Medieval and Renaissance literature::Amazons


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Medieval and Renaissance literature

Dahomey Amazons were so named by Western observers due to their similarity to the semi-mythical Amazons

Amazons continued to be discussed by authors of the European Renaissance, and with the Age of Exploration, they were located in ever more remote areas. In 1542, Francisco de Orellana reached the Amazon River (Amazonas in Spanish), naming it after a tribe of warlike women he claimed to have encountered and fought on the Nhamundá River, a tributary of the Amazon.<ref>It has been suggested that what Orellana actually engaged was an especially warlike tribe of Native Americans whose warrior men had long hair and thus appeared to him as women. See Theobaldo Miranda Santos, Lendas e mitos do Brasil ("Brazil's legends and myths"), Companhia Editora Nacional, 1979.</ref> Afterwards the whole basin and region of the Amazon (Amazonía in Spanish) were named after the river. Amazons also figure in the accounts of both Christopher Columbus and Walter Raleigh.<ref>Ukert (1849), p. 35.</ref> Famous medieval traveller John Mandeville mentions them in his book:

"Beside the land of Chaldea is the land of Amazonia, that is the land of Feminye. And in that real is all woman and no man; not as some may say, that men may not live there, but for because that the women will not suffer no men amongst them to be their sovereigns."<ref>The Travels of Sir John Mandeville, Dover publications, Mineola, New York, 2006, cap. XVII, p. 103-104</ref>

Medieval and Renaissance authors credit the Amazons with the invention of the battle-axe. This is probably related to the sagaris, an axe-like weapon associated with both Amazons and Scythian tribes by Greek authors (see also Thracian tomb of Aleksandrovo kurgan). Paulus Hector Mair expresses astonishment that such a "manly weapon" should have been invented by a "tribe of women", but he accepts the attribution out of respect for his authority, Johannes Aventinus.

Ariosto's Orlando Furioso contains a country of warrior women, ruled by Queen Orontea; the epic describes an origin much like that in Greek myth, in that the women, abandoned by a band of warriors and unfaithful lovers, rallied together to form a nation from which men were severely reduced, to prevent them from regaining power. The Amazons and Queen Hippolyta are also referenced in Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales in "The Knight's Tale".

Amazons sections
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Medieval and Renaissance literature
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