Friday, August 10, 2012

Antiope and the Amazons

This summer, I wrote a novella about Pirithous and Hippodamia, and because Pirithous and Theseus are the best of friends, it's only natural that an Amazon bride of Theseus would make an appearance. I've gone with Antiope, for continuity with everything else I've written involving Theseus* and have been doing my research accordingly. Mostly I'm looking for physical descriptions (in particular some reference to hair color but alas I have found none!), more than character description** and so I've been looking at a lot of imagery, some of which I thought I'd share with you all!

Amazonomachy Met 44.11.12Firstly, an ancient depiction, because I think it's very interesting, and quite striking -- especially the way her legs seem to be painted or tattooed. The imagery of the tattoos would definitely be a great way to set the amazons apart from other, more passive women in this kind of artwork -- the ones who get kidnapped and carried off, like Persephone or Helen, for example, would obviously be tattoo free. But it's also  a pretty neat idea, if you consider what purpose a tattoo might have served within the culture of the Amazons. Was it a mark of womanhood? A new tattoo for each man killed in battle? Part of a ritual dedication to the gods? Or maybe just warpaint to scare the poor dudes who made the mistake of earning their ire.

This particular image shows our Amazon in a shorter chiton type dress a la Artemis, with a pretty sweet and deadly battle-axe, though her pose is pretty awkward. I love that the Amazon women get to wear clothes even when the men are presented nude. I'm sure that the nudity of the men is some kind of symbol of their bravery in comparison, but really, it's just awfully silly to go running into battle naked except for a shield and a helmet. At least this guy is wearing some kind of boot, which, now that I think on it, it's kind of silly that this amazon woman is NOT wearing any kind of foot protection. Maybe because she's so awesome she doesn't need it -- I bet she has soles like leather!

Skirted or not, sadly our Amazon warrior on this Attic vase is lacking armor and a shield, but as far as I'm concerned, she's still ahead of Mr. Pantsless Hero. His sword could, after all, get tangled in her skirt or cloak or something.

Amazon preparing for the battle (Queen Antiope or Armed Venus) - Pierre-Eugene-Emile Hebert 1860 - NG of Arts Wash DC rotated and croppedThe next depiction that's caught my eye is a bronze from much, much, much later (wiki tells me 1860s). But it is so beautiful I can't stop looking at it (and fittingly enough, that looks like some kind of Centaur brawl in the background statuary). I love her helmet with its crest and the (probably grossly inaccurate) hinged sideguards flipped up while she works, and the fall of her hair down her back, with the one piece over her shoulder, and even the effortless grace of the pose as she checks her bow. She's beautiful and capable and strong -- I mean, look at those calves! And the definite muscle definition of her arms -- but still undeniably feminine. I only wish the image were more in focus -- or that I could take the statue home with me. Or see it in person.  In fact, my next trip to DC might involve a visit to whatever museum is currently in possession of this piece.

For those of you interested, I did find this much more in-focus shot on flickr. And from a different angle. AND! A bonus close up of that centaur in the background, which is, quite fittingly, the abduction of Hippodamia. Guys, bronzes from the 19th century might be my next favorite after Greek and Roman marbles.***

*and because it is much less confusing for readers to have Theseus' wife be named Antiope when he has a son named Hippolytus, to say nothing of the confusion involved with a Hippolyta and a Hippodamia in the same room. It is just not ideal.

**But trying to balance an Amazon's disdain for men against her (for my purposes) love of Theseus is definitely a tricky business. 

***Remember Theseus slaying the Centaur?


  1. Okay, I could google this, but is Hippolyta the same as Hippodamia?

    And I love the tattoos--totally cool and tough-girl!

    1. Nope! Hippolyta was an Amazon, and Hippodamia was kin to the Centaurs. Totally different people. :)

  2. I strongly believe, based on my intense researches on Amazonians/Schythians war attire that those are not tattoos but special pants, more like todays leggins bit more comfortable though!


Comments are Love!

(Nota Bene: During #NAMEthatBUTT season, all comments are moderated and your guesses are hidden until after the butt is revealed!)