The Amazons in PostHomerica: A Multifaceted Semi-divine Genos

Abstract

What are the Amazons, and how should we understand their identity and mode of being throughout the Greek mythic corpus? The aim of this thesis is to build upon the work of previous scholars, as there is still much that can be said about the Amazons. Although most prior scholarship analyses the depiction of Amazons by 5th and 4th century BCE authors – Herodotus, Ephorus and Lysias – as well as iconography on 5th century Athenian public buildings, the Amazon mythic corpus is far greater in scope. I posit that scholars who focus exclusively on Amazon portrayals from this period run the risk of overly historicising the mythic figures by adopting an Othering framework and conflating the Amazons with the Persians. In contrast, I undertake a close reading of Quintus’ portrayal of the Amazons in PostHomerica, against the background of a wider range of relevant sources from the 6th century BCE to the Second Sophistic. In doing so, I argue that the Amazons are not always portrayed as subversive figures, nor do they solely occupy a mode of being which is explicitly antithetical to Greek societal norms. Rather, this thesis foregrounds numerous ancient accounts which portray the Amazons as heroic semi-divine figures, thus prompting a reinterpretation of Amazon ontology. Overall, my approach to Amazon ontology is unique in that I emphasise the complexity and multifaceted nature of the Amazonian γένος, analysing them as figures with their own complex mode of being, rather than as mere non-Greeks. In particular, this thesis argues that the Amazons navigate the human-divine binary opposition, and that this opposition is mediated through the animal as a third mode of existence

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