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Imag(in)ing the Other: Amazons and Ethnicity in Fifth-Century Athens

Author(s): Andrew Stewart

Source: Poetics Today, Vol. 16, No. 4 (Winter, 1995), pp. 571-597
Published by: Duke University Press
Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/1773366
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Imag(in)ing the Other:
Amazons and Ethnicity in Fifth-Century Athens

Andrew Stewart
History of Art, UC, Berkeley

Abstract In this paper, I reconsider the polysemic figure of the Amazon in

Greek art, thought, and society during the period circa 750-400 B.C.E., with par-
ticular attention to her role as a gendered figuration of the Other. After briefly
tracing the development of Amazon scholarship from Bachofen (1861) to the
present, and the evolution of the Amazon legend in Greek literature and art
from Homer through the Persian Wars, I turn to the Amazons' most distinctive,
yet often overlooked, characteristic: their status as parthenoi or unwed females.
Wild and unrestrained, they offered a perfect metaphor for the Persian enemy,
enabling the Athenians to relegate the "barbarian" Other to the role of moral
and social inferior without diminishing their own achievement. Finally, I con-
sider the steep increase in Amazon pictures on Attic vases circa 450 and their
accompanying changes in iconography. I suggest that they may be a response to
the immigration crisis of the 450s that prompted Perikles' ultrarestrictive Citi-
zenship Law of 451. If so, it would be the first time that Amazons were used to
stand for other Greeks, and this possibility enriches our understanding of the
central role played by Athenian racial superiority in the imperalist ideology of
the Periklean state.

The following essay is a revised version of a paper presented at Tel Aviv University
onJanuary 18, 1994, in the context of a conference sponsored by the Moshe Dayan
Center and entitled "Knowledge, Power, and Society: Scholarship and Modes of In-
terpretation." I am most grateful to Professor Sally Humphries and Dr. Asher Susser
for their invitation to speak, to the faculty and staff of the center for their hospitality
and kindness during my visit, and to Professor Meir Sternberg for his invitation to
publish the essay in Poetics Today.

Poetics Today 16:4 (Winter 1995). Copyright ? 1996 by The Porter Institute for Poetics
and Semiotics. CCC 0333-5372/95/$2.50.

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572 Poetics Today 16:4

In the twentieth century, Amazons usually get a bad press. Every man
knows (or thinks he knows) what one looks like and what she represents.
Big, busty, butch, and bad-tempered, she challenges his ego on every
front. Yet this image is peculiarly modern; in ancient Greece, an Amazon
was young, trim, sexy, and by no means necessarily an implacable man-
hater. From the eighth century B.C.E., she occupied a central place in
Greek thought about the Other. Being female, "antimale" (an ambigu-
ous term, as will appear), and a non-Greek "barbarian," she was certainly
well placed to fill this role. In her, Greek ideas about polis and barba-
rism, ethnicity and gender, and knowledge and power coalesce, fracture,
and recombine in ways that are often revealing, sometimes unexpected,
and always stimulating. But this is a vast subject, so I want to begin with
the problem of who the Amazons were and what they stood for and then
move on to what became of them in fifth-century Athens.

The Question

Why did the Greeks need Amazons? What could the Amazons say about
otherness that Trojans, Giants, and the rest could not? What conceptual
niche, in other words, did they fill? Scholars have often tended either
to take them for granted, as a given (e.g., Bothmer 1957); or to explain
them in isolation, as fossils of ancient matriarchies (Bachofen 1861) or
Freudian figurations of Greek complexes about their mothers (Slater
1968); or to reduce them to one-dimensional antitypes of the Greeks
(Castriota 1992). One might label these three approaches the desexual-
ized, the hypersexualized, and the dichotomized. The first ignores the
role of gender in Greek society, the second theorizes it in unaccept-
ably anachronistic terms, and the third polarizes (and politicizes) it in a
crudely reductive way.
J. J. Bachofen (1861), who made the first serious attempt to probe
the meaning of the Amazon myth, regarded it as a relic of prehistoric
matriarchy. Though he grudgingly acknowledged the benefits of this pri-
mal state of affairs (peace, for one), his verdict upon it was unequivocal:
when women rule, the spirit remains earthbound. "The triumph of patri-
archy brings with it the liberation of the spirit from the manifestations
of nature, a sublimation of human existence over the laws of material
life" (Bachofen 1967 [1861]: 109). Picked up by Engels (1884), Bach-
ofen's thesis soon became extremely influential, and his negative judg-
ments upon it were often radically reversed; Marxists, feminists, Freudi-
ans, Jungians, and latter-day devotees of the Goddess all swallowed the
notion with gusto (Wesel 1980). Many still do, even though we now know
that the concrete historical value of the ancient testimonia on matri-
archy is precisely nil (Pembroke 1967). For example, Bachofen's theory
that the inexorable advance of patriarchy roused the priestesses of the
Goddess to become warrior Amazons has survived unscathed (Bachofen

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Stewart * Imag(in)ing the Other 573

1967 [1861]: 106; Graves 1955, 1:355; Stone 1976; Kirk 1987). Not sur-
prisingly, orthodox Marxist historiography subscribed to this idea, too
(Kanter 1926; Thomson 1961 [1949]: 180-83).
Early-twentieth-century scholarship, uneasy about Bachofen's thesis,
produced three new answers, which for convenience one might call the
positivist, the political, and the psychoanalytic. Walther Leonhard (1911)
was the first to propose a positivist reading. In his view, the Amazons
were actually a Greek reminiscence of clashes with the beardless Hittites
or, according to a recent version with unpleasantly racist overtones, with
"a beardless, small-statured race of bow-toting mongoloids" (Bisset 1971;
cf. Zografou 1972). Exactly who these mysterious bow-toting mongol-
oids were is not specified. The Athenian politicization of the Amazons
was most carefully spelled out by Roger Hinks (1939). Arguing that they
"preferred to conceal [their] memory of the great ordeal of Marathon
and Thermopylae and Salamis" through the "mythical transposition of
historical episodes," he saw the great fifth-century Amazonomachies as
illustrating a "symbolic situation" set up by the Persian invasions. They
represent the "moral conflict of which the political clash is the outward
and contingent expression" (ibid.: 65).
Amazon psychology, dominated by the Freudians, soon attained as-
tonishing precision. Schultz Engle (1942) thought the Amazons were
driven to fighting by the impotence of their Skythian menfolk, whose
hours in the saddle had given them orchitis; although she wrote her
paper in the Midwest, she had evidently never encountered a cowboy, let
alone a Turkoman or a Kirghiz. In her view, the Amazons derived mas-
turbatory satisfaction from riding (the horse being a phallus substitute),
while the Greek campaigns against them were motivated by castration
anxiety, as manifested in the myths of Herakles and Omphale, and of
Achilles among the maidens. More recently, Philip Slater (1968: 393)
viewed them as a projection of Athenian sex antagonism, of the general
"misogyny of Athenian thought," concluding that the myth "primarily
describes an event in the emotional life of each male child."
Slater's contemporaries were the structuralists of the Paris school and
the more sophisticated feminists. Though he shows no sign of having
read them, some of his ideas roughly coincide with theirs. For the
scholarship of the sixties and seventies achieved a rare consensus con-
cerning the Amazons. It was generally agreed, first, that Amazonian
society was a mirror image of the Greek polis, and second, that the
specter (already raised in the fifth century B.C.E.) of a gynaikokrateia or
"female tyranny" was also used to figure Greek notions about barbarian
despotism, particularly during and after the Persian Wars (Vidal-Naquet
1986 [1970]; Vernant and Vidal-Naquet 1988 [1972]; Carlier-Detienne
1980-81; Merck 1978). At this point the classical archaeologists rejoined
the fray. Using Dietrich von Bothmer's (1957) comprehensive catalog

