Q&A with Steven Pressfield discussion

Last of the Amazons

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message 1: by Richard (new)

Richard | 3 comments Dear Mr. Pressfield,

Thank you for your response to my previous post regarding the creative process. Several comments in other posts have raised additional questions for me.

As you have mentioned, we have very little about the Spartans. Nonetheless, I believe that your Gates of Fire presents the Spartans as they historically must have been in order to achieve military dominance on the Peloponnesus and maintain control of the helots in support of their unusual life style. In accomplishing this sympathetic view of the Spartans, it seems to me that your Gates of Fire follows in the historical tradition of Herodotus, Thucydides, and Xenophon, which looked at history as a literary attempt to give a reasonable account of what happened and why and not merely to repeat the "facts" in as droll a manner as possible. (Does anyone wonder why so many students dislike history?)

In reading Last of the Amazons, I found myself "buying in" to your description of their culture, motivation, and mindset. Insofar as they are mentioned in Greek literature, I think that they are far more likely to have existed than to have not (just as Schliemann was convinced that Troy was real, despite scholarly opinion in his day to the contrary). Thus, I found myself wondering, on the one hand, if the Amazons could have been very different from your description of them. On the other hand, I noticed that your Amazons seem to share cultural traits with the Scythians, Massagetai, and even the Mongolians and the warlike tribes of the American Great Plains. (All of whom, one supposes, might possibly be historically related if one goes back far enough.)

My first question, therefore, is to what extent do you believe that human nature is a settled thing such that it can only manifest itself, culturally, in particular ways (given circumstances, geography, religion, et cetera)? Secondly, in writing this book, did you consciously borrow traits from other (known) cultures in order to develop a convincing picture of Amazon culture or did you begin with your imagination of Amazon culture and find afterwards, that they were similar to other cultures? Finally, I am curious about the response to this book among your female readers (I imagine it has been positive, but I could also imagine that some might have found your warrior-women a bit more brutal than some might prefer to contemplate).

Any comments that you would care to make would be appreciated.

Very best regards,

Richard Arndt

message 2: by Jody (new)

Jody Kuchar (cunningstunt) | 5 comments Ah, this was my favorite book! I found it wonderful to read a book with characters so vividly drawn as a larger part of history.
It is difficult for even great writers to portray characters of the opposite gender in a convincing manner.
Being an ancient history freak, I found "The Last of the Amazons" to be quite in tune with the recent discoveries of warrior woman tombs in Mongolia.

The book also gave the character of Thesus a humanity that one of my favorite authors (Mary Renault) could not do in "The King Must Die."

As far as cultural similarities, the Neolithic mind formed archetypal "hard wiring" long before tales of Amazons, Centaurs and Bull rites were recorded history. I love the idea of Amazons possessing the same traditions of "sisterhoods", as soldiers of all ages have put ultimate value in.

message 3: by Steven (new)

Steven (stevenpressfield) | 47 comments Mod
Excellent questions, Richard. To the first, I'd say yes indeed, I do believe that human nature is a settled thing, as you say, that seems to manifest itself in the same ways over and over again in different cultures, e.g. tribal societies of ancient ages and contemporary urban gangs. And yes, in writing "Amazons," I very deliberately and consciously used models of other cultures, particularly the horse cultures of the American Indians of the West. As to response from female readers, there have been two types: very enthusiastic responses from women who can relate to the Amazons and who feel that that side of the feminine soul has been underexpressed and underappreciated, and tepid to antagonistic from those who are more traditional. Basically they just tune the story out. Thanks for the terrific questions!

message 4: by Steven (new)

Steven (stevenpressfield) | 47 comments Mod
Thanks, Jody. Of course I'm only a guy and what do I know, but I really believe that that warrior sisterhood is a part of the feminine psyche that's been buried under centuries of male domination, brainwashing, "feminization," etc. It's not all Manolos and "Sex and the City!"

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