Over time, women of fierce power and daring strength have become elevated onto a popular and empowering platform. They have been continuously and actively represented in numerous and various ways. The representations of these positive female figures in society contain historic roots relating back to the tales and myths of ancient Greek Mythology. Amazons are the race and nation of all women warriors. These Amazonian women have been adapted, altered, and eventually reproduced into pop culture references involving the subject of women empowerment. Because of artistic expressions, specific narrative and poetic sources, and present evidence such as vases painted by Kleophrades Painter, paintings from Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein, the poetry of Robert Laurence Binyon, Edith Hamilton’s book, titled Mythology, and even fictional characters from D.C. Comics’ Justice League, the theme of power women can relate back to and connect to Greek Mythology through the attributes and personas of Amazonian women warriors, proving their popularity and relevance in current times.
Kleophrades Painter provides the best artistic representation of the Amazon by depicting their in-battle characteristics through one of his attic red-figure kraters. Kleophrades Painter was a Greek vase-painter, active from 505 to 475 B.C. He produced more than one-hundred kraters which were ancient Greek vase-like vessels used for mixing wine. He worked in Athens and tended to paint traditional scenes from the Trojan War. Kleophrades Painter’s real name is unknown, however, he is recognized through his works by using red figure and black figure techniques. In this specific red-figure krater, Kleophrades Painter has depicted the outbreak of Hercules’s ninth labor. The goddess, Hera was determined to cause trouble for Hercules. She caused him to go insane to the point where he killed his wife and children. As a sentence for the murders, Hercules was assigned twelve years of punishment along with twelve near-impossible labors or tasks. Hercules’s ninth labor was to go to Hippolyta, the Queen of the Amazons, and obtain her girdle, a belt given to her from Ares, the god of war. Hera, once again causing trouble, turned the Amazons onto Hercules by lying and saying he had intentions to capture their beloved queen. The battle that broke out between the Amazons and Hercules for the belt is depicted on the sides of the krater. In different sections, Amazons are armed and constantly running into battle. Amazons are also carrying their wounded and dead and coming to the aid of other Amazons in the battle against Greek warriors. Some Amazons are in pairs, one with a shield and the other with a long spear. The pairs of Amazons are followed by archers in helmets armed with bows while wearing quivers. Horses were also used in the Amazons’ war tactics. They do lose the battle against the Greeks and Hercules with the loss of their Queen, Hippolyta. However, the Amazonian women warriors put up a strong fight displaying perseverance in an organized fierce battle fashion showing that women were able to work as a team, fight with power, and execute with control.
Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein also provides an artistic representation of Amazon’s war-like qualities through his painting “Amazons”. Tischbein was a German painter who began his career paintings portraits. Later, he moved to Rome around 1779 to continue his studies where he was assumed to be shortly influenced by Greek Mythology. He started to progress and changed his style of painting and began producing new paintings staring popular mythological figures and heroes from The Iliad. In Tischbein’s painting, a group of Amazons are banded together mounted on horses, riding towards Troy to help defend the city. Once again, the Amazons are battle ready. The front riders are armed with bows and quivers. Some of the women have clubs tied to their backs with ropes, while others, notably in the back of the infantry are holding long spears. Each warrior was covered in light clothing, hair pulled up, along with exposed bare feet. The women convey readiness in their faces along with toughness and determination.
In Robert Laurence Binyon’s poem titled “Penthesilea”, he sets a focus and writes about Amazonian Queen, Penthesilea, and her battle with Achilles as she led an army of Amazons towards Troy. Robert Laurence Binyon had a long and successful career in English writing along with his interest in versification. He also occasionally wrote about myth and mythology. With his poem “Persephone”, he was awarded the Newdigate Prize. He also later wrote an epic poem involving sirens, a composite monster commonly seen throughout Greek myths. In Binyon’s poem, Penthesilea, sister to Hippolyta, introduces herself to Priam, the king of Troy. She introduces herself as an Amazon, ruler, and queen of the Amazons, and as a woman. She claims to have fought with men and end victorious. She wants to battle Achilles and be the one to overthrow him. Penthesilea spoked smoothly with a spirit of queenly strength. However, King Priam claims there is no one braver than his son Hector, the prince, who fell in battle at the hands of Achilles. Penthesilea and the Amazons proceed to ride into battle on their wild horses with vengeance in their sights. Achilles came and eventually got in a fight with Penthesilea. Penthesilea was slain by Achilles. Penthesilea fought hard representing that a women’s heart is bold and that women’s strength is in her extremity.
In Edith Hamilton’s Mythology, a background of the Amazon’s and their roots is given. The father of the Amazonian race is Ares, the god of war. The Amazons did not make a battle without bloodshed. Gentleness was not a characteristics in the eyes of these Amazons. The Amazons stopped for nothing. They were called “The warring Amazons” and “men-haters” by Aeschylus, the father of tragedy. With roots connecting to the God of war, it makes sense for the Amazons to be fierce warriors in battle. The fierceness in women today wanting something is also seen. Women constantly play a role in society of being the underdogs or doing the work in the shadows.
Representation of these Ancients Greek Amazons has even been transformed into Pop Culture today through D.C. Comics’ fictional super heroine, Wonder Woman. D.C.’s Wonder Women was created in 1941. Since then, Wonder Women has debuted in a multitude of comics all the way to having her own movie in 2017. Wonder Woman is one of the most famous female superheroes. She is also the only woman in D.C. Comics’ “Justice League” which is a lineup of seven of their original superheroes. Wonder Women has many qualities and characteristics that make her a positive role model and figure towards women in our society today. What many people do not know about Wonder Woman is that she has Amazonian roots. Wonder Woman comes from this band of female warriors and relates and is a reference to Greek Mythology. Her origin story says she was formed out of clay by her mother, Hippolyta, the first queen of the Amazons. She was then granted her powers and life by the Greek gods. Before Wonder Woman becomes a superhero she was known as the princess of the Amazons. Wonder Women represents many things that can connect to the characteristics of the Amazonian women warrior race and women in society today. A couple of her most notable attributes are her strength and wisdom and that she is a fearless female with a courageous heart. Over time, Wonder Women’s back story has changed. However, it is important to note how Greek Mythology was so popular to be used as a source for something so modern. Wonder Woman just puts a modern-day twist on Amazons, allowing them to be transformed and kept relevant in pop culture.
In conclusion, Greek Mythology can easily be proven relevant and connected to pop culture through various sources while simultaneously conveying important themes and messages. Old artistic sources can depict a sense of how these women battled and fought for themselves. Women today are constantly trying to prove themselves in the world. Poetic and narrative evidence can convey the drive these women had to continue and preserve. Showing the will they had to want to fight with boldness and fierceness. Women are currently and actively also trying to break away from gender society roles. Finally, in pop culture today we have representations of how far these women have come and the changes they have undergone while building up their characters.
- Binyon, Robert Laurence. Penthesilea: A Poem. Constable, 1905
- Hamilton, Edith. Mythology. Little, Brown and Company, 1942
- Painter, Kleophrades. Attic Red-Figure Volute Krater. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, California.
- Tischbein, Johann Heinrich Wilhelm. Amazons. Das Schloss Landesmuseum Oldenburg, Oldenburg, Germany.
- Wonder Woman, actor. Patty Jenkins, director. Wonder Woman. Warner Bros. Pictures, 2017
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