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574 Poetics Today 16:4

of Amazon scenes in Greek art, they attempted to reconstruct the lost

Amazon frescoes of Mikon, commissioned after the Persian Wars, and to
interpret the many Amazonomachies in extant Athenian fifth-century art
(see Appendix) as direct reflections of the victories of 490 and 480-479.
Naturally, each group had its own agenda. The archaeologists were
(and still are) less concerned with ideology than with iconography and
chronology and with matching (or disconnecting) event and representa-
tion (Barron 1972; Devambez and Kauffmann-Samaras 1981; Boardman
1983; Castriota 1992). The structuralists took their cue fromJean-Pierre
Vernant's aphorism that in Greek society, marriage was for women what
war was for men (Vernant and Vidal-Naquet 1988 [1972]: 99; cf. Vidal-
Naquet 1986 [1970]: 205-23). They argued that Amazon society was the
inverse of the polis, "the Greek men's club," and particularly of its quin-
tessential manifestation, fifth-century Athens. To this way of thinking,
the Greeks used matriarchy as a tool for conceptualizing, explaining,
and validating the polis's customs, institutions, and values by postulat-
ing their opposites and revealing them as absurd (see Tyrrell 1984: 28).
The feminists agreed, but to them matriarchy became a weapon in the
feminist struggle, a useful means to attack and eventually destroy the
masculinist tyranny (Merck 1978; cf. duBois 1982; Keuls 1985: 44-47;
Kirk 1987). Yet as some critics have recognized (e.g., Carlier-Detienne
1980-81: 30; Lefkowitz 1986: 17-29), this feminist appropriation of the
myth has succeeded only by doing considerable violence to it.
Critiquing Bachofen, his feminist followers, and the structuralists,
Mary Lefkowitz (1986: 26-27) finds the notion that Amazons express
male anxieties about Athenian patriarchalism to be oversimplified. She
points out that the myths are centuries older than the Athenian ideal of
sex segregation, that men suffered as much as women from the Amazon
invasions, and that the Greek habit of paralleling them with the Centaurs
(duBois 1982) undermines rather than strengthens the feminist thesis.
For if the Amazonomachy advocates the suppression of women, then the
Centauromachy must advocate the suppression of horses; but the Greeks
valued horses highly and treated them extremely well. Instead, the myth
was a warning to "loners," those who withdraw from or reject ordinary
society. It proclaimed that they are dangerous to it and to themselves.
Furthermore, Stewart Flory and Francois Hartog have objected that
Herodotos exhibits no trace of hostility toward the Amazons. Flory (1987:
108-13) argues that for him they are a variant of the noble savage motif
or a kind of wry joke; Hartog (1988: 216-24), that he is using them to
make a complicated point about the otherness of the Skyths. And Froma
Zeitlin (1986: 135-36) complains of "a certain pallid and complacent
reductiveness that accompanies the now canonical explanations of the
structures and functions of the [Amazon] myth that end in the message,
'women must marry,' or 'the social order must reassert the principle of

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Stewart * Imag(in)ing the Other 575

male dominance on which it is founded.'" She stresses how "the Ama-

zon continually complicates the issue of male dominance," and wonders
whether Theseus's abduction myth "may have more to tell us about the
violence inherent in sexuality and marriage and about the nature of the
feminine response to the violation of its body's boundaries" (ibid.). Ad-
dressing these and other issues, Lorna Hardwick (1990) traces several
stages of development in the Amazon myth, correctly noting that they
were by no means consistently portrayed as hostile to men and that the
archaic and classical Greeks, far from denigrating them, cleverly used
their formidable prowess in battle to enhance their own status as victors.
The latest synthesis, by David Castriota (1992), pays little heed to these
warnings. Drawing upon the work of the sixties and seventies, he inte-
grates it with the views ofJ. J. Pollitt (1974: 184-89) and others on the
ethical agenda of fifth-century painting. The evidence for this agenda
consists of the statements of Aristotle and others that Polygnotos was an
agathos ethographos, a "good painter of character" (Poet, 6, 1450a24; Pol.
8.5.7, 1340a35), and of the Greek belief that painting of this kind could
mold people through the ethical lessons it expressed-what Robert Sut-
ton (1992: 6) has aptly called the Peitho model of art. In Castriota's
(1992: 12) view, classical Athenian rhetoric reduced "the complex reali-
ties and potential contradictions of fifth-century history ... to a series of
binary oppositions--to the victory of justice and law against aggressive
violence and disorder, and to the putative superiority of the Hellenic
ethos over that of foreigners, who are compared disparagingly to women
and wild animals." In Mikon's Theseion frescoes of the 460s, for ex-
ample, "the opposition between the righteous, heroic Greek ethos and
the inferior character of a criminal enemy began to emerge as a source
of unity for an extended display of myth" (ibid.: 58). Though there is
some truth to all this, it hardly does justice to the complexities and ambi-
guities of either the Amazon tradition or its various transformations in
fifth-century Athens.
John Henderson (1993) has recently addressed some of these ambi-
guities in a postmodernist reading of Amazon pictures on four archaic
and classical Athenian vases. Both indebted to and critical of the struc-
turalist and feminist theses discussed above, but too complex, allusive,
and deliberately quirky to be summarized here, his argument concludes
that "if the Amazon is the counterpart of the Man, if she is what secures
his prestige, then she makes him mean differently, she persistently threat-
ens to return as the repressed but necessary victim and so invades his
security ... [inhabiting] an ambience and a representational regime to
go with it which could only celebrate the plurality, lability and recursive-
ness of the repressed .... These are no 'Images of the Other,' but 'Our
Likenesses.' The feared, abjected, Legacies of 'Greece'" (ibid.: 137).
Finally, excavation of a series of kurgan or "mound" burials at Pokrovka

