DBA Resource Page

Variant Armies

Amazons (1250-300 BC)
DBA 24d

Amazon RiderAccording to classical Greek mythology as recorded by Plato, Plutarch, Herodotus and others, the Amazons were a warlike tribe of women descended from Ares, the god of war and the naiad Harmonia. They were known among the Scythians as the Oiorpata ("To Kill Men") and originated from the Colchis area around the Caucasus Range but migrated to the south coast of the Euxine (Black Sea) in modern Turkey, where they built the town of Themiscyra (modern Terme) near the mouth of the Thermodon River (modern Termae Cay). The Amazons mated with neighboring Gargarean tribesmen, a small number of which where hamstrung and kept among the Amazons as slaves. Only daughters were kept, and they were raised as warriors. The Amazons were ruled by two queens, one for domestic affairs and one to oversee military matters. They worshipped Artemis, the goddess of hunting. Amazon women were trained to fight both on foot and on horseback. They bore crescent shields and wielded spears, bows and battle axes. In some myths, Amazon children had their right breast seared or removed to make it easier for them to draw a bow or throw the javelin as adults, but this is not represented in Greek art.

The earliest recorded Amazon queen was Lysippe, who built the city of Themiscyra at Thermodon, raised a great temple to the Goddess Artemis, and introduced cavalry into the Amazon army. Among the other great Amazon queens and generals recounted in Greek myth, first and foremost is Hippolyta, who fell in love with Hercules, who had been given the task (The Ninth Labor) by the Gods of retrieving her golden belt of Amazon queenship. Seeking to thwart Hercules, the Goddess Hera caused the Amazons to rise up against the hero, who then attempted to steal the belt. The Amazon Aella fought Heracles with her double-ax and was slain defending Hippolyta. Hercules then defeated Hippolyta and fled with the belt. Later, Hippolyta's sister, the Amazon queen Antiope, married Theseus, king of Athens. The complex and often conflicting stories of Hippolyta and Antiope prompt, somehow, an Amazon invasion of Attica in which Antiope was purportedly killed at Theseus' side by the Amazon Molpadia in single combat.

Greek myth also recounts the story of Penthesilea, who led an Amazon contingent to the defense of Troy and was killed in single-combat with Achilles, who mourned her death once he discovered her beauty. Marpesia, an Amazon military queen led the Amazons on a campaign of conquest through Syria and Thrace, conquering both Ephesus and Cyrene before being killed in battle. Finally, there are fourteen historical references to the Amazon queen Thalestris, who is purported to have visited Alexander the Great during his Asian campaigns for a sojourn of fourteen days, hoping to bear a daughter by the famous general.

The Libyan Amazons: In addition to the Amazons of Thermodon, legend also records a tribe of Amazons in Libya, ruled by the famous Queen Omphale. In his Biblioteca Historica, Diodorus Siculus records: "We are told, namely, that there was once in the western parts of Libya, on the bounds of the inhabited world, a race which was ruled by women and followed a manner of life unlike that which prevails among us. For it was the custom among them that the women should practise the arts of war, and be required to serve in the army for a fixed period, during which time they maintained their virginity; then, when the years of their service in the field had expired, they went in to the men for the procreation of children, but they kept in their hands the administration of the magistracies and of all the affairs of state. The men, howerver, like our married women, spent their days about the house, carrying out the orders which were given to them by their wives; and they took no part in military campaigns or in the exercise of free citizenship in the affairs of the community by virtue of which they might become presumptuous and rise up against the women." The story of the Libyan Amazons has interesting connotations in light of the traditional status accorded women in Taureg and Berber society, where inheritance was matrilineal.

Women Warriors of the Sauromatae: There is well-substantiated archaelogical evidence coupled with historical references supporting the presence of women horse warriors among the Sarmatian tribes, and particularly in a sub-tribe known as the Sauromatae. Herodotus in his histories provides a possible link between the Amazons and these women warriors of the steppe. Herodotus records that when the Greeks defeated the Amazons at Thermodon, they filled three boats full of captives only to have the women rise up and massacre the Greek crews on the return voyage to Attica. The Amazons landed at Cremni in the territory of the Scyths, and after initial skirmishes, the Scyth elders collected their young men and sent them to the Amazons in a peaceful manner seeking marriage. Eventually, the Scyth men and Amazon women were betroved, but the Amazons would not live among the Scyth women and convinced their new husbands to immigrate en mass across the Tainus River, where they built their villages. This new tribe, in which women dressed, rode, and fought as the men, obstensively evolved into the Sauromatae.

