Politicizing the Amazons: Discerning Ancient Greek Identity and Otherness in Fifth-Century BCE Literature and Art

Open Access
Bisbing, Hannah
Area of Honors:
Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Anna Irene Peterson, Thesis Supervisor
  • Mary Lou Zimmerman Munn, Honors Advisor
  • Amazons
  • Ancient Greece
  • Greeks
  • Persians
  • Persian Wars
  • Centaurs
  • Parthenon
  • Stoa Poikile
  • Athenian Treasury at Delphi
  • women
  • Others
  • Herodotus
  • Diodorus Siculus
  • myth
  • hero
  • heroes
  • History
  • politics
  • culture
  • identity
  • architecture
  • metopes
  • Wonder Woman
  • Scythians
  • polis
  • Amazonomachy
  • barbarian
  • barbarians
  • barbaric
  • Athens
  • citizenship
  • citizens
  • patriarchy
  • matriarchy
  • feminism
  • feminist
  • Heracles
  • Theseus
  • warriors
  • female warriors
  • binary
  • autochthony
  • civilized
  • Themiscyra
In ancient Greek thought, the Amazons existed as an unnatural male/female hybrid whose predetermined fate was death at the hands of Greek heroes. This project will critically analyze prominent myths, historical accounts, and artistic representations of the Amazons, a mythological women warrior tribe who dwelled within the Eurasian Steppes. Specifically, I argue that the Amazon figure underwent dramatic transformations in response to significant historical events and political climates, although their ultimate extermination remained unchanged. Emphasizing the profound ideological influences that the polis and the Persian Wars had on Greek society – especially Athens – I examine the resulting politicization of the Amazons to embody Greek conceptions of Eastern, barbaric, and effeminized non-Greek peoples. To conclude, I briefly address modern reconfigurations of the Amazon myth, specifically addressing the comic book hero Wonder Woman.