east) and archaeological finds of women warrior graves (complete with evidence of battle woun ...more
Dec 06, 2017 rated it liked it
Interesting book on women in history.

Review copy provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Bianca A.
Dec 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
This book was a great surprise that left an impression. I daresay that John Man's genius shines in this work which in my humble beginnings as a reader I consider it to be a masterpiece among contemporary historical books.
Unlike the title suggests, the topic doesn't just cover warrior women in the ancient world, but instead covers everything as much as possible within its 275 or so pages of the history of warrior women from the first recorded remnants and discovered tombs until the contemporary
I enjoyed the first half of the book wherein the author discusses the mythic Amazons of ancient Greece (from the historical writings of Herodotus) and the actual woman warriors of the Sycthian peoples of historic Central Asia. The archeological finds from Scythian burial mounds, often referred to as kurgan, sound fascinating. These finds make a good case for the warrior women on horseback who road equal to men as mounted archers, swooping down on the ancient Greek settlements around the Black Se ...more
We've all heard of the Amazons, a tribe of fearless women warriors who needed no man. But did they really exist or where they simply a creation of the Ancient Greeks who needed proof of their masculinity. Man's book explores the myths that were handed down through the centuries and looks at the evidence for these female fighters. This was a good exploration of the society that created the myth, the tales of the true women warriors of ancient times and the women who followed after. ...more
Rebecca Hill
Feb 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fantastically written!

This book takes on the history, or lack thereof, of the women of the Amazon. I enjoyed the read! Not only do you get the myths, the legends, and the stories passed down, but what history is there is shared. John Man did a great job with this book, and I look forward to getting a hard copy of this book, to re-read and make notes in the margins! Great jumping off book for those who are looking to do some research or wanting to gain a deeper understanding of these warrior wome
Jessie Scott
Despite the subtitle, this was less about the famous Amazons of Greek legend and more about the way that the idea of an exclusively female warrior society has been interpreted and adapted by different cultures over the centuries. The narrative was informal and conversational but did feel clunky in places, with the author frequently going off on tangents. However, these threw up some really interesting tidbits - I especially liked the story of how California got its name. Worth a read for sure.
Jul 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars. The content was great, but the writing wasn’t.

This book can tell you just about everything you ever wanted to know about Amazons; it explores the myths of warrior women from Ancient Greece and after, but it also chronicles actual groups of women fighters from throughout history. It shows what was real and what wasn’t, and it offers some very detailed glimpses of a few key moments. This book is also meticulously researched. That said, the writing is difficult to follow. There are not a
Feb 17, 2018 rated it liked it
This book was more than I thought it would be! Besides just tracing the potential sources of the ancient Greek myth of the Amazons - the all-female society of warriors - this book traced the waxing and waning of the myth throughout the centuries, explained how the Amazon river got its name, how the legendary horseback archery skills of the Amazons and other horse tribes of the Steppes have made a resurgence, and explored female warrior societies/groups in the recent past (including an army of vi ...more
Mar 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
I feel like I owe an apology to the author. I must admit that when I picked this book up, it was with a slowly creeping sense of dread at a book about the sociological significance of the Amazonian legends being written by a man . However, this book was delightfully feminist (and hilarious) in everything from the threat the Amazons posed upon the Greek’s fragile masculinity in the original myth, to the way that women warriors in several Eurasian cultures baffled early archaeologists, to the way ...more
Steven Clark
Mar 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I have always been intrigued by Amazons, and even wrote a novel where they figured, and John man's subject and credentials made me take the book. it is a witty, erudite tale of this mythic/real tribe of warrior women, and Man uses his past experience writing about China, Mongolia, and central asia to good effect, showing their origins in Scythia, and also farther east. He has a delightful style demonstrating the mythos and recent excavations of possible tombs of Amazons, as well as deviating int ...more
Bea Harvie
Jun 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not sure what I was expecting when i first bought this book - I though it looked interesting but as I'm not a big non-fiction reader I didn't think beyond 'interesting'. This book is an exploration of myths, hearsay, assumptions, archaeology, anthropology, feminism and Greek and a myriad of other subjects. it was well written, witty and entirely suitable for a layperson who only picked the book up because the mythology behind the Amazon's sounded like it might be fun. John Man drops comments ...more
Nov 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
I got this book as a Goodread's Giveaway and I really enjoyed it. The book was easy to read and flowed well. I hope in the final version the pictures are of a better quality and it would help if they were closer to the relevant sections in the book. It was interesting to follow the path of the myth of the amazons from the Greeks to present and how it influenced culture. ...more
Feb 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Well researched book that didn't just limit itself to the ancient legends of the tribe of Amazons - who were just a number of days ride 'thataway' or had interacted with some legendary king of Greece, Persia and even the rulers of Rome.

The author does seem to jump about but in the long run, it is a coherent and orderly flow from the ancient to the more modern. He first disabuses the legend of their removing their right breast in order to make sword fighting and archery. Basically, it's all bunk.
Feb 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is not the type of book that I usually read but I really enjoyed it!