Army Composition

The following variant DBA Amazon army lists are offered based on nothing more than pure conjecture:

Amazons of Thermedon: 1x3Cv/4Wb (The Amazon Queen and her axe wielding guard), 3x3Cv/4Sp, 3x2Lh/3Aux, 3x3Bw/2Ps (bow), 2x2Ps (javelins).

Libyan Amazon: 1xLCh (The Libyan Queen Omphale), 1xWb (The Queen's Guard), 10x2Ps. Note that this list mirrors the Later Libyan (#14b) list and presumes that the Libyan Amazons would have organized and fought along similiar lines as other Libyan armies.

A seperate list is not provided for the Sauromatae, but they can be represented by mixing women cavalry into the DBA Early Rhoxolani Sarmatian (#55a) list.

Enemies

According to the Greek myths, the Amazons of Thermedon had occasion to fight the Dark Age/Geometric Greeks (#17), the Early Hoplite Greeks of North Greece (#24c) and Attica (#24a), the Thracians (#27), and the Syrian clients of the Achaemenid Persians (#28a/#33), as well as other unrepresented peoples of the period such as the Phyrgians, Bithnyians, and the Paphlagonians

The Libyan Amazons were reputed to live in remote southern and western Libya and their lands were presumably shielded from incursions by the Sea Peoples, Egyptians and other foes by other Libyan tribes. For our purposes, however, the Libyan Amazons may find themselves conflict with the Later Libyans (#14b).

Camp

A small village scene showing men engaged in domestic work makes an appropriate Amazon camp, as well as a more traditional steppe tent camp with horses and women defenders. You could also model the city walls of Themiscyra or a Greek style temple to Artemis.

Miniatures

Finding appropriate miniatures for an Amazon army is a difficult proposition, since they are not threated as a "historical" army and there is no basis on which to judge their historical accuracy. The best bet is to built the army that you wish to build, using the figures that are available.

Bull Dancer is reputed to sell Amazons to accompany their Greek/Trojan ranges, but I have second hand that they are no longer in business. Essex has a fantasy range of Amazonian warriors/assassins in 25mm, but from the discriptions it is not clear they are historically appropriate. In their 15mm fantasy range, Irregular has unspecified "warrior women" on foot bearing swords, spears, axes, bows, as well as cavalry and chariots. If an army of naked, large-busted Amazons with hollywood hairdos strikes your fancy, Museum has a line of nude women with swords, javelins and bows. Thomo the Lost has a Amazons page featuring these Museum Miniatures.

Black Raven Foundry offers a 15mm Amazon range for their fantasy line. I took a look at the foot melee (with command), foot command and foot archers packs. These are nice figures and could well be employed for a DBA Amazon army, although they are heavily armored (many with bared breasts), and are more "Conan-esque" than historical (i.e. Greek-like) in appearance. I'm not sure if the range includes Amazon horse.

Another approach would be to collect an army of warrior women from the various sources of fantasy miniatures, which will be more prevalent in 25mm. Classical Greek and/or Asian Steppe miniatures also provide an appropriate challenge for the figure converter.

Jan Cyrus: I assembled my Amazon army mostly from Ral Partha Enterprises and Reaper Miniatures 25mm fantasy figures. Mounted women warriors are very difficult to find (except for Joan of Arc look-a-likes). Ral Partha has a Nomad woman set (1 mtd and 1 on foot), also a mtd/foot set with a mostly naked woman with a Raven helmet. My favorite is the Amazon Horse Archer set (great for steppe warriors). Most women warrior figures are carrying swords and shields; so bows, spears and javelins are also difficult to find. My bows are Reaper Miniatures Elven Archers (they have long hair which covers the pointed ears, so you can't tell they are elves). For my spears I used Ral Partha's dancing girls and Palanquin bearing slave girls and glued spears into their raised hands.

David Manley: I had to raise a 15mm Amazon army to keep my wife happy a few years ago. I used Egyptians from the Chariot Miniatures range (I think) which looked suitably "feminine" with suitable modifications made using miliput etc. Quite a fun army to raise, fun to use and annoying for one's oponent when they win!

Painting Tips

In early Greek art, the Amazons are depicted in dress and battle array much like Greek warriors of the same period, although often with one breast bared. On Greek vases done in the classical period after the Persian Wars (499-448 BC), the Amazons are shown in oriental/steppe style caps and trousers.

Other Resources

The following websites provide inspiration for would be Amazonian commanders:


| Top of Page | Variant Armies | DBA Resource Page |


Last Updated: Nov. 28, 1999