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The Amazons

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Author Topic: The Amazons  (Read 1420 times)
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« on: February 18, 2007, 04:52:55 am »

Interpretation of The Twelve Labors of Hercules

The twelve labors of Hercules all involve the taming, capture, cleaning (the cleaning of the Augean Stables), or slaying of wild beasts. Taken in this context the labor of taking Hippolyte's girdle stands out. The myth serves not only to explain (according to the Greeks), why there were no Amazons in the Thermiscrya region of the Anatolia peninsula, but also show the unnatural or dangerous side to a woman not bound by the traditions of Ancient Greece. In a sense, a woman who was not bound by marriage or the customs of Greece was dangerous. The Amazons represented a way of life entirely the opposite of "normal" civilized Greece, and thus would pose a threat to such a mythical hero's as Hercules, Theseus, or Perseus. Similarly, the Amazons in this context represent a threat to the natural order of Greek civilization, and must be tamed or killed in response.

(A wounded Amazon)
Achilles and Panthesilia
During the Trojan war Achilles found Panthesilia, an Amazon. Achilles was another hero in Greek myth, whose only weakness in battle was his heel (hence the term Achilles' heel). In myth, Achilles is represented as somewhat wild. At a very young age he disobeyed his teacher, Chiron (a centaur), becomes a general at fifteen, and lays siege to many cities through out Greece. Panthesilia alternately was a great Amazon warrior, who accidentally killed Hippolyte, but received cleansing, and thus led a legion of Amazons into combat at Troy.

The myth thus follows that Panthesilia's legion and Achilles' legion met in Troy and battle one another, but when Panthesilia is struck down and killed by Achilles, he follows the custom of claiming his enemy's armor. After removing her armor he openly weeps over the beauty of the now dead Panthesilia, and in some myths rapes her.

Interpretation of Achilles and Panthesilia
What happens after the battle with Achilles is what makes the myth largely questionable in relation to the Amazons. Of the many variations to the story, one source places her being killed by Achilles and not being raped .Another places her as being raped and given a warrior's funeral.Yet one other places her as just being wounded (in which case she is tortured to death and killed without honor, the ultimate defamation of an Amazon warrior). In any of the cases above, the idea that the Amazons still held onto their femininity though they were female warriors remains constant, and the significance of the myth brings to light this fact.

Ironically, later retellings of the myth of Panthesilia offer some light into what the Amazons may have meant to later civilizations, specifically during the Victorian era. Heinrich Von Kliest's play, "Panthesilia: A Tragic Drama", demonstrates the view of Amazons during the Victorian era. In his work, Panthesilia and Achilles have a masochistic relationship toward one another. Panthesilia who wants a child by Achilles joins his army, accompanied by other Amazons, and is killed in battle when she becomes enamored by a suit of metal an opposing soldier wears. Within the play the Amazons are portrayed as blood thirsty man killers; berserkers in one instance, but compassionate women in the next. Throughout Heinrich's work, the Amazons, because of their femininity, are at a loss as warriors, and are therefore subject to the problems of their own biological urges. Though his work did not reach great heights of popularity, it does display the general view of the Victorian era that women were of the "fairer" and "the weaker" sex to men.

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