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576 Poetics Today 16:4

in Russian Central Asia (between the Caspian and Aral Seas) should add
new fuel to the debate about whether Amazons ever existed--or, more
accurately, whether Herodotos's account of them (4.110-17) has any
basis in fact. Attributed to the Sarmatian and/or Sauromatian cultures,
rich in gold and other finds, and dating from the sixth to the fourth cen-
turies B.C.E., these burials included many females, some of whom were
furnished with bows and numerous arrows, of which only the arrowheads
have survived (Davis-Kimball, Yablonsky, and Bashilov 1995).1

The Tradition: From Homer to the Persian Wars

What did the Greeks feel, think, say, and do about the Amazons? Roughly
speaking, the history of the legend before 400 B.C.E. divides into four
phases: the Homeric, the Archaic, the Persian War period, and the Peri-
klean. This section sketches the first two.
Homer calls the Amazons antianeirai or "antimen" (an ambiguous
term, since anti- can mean either "opposite to" or "antagonistic to"; cf.
Drew-Bear 1972). Using their reputation as formidable fighters to en-
hance the prestige of Priam and Bellerophon, he relates only that the
former fought them in Phrygia and that the latter slaughtered them in
Lykia (II. 3.182-90, 6.171-86).2 In this way Homer also establishes them
as liminal figures, living somewhat beyond the outskirts of the Greek
world: not the girls next door but the girls on the next block but one.
Thenceforth, as that world expanded, they withdrew; fleeing from Her-
akles, they settled in the Crimea, and Alexander the Great had to go
to Tajikistan to find them (Aesch. PV 415-19; Hdt. 4.110; Plut. Alex.
46; etc.).
Homer mentions no direct Amazon participation in the Trojan War;
this would have both contradicted the tradition of Priam's animosity to
Amazons and violated his own principle of never referring to events that
happened after the end of his poem, with the exception of the death of
Achilles, already predicted by the gods (II. 9.410-17). This left his sup-
posed pupil Arktinos of Miletos to fill the lacuna. Arktinos began his
Aithiopis (a continuation of the Iliad, allegedly composed around 700)
with the story of the Amazon Penthesileia. Only the first two lines and
a few other miserable scraps of the poem remain, but thanks to the
Byzantine scholar Proclus, the plot's outline survives. It begins as follows:
"The Amazon Penthesileia, daughter of Ares and a Thracian by birth,
arrives to aid the Trojans in war. As she is fighting valorously Achilles
kills her and the Trojans bury her. Achilles kills Thersites for slandering
him and carping at his alleged love for her; whence there is a division

1. This information has been kindly supplied byJeannine Davis-Kimball.

2. All citations from Greek and Roman literature follow the format of the Oxford
ClassicalDictionary; these works are not listed in the references at the end of this essay.

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Stewart * Imag(in)ing the Other 577

among the Greeks about the murder of Thersites" (Chrestomathia p. 105,

20-28 Allen).
Made suddenly topical by the Kimmerian invasion of Ionia, the theme
of Penthesileia's arrival and death soon appeared in pictorial form. A
votive shield from Tiryns, made around 675, is the earliest example;3
some have even sought to read the motif of the doomed romance into
these images, but they are usually ambiguous, as is Proclus. The im-
portant point is that Arktinos built male desire for the Amazons into
his poem, and this innovation stuck. As for the Amazons' own desires,
Herodotos (4.110-17) and Hippokrates (Airs, Waters, Places 17), our two
most informative fifth-century sources, give many details about their
interest in the men who trespass into their territory and their romances
and marriages with them. Slightly later, Hellanikos (FGH 323a F 17c)
even calls them "man-loving." So much for the notion that the Amazons
were always implacably hostile to men.
But this is to anticipate. The next hero to encounter the Amazons was
Herakles, who attacked them in their home territory on the Black Sea
coast (Pind. fr. 172 Snell; Pherekydes, FGH 3 F 15; Eur. HF 408-18; Ion
1144-45). Attic vase painters took up this theme around 570, quite sud-
denly and without apparent precedent, though in this period the bulk of
the scenes appear on the so-called Tyrrhenian vases, which were found
in Italy and were probably made specifically for export (cf. Henderson
1993: 98-113).
Soon another now-lost epic, the Theseis, added Theseus to the Ama-
zons' tormentors. Attempting to boost the Athenian national hero to
a position of equality with the panhellenic Herakles, it gave him his
own set of labors and much else, an Amazon expedition included. The
Amazons, it alleged, first received him with courtesy and friendship, but
he repaid them by raping their queen, Antiope, though he did subse-
quently marry her (Plut. Thes. 26-28; cf. Pind. fr. 175 Snell; Pherekydes,
FGH 3 F 151-53). Since in Attic vase painting his deeds increase dra-
matically in number and variety around 520-510 and now include the
rape (though this episode never attains wide popularity; see Appendix),
it is often argued that they reflect this poem's first performance, either
under the tyrant Hippias (527-510) or under the fledgling democracy of
Kleisthenes (archon in 508).
This expansion of the Amazon myth coincides with the Persian con-
quest of Lydia (547), Ionia (ca. 540), Thrace (512), and Macedonia (by
500) and with the simultaneous extension of Athenian interests to the

3. Representations of Amazons in archaic and classical Greek art are conveniently

collected in Bothmer 1957 and (less comprehensively) in Devambez and Kauffmann-
Samaras 1981; those illustrated in this essay are individually referenced in the cap-

