Adrienne Mayor is a research scholar in Classics and History of Science at Stanford University; her book The Poison King, a biography of Mithradates, was National Book Award nonfiction finalist in 2009.
Mayor's latest book is The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women across the Ancient World.
From her Q & A with Simon Worrall for National Geographic:
You describe them as "aggressive, independent man-killers." Were Amazons also lesbians?Learn more about The Amazons at the Princeton University Press website.
That is one of the ideas that have arisen in modern times. Nobody in antiquity ever suggested that. We know that the ancient Greeks and Romans were not shy about discussing homosexuality among men or women. So if that idea had been current in antiquity, someone would have mentioned it.
The one interesting artistic bit of evidence that I did find is a vase that shows a Thracian huntress giving a love gift to the Queen of the Amazons, Penthesilea. That's a strong indication that at least someone thought of the idea of a love affair between Amazons. But just because we don't have any written evidence and only that one unique vase doesn't preclude that Amazons might have had relations with each other. It's just that it has nothing to do with the ancient idea of Amazons.
The strong bond of sisterhood was a famous trait in classical art and literature about Amazons. But it was modern people who interpreted that as a sexual preference for women. That started in the 20th century. The Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva declared that Amazons were symbolic of lesbianism in antiquity. Then others took that up. But the ancient Greeks didn't think of them as lesbians. They described them as lovers of men, actually. Man-killers—and...[read on]
The Page 99 Test: The Amazons.