I picked this book up at my local library because the title caught my attention. I was hoping it would be somewhat factual but not so dry and boring. This book is not a dry research thesis but it also isn't a fictionalized romp either. This feels like you are sitting down with the author, for tea or a beer or wine, and asking him what he has been working on recently. That balance between academic and action packed.

The book
Jul 23, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Overall, this was a bit of a frustrating read. It started off really interesting, with details of how the Greeks viewed the mythical Amazons, and the real-life warrior women in the nomadic tribes of the Eastern European steppes.
However. Where the title becomes misleading, is that the rest of the book becomes a mish-mash of 'anything to do with the word Amazons, ever'. The writing style is also very hard to follow, jumping around time and geography with little structure or warning, e.g. from subh
Raye Mordon
I started to read this book because I was studying book XI of the Aeneid and was introduced to Camilla who is compared to an Amazon by Virgil. After a lot of discussions in class I became fascinated by the myth of these women and wanted to find out more. For this purpose I would say that the first half of the book is very good and informative about the origins of this myth, however it does change angle halfway through and become more about warrior women in the world today who could potentially b ...more
Feb 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: to-be-read
I read Mayor’s ‘The Amazons’ back in December and found both the legends and history that shaped the story of the Amazons fascinating.

Man’s record is equally informative and well written. It takes us through the sources as outlined in Mayor’s, though both seem to go off in different directions. If you’re reading both, you may end up skim reading those sections, as I did.

After that’s out of the way, I really enjoyed what Man chose to focus on. He chose different warrior women in history to those
Sam Siddiquie
Aug 19, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
This guy has written some of the most fascinating books which include one on Saladin (Salahuddin Ayubi), Genghis Khan, (and a separate book on his leadership style), a book on a legendary Samurai Leader, a biography of one of the greatest warlords, Attila the Hun, and one of my ultimate favourites about the man who changed the world by his invention of the printing press, Johann Gutenberg.
This one is, as the name suggests about the almost mythical, Amazons, the warrior ladies. Just reading it o
Jul 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
An amazing book!!
an entertaining!
The author reveals he cannot guarantee the truth of history of Amazon women warriors
70% of the book reveals the characters of Amazon women warriors living without men, mastering in archery and horse riding killing men's as well as male child rear only female children's and teaching them archery and horse riding
Then comes the real women's living like a Amazon women's Miss Raskova an Russian women who took part in world war 2 and her team Nick named as "Night
Ana Gutierrez
Feb 18, 2021 rated it it was ok
I liked parts of this book but on a whole found it rambling and disconnected from chapter to chapter. But the title is misleading because the focus on the ancient world is all of two and a half chapters at most. and the archaeological section was slap dash and horrifying. Some of the other chapters where hard to follow and the amount of rhetorical questions or notations on "more on this later" drove me up the wall.

If you want to look at specific chapters and simply read them they are not bad bu
Sophie Le
Aug 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
The book has a broad scope but lacks tonal consistency. The first half is very solid--Man does a great job tracing the myth of the Amazon back through time, using both historical and archaeological records. The second half, in which Man discusses examples of Amazon-esque society in history and pop culture, is less cohesive. It's really hard to tell where he's going, and after the buildup in the first half, it feels anticlimactic and uninteresting. Form aside, however, Man's research is solid and ...more
Mar 07, 2018 rated it liked it
To be honest, I'm not quite sure how I feel about this book. It's definitely not what I expected. If you're looking for a book that focuses on the history/legend of the Amazons, you won't find it here. At least I didn't. This book has plenty of interesting facts about history in general, but the Amazons seemed to be on the outer fringes of each chapter. Some sections of the book are very well done. Others are boring and I had a hard time getting through it. ...more
Morgan Golladay
Aug 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Man impressed me with his research AND his sense of humor. He explores various myths and legends, from Ancient Greece, to the steppes of Central Asia, to the new world, and brings the idea of a community of women up-to-date with modern examples from the 20th century. Lively at times, Man nonetheless maintains a scholarly approach to a myth that has stood in our collective conscience for millennia.
Kathleen McRae
Sep 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This book was an enjoyable and interesting read but in reality seemed to be searching for the reason why these amazonian myths arose. Most interesting fact was they did not slice off a breast so they could shoot an arrow straighter.Myths are usually based on part fiction and part real life although to me the story of life about women as told by men usually contains far less fact than fiction and is usually designed to lessen them as humans.
Stacy Luebke
Dec 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Amazons through history vs mythological Amazons. If you like a survey of the absurdities of men’s imagination about Amazons contrasted with actual women warriors past and present, pick it up. But if you’ve already done some serious study on the subject there’s nothing earth shattering here and a lot of focus on Amazon’s mythical mutilated breasts. It can be wearing to have the mutilated feminine image constantly interjected into the mythos.
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John Anthony Garnet Man is a British historian and travel writer. His special interests are China, Mongolia and the history of written communication. He takes particular pleasure in combining historical narrative with personal experience.

He studied German and French at Keble College, Oxford, before doing two postgraduate courses, a diploma in the History and Philosophy of Science at Oxford and Mon

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