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578 Poetics Today 16:4

northern Aegean, the Dardanelles, and the Black Sea. As already re-
marked, it also coincides with the fall of the Peisistratid tyranny in 510
and the beginnings of Athenian democracy: the quintessence of the
Greek men's club. Henceforth, under the slogan isonomia (equality of
rights), the city becomes a signifying space where decisions are placed
"in the midst" (to use a contemporary formula that is closely linked with
isonomia) and all citizens--all adult males, that is--have relations with it
that are both symmetrical and reversible (Hdt. 3.80, 142; Vernant 1988
[1974]: 92; Fornara and Samons 1991: 166). As not-males but definitely
people "of the city," women fit into this space in a most awkward way.
It is hardly surprising, then, to find late-sixth-century Athens suddenly
awash with images of women: courtships, abductions, explicit erotica,
courtesans, maenads, the Akropolis korai, and, of course, Amazons (see
Appendix). These images, and hundreds more like them, signal many
things about their male patrons and public: curiosity, anxiety, desire,
pride in possession, the need to control, and sheer brute macho sexism,
to name but a few. Not a few of them share a common denominator: the
fact that the women in them are oblivious to or heedless of what one
may call the "world's eye," the censorious gaze of men. Their combined
significance, however, is clear: by around 500, Athenians were vigorously
scrutinizing the proper place of women in their reorganized city.
Amazons occupied a special place in this discourse. Far from being "in
the midst," their society was at the margins: geographically and socially
a liminal place, the inverse of the polis. Yet obsessed with structural-
ist polarities, ancient matriarchies, psychoanalytic diagnoses, or feminist
political agendas, most discussions of it seem to have overlooked the
Amazons' most distinctive characteristic. Aischylos (PV 416), Hippok-
rates (Airs, Waters, Places 17), and Herodotos (4.114, 117) all call them
parthenoi or "unwed girls," and the last of these writers makes them de-
clare, "We are archers, javelineers, and riders-we have not learnt the
works of women." This does not mean that they were virgins in the tech-
nical sense of virgo intacta. For since the Greeks denied the existence of
the hymen (Sissa 1990), they had no means of telling whether a girl was
virgin in our sense or not. And in a traditional Mediterranean society,
then as now, this meant a lot of lost sleep for her parents.

Adolescents Abroad

Parthenoi, then, are nubile young women who have had no open sexual
relationship with a man. Their sexuality, or lack of it, is socially con-
structed, in that they are officially presexual beings, defined by public
knowledge of their virginity. In this respect, as in others, Greek notions
of sexuality are not congruent with our own and should not be conflated
with them. To quote Anne Carson (1990: 144), "Greek women have no
prime, only a season of unripe virginity followed by a season of over-

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Stewart * Imag(in)ing the Other 579

ripe maturity, with the moment of defloration as the dividing line." So

parthenoi represent femininity in its unripe, unfinished state. They are
adolescents who have not been tamed by marriage and the offspring-
producing "work" of conjugal sex with a husband (Xen. Oec. 7.10; Mem.
2.1.11; P1. Ti. 44a-b; Leg. 2, 653d-e; etc.).
As anyone who has a teenage daughter knows, this is a very dangerous
time indeed. Imagine how anxious it must have made the Greeks -anx-
ious enough to characterize their own daughters as little less than wild
animals lusting after the life of Artemis (Hom. II. 21.471; Pind. Pyth. 9.6;
Xen. Cyr. 6.13; etc.) and to marry them off as soon as they possibly could,
often by the age of fourteen. In his law code of 592, Solon even man-
dated that a father or brother could sell into slavery a parthenos (daughter
or sister) caught in bed with a man (Plut. Sol. 23), the only occasion
when a free Athenian could be so treated. For since transgressions of this
kind struck at the very heart of society, overturning the normal order of
things and insinuating bastards into the body politic, her guardian could
literally treat her as a foreign body. Instead of giving her away with a
dowry to a legitimate husband, he could sell her like a human object, for
profit. Her seducer was said to have "destroyed" her, and any children
she might have were called skotioi, "darklings" (Pollux 3.21); for what is
hidden does not exist, and revelation spells disaster.
Even the bodies of parthenoi were different, much more like those
of boys than of women (cf. Hippokrates, Genit. 2 [VII.472-74L]; Arist.
Gen. An. 1.20, 728a17-22, 728b22-33; 2.3, 737a25-30; ps.-Arist. HA 7.1,
581a9-b12). Not yet truly feminine (soft, moist, and permeable), they
were not properly masculine (hard, muscular, and sharply defined),
either. Adolescent girls with this physique are to be found on the splen-
did bronze mirrors of sixth-century Sparta (where, like the males, they
apparently exercised in the nude, but for eugenic reasons) and on the
modest but fascinating fifth-century vases used in the Athenian festi-
val of Artemis Brauronia (see, respectively, Scanlon 1988; Kahil 1983).
Indeed, one wonders if the name A-mazon or "breastless" originally re-
ferred not to some obscene self-mutilation, as asserted by Hippokrates
(Airs, Waters, Places 17) and repeated countless times since, but to the
sexual unripeness of the nubile adolescent. In fact, this alleged auto-
mastectomy is never shown in ancient art, less because Greek and Roman
artists regarded the human body's integrity as sacrosanct than because to
represent it would destroy one of the Amazon's most potent characteris-
tics: her sexual allure. In contrast to the modern image of the Amazon-
big, busty, and butch -in classical Greek art they are always young, slim,
and strikingly beautiful (Figures 1, 4-5, 9; cf. Kirk 1987: 33-36).
So until they marry and lay aside their weapons, Amazons are un-
ruly teenagers: unripe, undeveloped, undomesticated, and unrestrained.
Living beyond the confines of polis society, they mate with men at their

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580 Poetics Today 16:4

own convenience and pleasure and maim or kill the male infants born
of these promiscuous liaisons (Hippokrates, Articulations 53; Hellanikos,
FGH 323a F 17c). Far from the demure virginity prescribed by law and
custom, their sexual life is a continual series of flagrantly public one-
night stands. In this way they represent not only the threat that every
adolescent girl poses to her father's authority and to the stability of the
family, but the lure of forbidden fruit as well.
An anonymous Attic artist, the "Andokides" Painter, made their sexu-
ally ambivalent and socially liminal status (cf. Carson 1990; Sissa 1990)
explicit as early as around 520; on an amphora of his in the Louvre, Ama-
zons are arming on one side, while adolescent girls are exercising and
swimming on the other (Figures 1-2). We know that the latter are true
parthenoi because the Greeks believed that false ones drowned (Paus.
10.19.2); as in medieval Europe, water, the purest of liquids, is the litmus
test of feminine purity. But once an Amazon passed the test of killing
a man in battle (three men, according to Hippokrates) and decided to
marry, then she no longer rode, shot, or hunted unless compelled to
by a general mobilization. No longer a parthenos, she turned at last
to women's work at the side of her chosen man (Hdt. 4.117; Airs, Waters,
Places 17).
We can now understand why Amazons were so often paired with the
Centaurs. For the Centaurs too were agrioi, "wild," and instead of riding
horses they were themselves semi-equine. Offspring of the would-be
rapist Ixion, they too were undomesticated and unrestrained; indeed,
both kentron (goad) and tauros (bull) were frequent synonyms for the
phallus (Henderson 1975: 122, 127; duBois 1982: 31, 40). And the un-
tamed horse had long symbolized male sexuality on the loose; not for
nothing did Poseidon, its creator, rape Demeter in equine form. So, just
as Amazons represent the wild, untamed, unmarried, and potentially
lustful female, the bestial in woman, Centaurs represent the same kind
of male, more beast than man.
All this makes "matriarchy" a most inappropriate description of Ama-
zon society, as Bachofen (1967 [1861]: 105, 153) himself seems to have
recognized on occasion. They are more like a third sex, or like the agelai
or "herds" of Spartan adolescent girls described by Pindar (Pind. fr. 112
Snell; Calame 1977, 1: 372-78 and passim). It is clearly time that Bach-
ofen's ghost was laid to rest-though this plea will surely have no effect
on his followers, let alone on the cult of the Goddess and its devotees.

