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The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women Across the Ancient World

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The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women across the Ancient World
By Adrienne Mayor
Princeton University Press, 2014
536 pp. $29.95

The Amazons, ferocious warrior women, have long been assumed to be little more than a compelling myth of the ancient Greeks—a fantasy concocted by men who in real life probably preferred to keep women in domestic subservience. But it turns out that the Greeks almost certainly did confront women from the Central Asian steppes who fought on horseback and came from a nomadic society in which men and women shared essential tasks. The popular notion that these women cut off a breast so that they could more easily wield an archer’s bow appears to be apocryphal: after all, women can fire arrows perfectly well without drastic surgery. In her quest to separate reality from mythology, Mayor left few stones unturned, even examining the graves of women with war wounds and mummified tattoos. She skillfully presents her findings with wit and conviction in this superbly illustrated book. And in a final section, she shows that female warriors have 
in fact made frequent appearances 
at other times and places in history, 
in locations as distinct as China and Egypt.

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