Mythos 74 – Amazonian Conquest

 

The Roman historian Diodorus also described the Amazonian military aggression against other tribes:

The Amazons, then, the account continues, being a race superior in valour and eager for war, first of all subdued all the cities on the island except the one called Menê, which was considered to be sacred and was inhabited by Ethiopian Ichthyophagi, and was also subject to great eruptions of fire and possessed a multitude of the precious stones which the Greeks call anthrax, sardion, and smaragdos; and after this they subdued many of the neighbouring Libyans and nomad tribes, and founded within the marsh Tritonis a great city which they named Cherronesus after its shape.- Diodorus Siculus (1)Diodorus Siculus (circa 100 AD) Bibliotheca historica, Book 3, Chapter 53:6-12

Artist Impression of the Amazonians at War

Artist Impression of the Amazonians at War

The meaning of the name Cherronesus is approximately “Continental-Island”(2)Charles Anthon (1841) “A Classical Dictionary: Containing Proper Names Mentioned in Ancient Authors, and Intended to Elucidate Points,” Page 338 which indicates that the city was on a fairly large island. The earlier reference to the Ethiopian Ichthyophagi, indicates that there were dark-skinned tribes living the marshland along with the light-skinned tribes, and that they were fish eaters (Ichthyophagi). The mention of a place of subject to eruptions of fire, seems to be a reference to an active volcano, several of which are in the western Sahara, including Tin Zaouatene in the border region of Mali and Algeria, and Atakor in southern Algeria. Diodorus’ mytho-history continued with the Amazonian conquest of the Atlantians and war against the Gorgons:

Setting out from the city of Cherronesus, the account continues, the Amazons embarked upon great ventures, a longing having come over them to invade many part of the inhabited world. The first people against whom they advanced, according to the tale, was the Atlantians, the most civilized men among the inhabitants of those regions, who dwelt in a prosperous country and possessed great cities; it was among them, we are told, that mythology places the birth of the gods, in the regions which lie along the shore of the ocean, in this respect agreeing with those among the Greeks who relate legends, and about this we shall speak in detail a little later.

Now the queen of the Amazons, Myrina, collected, it is said, an army of thirty thousand foot-soldiers and three thousand cavalry, since they favoured to an unusual degree the use of cavalry in their wars. For protective devices they used the skins of large snakes, since Libya contains such animals of incredible size, and for offensive weapons, swords and lances; they also used bows and arrows, with which they struck not only when facing the enemy but also when in flight, by shooting backwards at their pursuers with good effect. Upon entering the land of the Atlantians they defeated in a pitched battle the inhabitants of the city of Cernê, as it is called, and making their way inside the walls along with the fleeing enemy, they got the city into their hands; and desiring to strike terror into the neighbouring peoples they treated the captives savagely, put to the sword the men from the youth upward, led into slavery the children and women, and razed the city. But when the terrible fate of the inhabitants of Cernê became known among their fellow tribesmen, it is related that the Atlantians, struck with terror, surrendered their cities on terms of capitulation and announced that they would do whatever should be commanded them, and that the queen Myrina, bearing herself honourably towards the Atlantians, both established friendship with them and founded a city to bear her name in place of the city which had been razed; and in it she settled both the captives and any native who so desired. Whereupon the Atlantians presented her with magnificent presents and by public decree voted to her notable honours, and she in return accepted their courtesy and in addition promised that she would show kindness to their nation. And since the natives were often being warred upon by the Gorgons, as they were named, a folk which resided upon their borders, and in general had that people lying in wait to injure them, Myrina, they say, was asked by the Atlantians to invade the land of the afore-mentioned Gorgons. But when the Gorgons drew up their forces to resist them a mighty battle took place in which the Amazons, gaining the upper hand, slew great numbers of their opponents and took no fewer than three thousand prisoners; and since the rest had fled for refuge into a certain wooded region, Myrina undertook to set fire to the timber, being eager to destroy the race utterly, but when she found that she was unable to succeed in her attempt she retired to the borders of her country.

Now as the Amazons, they go on to say, relaxed their watch during the night because of their success, the captive women, falling upon them and drawing the swords of those who thought they were conquerors, slew many of them; in the end, however, the multitude poured in about them from every side and the prisoners fighting bravely were butchered one and all. Myrina accorded a funeral to her fallen comrades on three pyres and raised up three great heaps of earth as tombs, which are called to this day “Amazon Mounds.” But the Gorgons, grown strong again in later days, were subdued a second time by Perseus, the son of Zeus, when Medusa was queen over them; and in the end both they and the race of the Amazons were entirely destroyed by Heracles, when he visited the regions to the west and set up his pillars in Libya, since he felt that it would ill accord with his resolve to be the benefactor of the whole race of mankind if he should suffer any nations to be under the rule of women. The story is also told that the marsh disappeared from sight in the course of an earthquake, when those parts of it which lay towards the ocean were torn asunder.- Diodorus Siculus (3)Diodorus Siculus (circa 100 AD) Bibliotheca historica, Book 3, Chapters 54-55:3

References   [ + ]

1. Diodorus Siculus (circa 100 AD) Bibliotheca historica, Book 3, Chapter 53:6-12
2. Charles Anthon (1841) “A Classical Dictionary: Containing Proper Names Mentioned in Ancient Authors, and Intended to Elucidate Points,” Page 338
3. Diodorus Siculus (circa 100 AD) Bibliotheca historica, Book 3, Chapters 54-55:3