Kimonian Athens: Amazons and Aliens

Kimon, son of Miltiades (the victor of Marathon), dominated Athenian
politics from the expulsion of the Persians in 479 until his ostracism in
461. It is during this period that the tale of the Amazons' revenge for
Antiope's rape first appears. Led by Molpadia, they invaded Attica, en-

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Stewart ? Imag(in)ing the Other 581

Figures 1-2. Amazons arming and girls swimming, from an Attic amphora at-
tributed to the Amasis Painter. Ca. 520 B.C.E. Louvre, Paris (Bothmer 1957:
149, no. 34; Beazley 1963: 4, no. 13; Devambez and Kauffmann-Samaras 1981:
no. 710).

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582 Poetics Today 16:4

End wall Rear wall End wall

1. Oinoe 2. Amazonomachy 3. Troy Taken 4. Marathon

Author unknown Mikon Polygnotos Mikon and Panainos
(History) (Myth) (History)

Figure 3. The Stoa Poikile (Painted Stoa)

rangement of the frescoes. Ca. 460 B.C.E.

camped upon their father Ares' hill, t

take the Akropolis by storm. Theseus
ans and fighting side by side, succeeded
before Antiope had fallen to Molpadi
killed and buried in and around Athen
identified in Boiotia and Thessaly (Pin
89; Hdt. 9.27; Plut. Thes. 27). The entir
as an analogue for the great victories o
came highly popular in art, poetry, an
that, but for a few diehards, the Athen
citadel to the enemy in 480 was simply
In 473 Kimon sailed to the bleak islan
of Theseus, and on his return a shrine
house them; its frescoes, by the painte
the Amazons and Centaurs and retriev
of the sea (Paus. 1.17.2-3). The Amazon
been thought to echo the first of thes
(Barron 1972). Ten or fifteen years lat
lar commission from Kimon's brother
Polygnotos and Panainos, he was enga
tico in the Agora; so splendid was the
known as the Stoa Poikile or Painted S
678; schol. in Dem. 20.112). Alongsid
the Sack of Troy and completed the ense
Persian Wars themselves, which he pai
walls: the Athenians mustering at Oin
and the battle proper.
The potters cheerfully exploited th
Though the total number of Amazon sce
Persian Wars (see Appendix; perhaps
tion point), the concentration is now
featuring the novel perspectival devic
scenes are especially popular on big sy
have provided a spectacular centerpiec

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Stewart * Imag(in)ing the Other 583

Figure 4. Amazonomachy, from an Attic red-figure volute krater found at Nu-

mana and attributed to the Painter of the Woolly Satyrs. Ca. 460 B.C.E. Metro-
politan Museum of Art, New York (Bothmer 1957: 161, no. 7; Beazley 1963: 613,
no. 1; Devambez and Kauffmann-Samaras 1981: no. 295).

So why and how were the victories over the Persians mapped onto
these preexisting gender conflicts? How was a contemporary supposed
to read the Amazon-Persian comparison implicit in the Theseion fres-
coes (where Theseus's victory was crafted into a precedent for those of
490 and 480-479) and explicit in those for the Painted Stoa? First, the
Amazons satisfy one obvious requirement for a representation of an alien
but nevertheless human enemy: they look and are different from nude
Greeks without being bestial, monstrous, or grotesque.4 For whether
nude or armored, Trojans and Giants in archaic and early classical Greek
art are basically indistinguishable from their Greek and Olympian oppo-
nents. Furthermore, Centaurs and other freaks were at best only one-
dimensional symbols of human desires and antagonisms. Amazons, on
the other hand, were all too obviously human, conveniently located be-
yond the Greek world's eastern borders, formidable fighters, and sexu-
ally intriguing to boot. All this made the Amazonomachy a far more
subtle symbol of Greek male prowess in action than, say, the grossly phal-
lic herms dedicated after the victory at Eion in 476 (Aeschin. Ctes. 183;
cf. Stewart 1990: 51, fig. 234) or the picture on a little jug made after

4. I owe this observation to Professor Sally Humphries.

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584 Poetics Today 16:4

Kimon's victory at the Eurymedon in 465 (Kilmer 1993: no. R1155, with
ill.). The herms were the standard stone pillars sporting a huge, erect
phallus and topped by a bearded head, and on the jug, a Greek armed
only with his penis approaches a trousered, bent-over Persian as if to
bugger him, saying, "I'm Eurymedon"; while the Persian says, "I'm butt-
first!" In both cases the message is brutally clear: "We really screwed
them over!"
But though the Amazon-Persian analogy feminizes and so denigrates
the Persians to a certain degree, it should now be quite clear that it by
no means stigmatizes them as simply a bunch of cowardly women. For
the Amazons were daughters of Ares, sacrificed to him, and fought like
tigers; and, strictly speaking, they were not (yet) women. As the early-
fourth-century orator Lysias (2.4-6) remarked, "The Amazons were
counted as male for their bravery rather than as female for their nature,
so much more did they seem to excel men in spirit than to be at a
disadvantage in their form." In the vase paintings (Figure 3), they are
often shown in brutal hand-to-hand combat with the Greeks and are
always sexually mature, just as Lysias suggests. Contrary to popular
lief, though, the bared right breast is not a standard feature of archaic
early classical Amazon iconography: I know of only two examples in
vase painting of the period (for one of them, see Figure 3), and in e
case it is the violence of their movement that has caused their tunics to
slip. Pheidias was apparently the first to thematize the motif, on his great
shield for the cult statue of Athena Parthenos (Figure 9; completed in
438), but even so it did not become standard until the Hellenistic period
(see Stewart 1990: figs. 365-71, 388-96, 448-49, 461-65, 529-32).
These Amazons, then, challenge the cultural stereotype of a docile
femininity by exhibiting not only an independent sexuality but also a vig-
orous and resourceful courage in battle. So far from simply reinforcing
the racist cliche of the craven barbarian and the heroic Greek victor, they
help question and problematize it. But, crucially, they do not know when
to stop, nor can they learn from their mistakes (Lysias 2.6); immature,
wild, and unrestrained-characteristics that Pheidias registered in his
brilliantly chosen motif of the bared breast-they lack the quintessential
classical virtue, sophrosyne. Sophrosyne is the self-knowledge that leads
to a measured self-control, a virtue that is conspicuously manifested in
such classical monuments as the Parthenon frieze and the Doryphoros
of Polykleitos (Stewart 1990: 155-57, 160-62, and figs. 327-46, 378-82).
But whereas Greek men can know their boundaries, can develop rational
self-control and resistance to excess, women and barbarians cannot.
A woman's sophrosyne consists in knowing that she must submit her-
self to male governance. When Antiope fell in love with Theseus and
married him, she showed that she had come to recognize this. In the for-

