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To be a woman in the Trojan war was not a particularly cheerful position to be in. One way or another, they all ended up as slaves of the victorious Greek army. However, there are also other women in and around Troy. Women who were not victims but who had the opportunity, training and skill to fight for their freedom and their survival. The Iliad and the Odyssey were once part of a wider cycle of poems narrating the entire story of the ten-year Trojan war, which is usually called the Epic Cycle. Unfortunately, many of these poems have been permanently lost.
One of those lost poems is the Aithiopis. It takes up the closing thre of the Iliad : Hector, champion of the Trojans, is dead, and all seems lost for the city. But just then, a new hero appears on the horizon, Sex ladies Troy that may save the city and the people who live in it from their fate of death, enslavement and destruction.
The text of this and any other! Here is a woman coming to save the Trojans — Penthesilea, Queen of the Amazons. Ancient Greek art and legends are filled with these fierce female warriors called Amazons. In Greek legend, it seems as if no male hero is truly a hero until he has met one of these warrior women: Heracles kills the Amazonian Queen Hippolyta and Sex ladies Troy her war belt, Theseus goes into battle against the Amazon queen Orithyia after kidnapping her sister Antiope, and Achilles has to face Penthesilea outside the gates of Troy.
Penthesilea is the most popular of the Amazon warriors in ancient art: her battle with Achilles featured on countless vases, paintings and mosaics. The Aithiopis told the story of this battle before it was lost, surviving only in summaries, even by the time of Quintus of Smyrna. So Quintus sat down to recover it, to write afresh the story of Penthesilea and her fellow Amazon warriors, and to pass it down to us.
The Warrior Queen and her Female Fighters. The Trojans may well know what awaits them when the Greek army takes the city: there was no Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners of war, no Universal Declaration of Human Rights, no criminal offence known as crimes against humanity or genocide, and rape and enslavement were not considered war crimes. The Ancient Greeks routinely committed what we would think of as atrocities when they sacked a Sex ladies Troy, such as killing all men and enslaving all women and children, as the Greek historian Thucydides c.
However, help is on the way, Quintus tells us:. Penthesilea does not disappoint the Trojans. It is ificant that Penthesilea possesses divine armour similar to Achilles on the Greek sideand that it is described with the same level of loving detail as the armour and weaponry of the male Greek heroes.
And it is not only the Greek men on the battlefield who realise that they are facing an inspiring heroine. Quintus tells us that the Trojan women were inspired by Penthesilea and her fellow fighters — particularly one of them: a Trojan woman by the name of Hippodamia. It is indeed a speech well worth listening to:. By heaven? Let us then not shrink from battle. In the hands of a writer such as Quintus of Smyrna, living within the patriarchal society of Ancient Greece, such a story does not end well: Penthesilea is killed by Achilles — although he bitterly regrets it.
While still on the battlefield, he takes off her helmet and falls in love with her, wishing he could have married her and taken her back home to Phthia, as so do many other Grecians 1. But Penthesilea is mourned throughout the city.
Priam sends for her body so that he may bury her in the citadel with royal honours. Achilles and the Greeks willingly give her up, having taken Sex ladies Troy care to preserve her integrity and ensure that none of her armour or weapons be stripped or taken away. So Penthesilea is buried in Troy, after restoring hope to the city and inspiring Hippodamia and her fellow Trojan women to action, encouraging them to speak up, to suggest common action.
Thanks to Penthesilea, the women of Troy together decided for a moment to take their fate into their own hands. If we consider the tale through the eyes of a modern reader, it seems that Penthesilea not only gave the women of Troy a voice, she also gave to agency, her example enabling them to strive for a common goal.
While the Iliad and the Epic Cycle are of course legendary tales, warrior women like Penthesilea and her comrades did exist in historical reality.
Archaeologists have found that anything from every fifth to every third grave in Scythian cemeteries contain the bones of warrior women. These women were buried with the horses they rode into battle or took out to hunt, together with their bows and arrows, their battle-axes an invention credited to Penthesilea by Ancient Greek writerstheir mirrors used for communicating on the steppestheir jewellery and their war belts. They lived as part of nomadic or semi-nomadic communities from the seventh century BC to the sixth century AD on a territory stretching from the Himalaya and Altai mountains in modern-day China to the Black Sea in modern Georgia — and from there, it is not too far a ride to what is today believed to be the location of the historical city of Troy on the north-western coast of Turkey.
In the oral tradition of those countries that now cover the territory of Ancient Greek Scythia, stories of women warriors are widespread and told with relish. In those stories, women often face men in combat — and it is just as often that the woman comes out on top, not the man.
From the Lady Amezan, who accidentally kills the man she loves in battle and then stabs herself, through the warrior queen Nushaba, who meets Alexander the Great, to Queen Semiramis, who according to Herodotus ruled all of Asia and may or may not have constructed the Hanging Gardens of Babylon — stories of heroines abound, both historical and mythical, preserved to this day in the storytelling traditions that stretch from Georgia over the Caucasus Sex ladies Troy China, leaving their traces even in Ancient Greek poems such as the Iliad.
What and whom we remember matters. The stories we tell each other of our past define who we think we are today, and what we believe we can be in the future. They are what makes up our cultural memory, and our cultural memory in turn defines our collective identity, as the theorists and historians Jan and Aleida Assmann have shown.
Simone de Beauvoir, one of the founders of modern feminism, wrote in The Second Sex that women have no history of their own. Brilliant as she was, she may have been wrong in this one regard. Women do have a history, a past to call their own: we do have heroines, in myth, in legend, in history. All we need to do Sex ladies Troy remember them. Christine Lehnen is a novelist and researcher at the University of Manchester. She is currently working both critically and creatively on a rewriting of the story of Penthesilea.
If you would like to read some of the stories and oral traditions about warrior women from what used to be Scythian territory, I wholeheartedly recommend Sex ladies Troy Nart Sagas as edited, translated and annotated by John Colarusso. We are very fortunate that two British writers have recently set out to retell Ancient Greek myth with humour, style and grace: Stephen Fry does so in Myth, Heroes and Troy.
Aleida Assmann has raised some very pertinent questions, and given equally engaging answers, to what is happening at the current moment to how we look at and make use of the past to shape the present and our hopes for the future in Is Time Out of t? An Amazon gaining the upper hand against a Greek warrior detail from one of 92 metopes sculpted for the Athenian Parthenon in the s BC; now in the British Museum, London.
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Remember Their Names: The Women Who Almost Saved Troy