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Stewart * Imag(in)ing the Other 585

mula of the Greek marriage ceremony, she had left the bad and found
something better. Now domesticated within the polis, she had aban-
doned her wild state of partheneia, had learned sophrosyne, and had
submitted herself to the womanly "work" of marriage. The Persians, too,
lacked sophrosyne. The whole point of Aischylos's Persai of 472 is to show
how Xerxes' ambition knew no boundaries and how his hybris led him
and his people to disaster. For they were also adolescents of a sort. Since
barbarian society resembled that of Greece before the invention of the
polis (Hdt. 3.80-83; Thuc. 1.5-6), the Persians, like the Amazons, suf-
fered from a bad case of arrested development. Both races were ruled
by monarchies that could easily become tyrannies. They neither lived in
proper cities nor were ready for the self-discipline required by equality
of rights or isonomia, the cornerstone of Athenian democracy. Though
personally brave, they often fought with the bow, from long range, not
with the manly spear, and from horseback, like Greek aristocrats of old,
not on foot. They knew nothing of the democracy of the phalanx, where
all are equal and interdependent, and (because generals were elected
and campaigns decided upon by free vote) decisions were "in the midst."

Periklean Athens: Aliens II

So much for the Persian invasion and its aftermath; what of our final
phase? Perikles achieved political prominence at Athens in the 460s; by
449, when peace was made with Persia, he had become the city's most
powerful man, and his preeminence lasted until his death in the great
plague twenty years later. In 447 he persuaded the Assembly to inaugu-
rate a building program that was to make Athens the envy of the Greek
world. The first and greatest of its projects was the Parthenon (447-432),
dedicated to Athena in thanks for her help in the victory over Persia. It
included two monumental Amazonomachies, one on the fourteen met-
opes of the west front and the other on the shield of Pheidias's great gold
and ivory statue of Athena within the temple. The other metopal themes
were the now-familiar Centauromachy (south) and Sack of Troy (north);
on the east side they were joined by the Gigantomachy, which was also
repeated on the interior of the shield.
The metopes are too battered to reveal anything much beyond the
fact that, as in Mikon's paintings, the Amazons were mounted; unfortu-
nately, it seems that they generated no echoes in the minor arts. Yet the
shield was apparently very popular; though it is now totally lost, several
quotations from it turn up on late-fifth-century vases, and scholars have
been able to reconstruct it quite accurately from the numerous Roman
replicas in marble, some of individual groups (Figure 8) and a few of the
entire composition (see Stewart 1990: 157-58, figs. 364-71). It showed
the Amazons (about half of them with their right breasts bared) scaling

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586 Poetics Today 16:4

Figures 5-6. Amazons advancing and women fleeing to a bearded patriarch, from
an Attic red-figure bell-krater found at Spina and attributed to Polygnotos. Ca.
440 B.C.E. Museo Nazionale, Ferrara (Bothmer 1957: 198, no. 132; Beazley 1963:
1029, no. 21; Devambez and Kauffmann-Samaras 1981: no. 724).

the rock of the Akropolis and the Athenians, led by Theseus, attacking
them from above.5

Vase painters of the Periklean period also invested heavily in Ama-

zons, who are now almost always mounted; in the years around 450 the
number of Amazon scenes more than doubles, even though the total
output of painted vases is falling (see Appendix and Figures 5-6). The
fame of the Painted Stoa and its frescoes is an insufficient explanation
for this puzzling phenomenon,6 for the Stoa's other mythological theme,
the Sack of Troy, actually drops precipitately in popularity (by almost
80 percent) during this period, and the Persianomachy vanishes com-
pletely. As for the other candidates, the Parthenon's metopes were not
finished until 442 and were third-rank decorative sculpture; the shield

5. As Gale Boetius reminds me, the Greeks identified the right side as the virile side:
in Hippokratic physiology, for example, male infants are associated with the right
side of the womb and the right breast (Hippokrates, Epidemics 2.6.15, 6.2.25, 6.4.21;
Aphorisms 5.38, 48); for other examples and discussion see Loraux 1990: 46.
6. Even though the striding Amazon in Figure 5 is labeled Peisianassa, for the right-
hand one is labeled Dolope; this refers to the Dolopian pirates destroyed by Kimon
on his Skyros expedition, after which he dedicated the Theseion. Since the painter is
surely not citing both frescoes, the most likely explanation is that he was only making
a verbal allusion to Mikon's pictures, perhaps with satirical intent: see below.

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Stewart * Imag(in)ing the Other 587

was not finished until 438, and its Amazons fought on foot. So what was
responsible for the surge?
One possibility is that this intensified interest in Amazons, and Ama-
zons alone, may have had something to do with the immigration crisis that
precipitated Perikles' Citizenship Law of 451. This extraordinary piece
of legislation, which has no known precedent in Greek legal practice,
stipulated that "no-one should share in the city who was not born of
native Athenians on both sides" (Arist. Ath. Pol. 26.4; cf. Plut. Per 33;
cf. Ar. Av. 1661-66; Ath. 577b-c).7 The law thereby defined any union
between Athenians and foreigners, both Greek and barbarian, as con-
cubinage and its offspring as bastards. By so doing, it proclaimed that

7. Plutarch wrongly links it to Psammetichos's grain donation of 445/4. I thank

Professors Ronald S. Stroud and Raphael Sealey for their kind assistance with this

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588 Poetics Today 16:4

Athens's citizen body was now one big, endogamous family. Henceforth,
only pure Athenians would share in the benefits of citizenship and thus
of empire; they would constitute an imperial elite (Patterson 1981, 1990).
The actual word Perikles used for "native Athenians" is astoi, "people
of the city." This term not only got around the fact that in this context
he could not use the word politai, "citizens" (for Athenian women were
not citizens), but immediately brought to mind the Athenians' boast that
they alone among the Greeks were autochthonous (Thuc. 1.2.5-6 etc.).
All other Greeks were wanderers and immigrants, not least the metoikoi,
"metics" or resident aliens, who now thronged the streets of Athens itself
and were surely the law's prime targets.
Perikles' main purpose was probably to stop intermarriage between
Athenian men and metic women. For thanks to massive immigration
after the Persian Wars, metics now composed from one-fifth to an almost
incredible one-half of the free population (Thuc. 2.13.6-7, 31.2; Diod.
12.40.4; Gomme 1933: 5, 26; Duncan-Jones 1981; Rhodes 1988: 271-77).
They could not vote, own land, plead in court, or take part in most civic
festivals, and they could be expelled without notice, but they controlled
much of the city's industry and commerce. For the strains that such a
huge influx of deracinated foreigners would place upon the body politic,
one only has to consider the attitudes toward the far smaller numbers
of immigrant Turks and Eastern Europeans in present-day Germany, of
North Africans in Italy and France, or of immigrant Hispanics and Asians
in the United States.
But there is more. The life tables used by the scholars who have done
these calculations show that in the 450s, between 350 and 1,000 metic
parthenoi would be reaching marriageable age each year.8 Probably less
strictly closeted than their Athenian counterparts and encouraged by
parents eager to improve their position, these metic girls surely posed a
far more substantial threat than metic men to the local marriage market.
For in a traditional agrarian society, sons tend to remain at the pater-
nal farm or business whomever they marry, while daughters are usually
traded in alliances that improve the family's status; and in archaic and
classical Athens, this meant marrying an Athenian. So it is perhaps no co-
incidence that all our documentation about particular exogamous mar-
riages in sixth- and fifth-century Athens concerns Athenian men marry-

8. Low estimate (Gomme 1933): 6,000 metic hoplites = ca. 9,500 metic adult males =
ca. 17,600 metic males of all ages = ca. 17,600 metic females of all ages x 2% =
ca. 350 girls of fourteen years. Total citizen adult male population: ca. 43,000. High
estimate (Duncan-Jones 1981, assuming more nonhoplite, i.e., poorer, artisan-class
metics in the total metic population): 12,000 metic hoplites = treble all figures quoted
above x 2% = ca. 1,000 girls of fourteen years. Total citizen adult male population:
ca. 45,000-60,000.

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Stewart * Imag(in)ing the Other 589

ing foreign women (Pomeroy 1982: 128-29). So the feelings of Athenian

fathers in the 450s as they saw their daughters' prospects, and their own,
steadily shrinking can readily be imagined.
In 454 an event occurred that would have sharpened the crisis con-
siderably and may even have prompted Perikles' initiative. A fleet of
two hundred Athenian and allied ships had been operating in Egypt
since 459, aiding a local revolt against the Persians. After some initial
successes, this force found itself blockaded on an island formed by a
canal between two channels of the Nile. A messenger was sent to Athens
for help, but in the interim the Persian commander drained the canal
and attacked the island. The Greeks burned their own ships, many were
killed, and the rest surrendered but were allowed to march across the
desert to Kyrene and safety. The Athenian relief expedition of fifty ships
then arrived, only to be ambushed by the victorious Persian fleet; a mere
handful of them escaped. The number of Athenian citizens killed in this
double disaster has been conservatively estimated at eight thousand, or
15-20 percent of the citizen population. Since Athenian men normally
married in their late twenties, the loss of unmarried males was particu-
larly severe (Ruschenbusch 1979: 84, 135-36; cf. Sealey 1987: 23-24).
So, in mid-fifth-century Athenian sexual politics, not foreign men but
foreign girls were the threat -exactly the reverse of the present situation
in Germany and other Western nations with large numbers of immigrant
workers. In a city that prided itself on its autochthony, these alien par-
thenoi could justly be represented as draining the city of its remaining
eligible bachelors, depriving its daughters of their birthright, and mon-
grelizing the community. Under these circumstances, it is not surprising
that Perikles' law was apparently passed without significant opposition.
Compare Figures 4-5, where as the Amazons advance, scared young
Athenian women flee to a mature man, represented not as a warrior but
as a bearded patriarch. These scenes are very numerous, an invention of
this period, and certainly suggestive.
This is not to argue, however, that these pictures simply "reflect" Peri-
kles' law-a pernicious expression that reduces art to a mere appendage
of the already known. So far from being parasitic upon society, as it im-
plies, images are socially formative; they help create the space in which
people come to understand themselves, their lives, and their surround-
ings. If these vases relate to Perikles' law at all, they must be deeply
implicated in it, part of the extended midcentury debate over Athenian
identity and Athens's imperial mission in the world. The Painted Stoa's
great fresco of the Amazon invasion, in other words, could have had the
unintended effect of sharpening Athenians' anxieties about the unprece-
dented influx of foreign girls into their city and its consequences, cre-
ating a lively market for these images of advancing Amazons, frightened

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590 Poetics Today 16:4

women, and stalwart patriarchs. If so, they can only have heightened the
wave of xenophobia that must have both preceded and followed the law's
If this guess is correct, these Amazons would stand not merely for bar-
barian parthenoi but for non-Athenian parthenoi of any kind, Greeks
included. Though startling at first sight, this is perfectly congruent with
the kind of imperialist arrogance that Thucydides documents in Perikles'
Funeral Speech, the Mytilene Debate, and the Melian Dialogue (2.34-
46, 3.36-48, 5.84-113). After 451, endogamy now defined Athenian
identity and guaranteed Athenian racial, cultural, and military superi-
ority over Greeks and barbarians together. Measured against the city that
Perikles labeled an "education to Greece" (Thucydides 2.41), the law
implied that all foreigners-other Greeks included-were mere barbaroi.
Ironically, he soon felt its sting himself, for around 448 he took a metic
mistress, the Milesian Aspasia, was unable to marry her, and eventually
had to beg the people to legitimize his sons by her (Plut. Per. 37; Souda
s.v. "demopoietos" et al.; Fornara and Samons 1991: 162-65).
Several scholars have suggested that Euripides' Medea and Hippolytos
were responses to this law, proclaiming that exogamous unions and their
fruit must turn bad. The first was produced in 431, during the first few
months of the Peloponnesian War, and the second in 428, the year after
Perikles' legitimacy petition was heard and approved and he himself had
succumbed to the plague. Of the two, the Hippolytos is the more out-
spoken. At lines 304-8 the nurse (calling the Amazon queen Hippolyte
instead of Antiope) says to Phaidra:9
Your children will never inherit their father Theseus' palace-
No by Hippolyte, Queen of the horse-riding Amazons-
She has a son whom your boys will serve as slaves,
A bastard who thinks himself legitimate, you know him well:
So, more than two decades after 451 and three years into the Peloponne-
sian War, when the plague had strained Athens's manpower to the limit,
the old anxieties were still festering, and the terms of the debate were
still the same.


In the tumultuous years from around 520 to 450, the Athenians gen-
dered and mapped no fewer than three political and social issues onto
the Amazon myth. First, there was Peisistratid and Kleisthenic Athens's
expansionism, reaffirmation of the polis as a male preserve, and selection
of Theseus as its heroic paradigm; second, Kimonian Athens's conflict

9. In addition to unequivocally linking mother and son, Hippolyte, "loose-horse,"

has something of the flavor of "loose cannon" in English.

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Stewart * Imag(in)ing the Other 591

with the socially adolescent and mortally dangerous Persians; and third,
Periklean Athens's immigration crisis, precipitated by imperial success
and intensified by unexpected military defeat. Each of them not only
added a new layer to the palimpsest but modified the one that went
before it, inflecting not only the Amazon legend but Athenian notions
about themselves as well.

It is suggestive, though, that among these crises only the Persian Wars,
the most obvious and straightforwardly political, have hitherto been
taken up by art historians. Yet in this case, the significance of the Amazon
metaphor has often been misunderstood as a straightforward effemini
zation of the Persians. This fact alone demonstrates that assumptions
about gender structure our own discourse about the Greeks as much as
they structured Greek civilization itself, and that the two sets of ideas -
ours and theirs-are by no means congruent. Of course, our attitudes
themselves are hardly free of contradiction: the art historian, heir to
the nineteenth-century positivism that gave birth to the discipline, ha
tended to deny gender, the social historian to acknowledge it but to
interpret it in anachronistically modern terms.
It is appropriate to conclude, then, with a Greek viewpoint. In 411,
twenty years into the Peloponnesian War, Aristophanes produced his
comedy Lysistrata. There, he conjures up the specter of an Athenian
woman leading a women's peace movement and seizing the Akropolis in
order to get her way. The male characters call the women's revolt hybris
no fewer than three times during the play (at 399-401, 425, and 658-
59), and shortly after the third of these outbursts, they turn to the past
But if we give an inch, they'll take a mile!
They'll get themselves all sorts of fancy skills:
Like Artemisia, they'll build a fleet,
And try to sail, to challenge us at sea.
And if they learn to ride, forget the Knights.
For they know how to horse around in style,
To mount up well and then sit firm and tight.
Just look at Mikon's painted Amazons,
All riding high and battling men. No way!
Let's grab 'em all and chuck 'em in the stocks!
A yoke around the neck-that's what they need!

This passage is replete with sexual innuendo (Henderson 1975: 163-65)

Sailing and sea fighting were common metaphors for sexual intercourse
and as for horsing around, the chorus is describing the unnatural specter
of women "on top" and riding their men. This adds a new, satirical dimen-
sion to the names of two of the Amazons painted on the vase in Figure 4:
Peisianassa, "she who rules Peisianax," and Hippomache, "equestrian
fighter." Significantly, there is only one picture of the "equestrian" posi-

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592 Poetics Today 16:4

Figure 7. Lovemaking scene, from an Attic red-figured oinochoe found at Lokroi

and attributed to the Shuvalov Painter. Ca. 430 B.C.E. Staatliche Museen, Berlin
(Beazley 1963: 1208, no. 41; Kilmer 1993: no. R970).

tion in the whole of Attic erotic vase painting (Figure 6); all the rest show
the man on top, or entering from the rear.
So, to Aristophanes as to the painters, uppity women of any kind are a
mortal threat to Athenian manhood, and Amazons are the worst threat
of all, for they endanger his position on top, in both senses of the word.
For them and for most other Athenians, the ideal would surely have been
the dutiful young Athenian wife of Xenophon's Oeconomicus and the dig-
nified yet submissive women of the Parthenon frieze (Figure 7). The long
folds of these women's peploi closely recall the furrows left by the plough:
suggestively, "ploughing a woman" is a traditional Greek metaphor for
marital sex (Pind. Pyth. 4.254-57; Aesch. Sept. 750-55; Soph. Ant. 569;
Trach. 31-33; OT1207-12, 1255-57, 1484-85, etc.; see Henderson 1975:
166; duBois 1988: 65-85; Carson 1990: 149). This modest but evocative
clothing contrasts starkly with the thin, see-through chitoniskoi of the
Amazons on the shield of Athena Parthenos (Figure 8). The former re-
pels, the latter invite the attentions of the "eye's hand," positively teasing
the male viewer to caress the Amazons' trim, lithe bodies, to possess
them from afar. If painted like these, Mikon's Amazons would have only

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Stewart * Imag(in)ing the Other 593

Figure 8. Maidens and marshals, on a slab from the east frieze of the Parthenon
at Athens. 442-438 B.C.E. Louvre, Paris.

Figure 9. Athenian and Amazon, Roman marble copy of a group from the
shield of Pheidias's statue of Athena Parthenos. 447-438 B.C.E. Piraeus Museum,

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594 Poetics Today 16:4

served to reinforce the traditional patriarchal ideal of womanhood, to

offer new arguments for the Athenians' segregation of their women.
So if these alien, untamed parthenoi at loose in the wild had any effect
upon the feelings of Athenian men toward barbarians and women, it was
surely to confirm their anxieties about both. Left to itself, each group
could potentially overwhelm the patriarchy: the barbarians from with-
out, women from within. The Amazons united both threats into one,
eternally challenging the sacred principle of male supremacy: for every
Molpadia outside the gates, there was an Antiope/Hippolyte within
them. It was therefore every Athenian's patriotic duty to make sure that
neither threat materialized, that the Amazons could never get into the
saddle again.

Appendix: Amazons in Attic Vase Painting

Preliminary note: All statistics are taken from Beazley 1956, 1963, 1971;
his lists include about two-thirds of all known Attic vases. The chronology
is approximate at best, for no vases can be exactly dated and the careers
of many of the painters he identifies overlapped. The overall picture,
however, cannot be far wrong. For black-figure, Beazley's development is
roughly as follows: earliest = ca. 625-575; early = ca. 575-550; mature =
550-525; ripe archaic = 525-500; latest = ca. 500-475. For red-figure,
his periods also span roughly a quarter century each, as follows: early =
525-500; late archaic = 500-475; early classical = 475-450; classical =
450-425; late-fifth-century = 425-400; fourth-century = to ca. 325, when
the production of painted pottery ceases.

Total v HerBat ThBat Ach/Pen GenericBat TotBat Th/Ant Other Tot. %

625-575 778
575-550 752 30 21 51 5 56 7.45
550-525 2,343 24 3 40 67 6 73 3.12
525-500 4,478 64 2 29 95 4 47 146 3.26
500-475 8,819 96 2 47 145 4 143 292 3.31
475-450 5,115 4 2 32 38 15 53 1.04
450-425 3,754 13 1 67 81 31 112 2.98
425-400 932 4 4 6 10 1.07
400-325 1,838 27 27 46 73 3.97

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