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Amazons

Strangely, literature and cinema have neglected one of humanity’s most fascinating topics: the fabled Amazons of ancient Greece. They’re rarely mentioned in modern books or movies. They remain mostly invisible, unknown.

 

My novel plunges into the uncharted zone, relating the passion and peril of the legendary female fighters.

 

A few sources have portrayed Amazons as an entire nation of women - but I find that implausible. Instead, I depict them as small cliques of spirited women who rebelled against oppressive male domination and fled to live in fugitive bands. Most had been slaves, concubines, temple prostitutes or other underlings before escaping to freedom. To reach the female hideouts, runaways followed a clandestine network of safe houses similar to the Underground Railroad of America’s slavery days.

 

Their tale is related by a young male scribe who was wounded, captured, and kept as a slave-concubine. He slowly attains wisdom, seeing absurdity in the chaos around him. He senses madness in Greece’s never-ending warfare - and feels injustice in the pervasive slavery - and comes to doubt the many sacrifices to gods on Mount Olympus and mystical revelations of oracles. He finds joy in the love of a runaway slave girl who became a novice Amazon.

 

I hope my story resonates with readers.

 

-- James A. Haught

 

Illustrations from novel:

 

 

One of many Greek-versus-Amazons battle friezes from the tomb of Mausolus at Halikarnassos, Greece, fourth century BCE, which ranked among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

(British Museum, London. Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons)

 

 

 

“Amazon Preparing for Battle,” by Pierre-Eugene-Emile Hebert, 1853

(National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.)

 

 

 

“Battle of the Amazons,” by Peter Paul Rubens, 1618,

    (Alte Pinakothek museum, Munich, Germany)

 

 

 

Hercules killing an Amazon. Ancient Greek red-figure bowl, c. 490 BCE

(Royal Museums of Art and History, Brussels, Belgium)

 

 

Links to Amazon sources:

 

Amazon Research Network

 

Amazon Research Center

 

The Amazons in Greek Legend

 

Herodotus on the Amazons

 

Amazon Nation

 

Amazons International

 

The Amazon Connection

 

Women Warriors - The Sarmatians

 

Amazons - Straight Dope

 

Amazons - Wikipedia

 

Amazons - Wellesley

 

 

Characters in “Amazon Moon”

 

Modern:

JACK HASTINGS and CAROLINA KING, young American archeologists who join an international dig in northern Greece.

DR. CHICHESTER, their craggy British director.

Ancient:

MELOS, a teen-age scribe who comes of age, sees violence as a noncombatant, suffers slavery, loses his virginity, falls in love, witnesses tragedy - and reaches wisdom, disdaining the warfare, religious sacrifices and slavery around him.

LITHA, a spirited young slave woman who stabs her oppressive owner and runs off to join the Amazons. She finds Melos, slave of the warrior women, and becomes his lover.

MITHA, older sister of Litha, who escapes with her. Both are blondish Slavs who were captured by Greeks and put into slavery.

OVERSEER, cousin of a rich family that owns the farm village of Melos and Litha.

RECTUS, best friend of Melos, son of the wealthy Overseer.

HIGH SCRIBE, Kavopolis official who trains Melos in writing.

DALIEN, aristocratic soldier wounded and captured along with Melos.

WAR QUEEN, Saria, chief of the Amazon fighting force.

HOME QUEEN, Hella, chief of other Amazon village functions.

EILA, sensual priestess of the Amazon colony.

LEEANTHA, tough woman warrior who screams during sex.

COMELLA, sturdy, funny, bawdy warrior.

ALETHA, temple prostitute turned Amazon.

RACHA, black Nubian from the Nile Valley who became an Amazon.

THEBA, daughter of a Thebes prince's concubine.

ASPASIA, descendant of a famed Athens courtesan.

OCTOS, one-legged male soldier-slave, a rogue and skeptic.

ANKUS, long-bearded male slave, keenly intelligent.

PENDILEE, young woman rescued from a Greek slave auction.

ARCTINUS, macho Greek ex-soldier and patriot.

PRINCESS XANTHIA, who is captured by Amazons and joins them.

ADMER, devout soldier-slave who prays and wears magical amulets.

AUGUR, sappy astrologer who gets everything wrong.

OLANDRA, battle-maimed Amazon who serves as lookout.

OONA, the smallest Amazon warrior, caught by a Greek patrol.

COMMANDER MALGON, Greek officer whose squad suffers a midnight Amazon raid.

COMMANDER PATROS, Greek officer who heads a search-and-destroy mission against the Amazon hideaway

 

 

Chapters of “Amazon Moon”

 

ANCIENT

1 - A deadly Greek army attack on an Amazon hideout looms.

MODERN

2 - American archeology student couple analyzes extreme subjugation of women in Ancient Greece - an odd contrast to the era's many paintings, sculptures and writings about fierce warrior women.

3 - The lover-archeologists join a Mediterranean dig and find the first written account of an Amazon village.

ANCIENT

4 - Melos tells of his village, boyhood, doubts - and his reaction to the flogging of the slave girl Litha.

5 - Melos becomes a teen-age scribe, assigned to a military brigade.

6 - A midnight attack decimates the brigade. Melos, wounded, is taken by Amazon raiders to their concealed colony as a slave-concubine.

7 - Litha reappears and tells of an Underground Railroad guiding runaway females to the Amazon hideaway.

8 - An arrogant soldier-prisoner cites Aristotle on natural slaves, and male dominance over women.

9 - Melos finds the joy of sex.  The arrogant soldier is killed during an escape attempt.

10 - A wounded Amazon dies, despite prayers and sacrifices.  Melos begins teaching Amazons to read and write.

11 - Melos records the Amazon colony's history.

12 - Melos records Aletha, Racha, Theba, Olandra tales.

13 - Litha wants Melos.  They become lovers.

14 - Melos is punished for letting girls read skeptical scrolls.

15 - An Epicurus scroll is even worse sacrilege.

16 - Warrior trainee Mitha joins her first caravan raid.

17 - Princess Xanthia invents stirrups.

18 - Octos tells of his oracle caper.

19 - Amazons break a brothel siege.

20 - Aspasia's Amazon group is discovered.

21 - A slave market raid triggers a Greek attack on Aspasia's group.

22 - Pendilee's slave story.

23 - Human sacrifice horror.

24 - Arctinus plots revolt, but Melos thwarts it.

25 - Mitha-Melos mess mangles monogamy.

26 - Ankus explains the Sacred Wars.

27 - Sex in a storm, followed by a flood rescue.

28 - Augur the astrologer bungles again.

29 - Admer loses his faith.

30 - Oona is executed; Amazons take revenge.

31 - Wheat harvest; more runaways arrive.

32 - Litha and Melos flee, but are caught.

33 - A gory Greek attack strikes the Amazon colony.

34 - Melos and Litha live alone in the deserted village.

MODERN                 

35 - The archeologist couple recounts Melos-Litha wisdom in book lectures.

 

 

Opening chapter:

 

"Sing out. Hup, ho. Roll her over in the clover. Make her laugh. Make her cry. Make a baby bye and bye."

The brawny Greek warriors chanted to liven their march in late-summer heat up the wide Thermodon Valley south of the Black Sea.  They were an elite troop, deadly fighters, expert with sword, bow, ax, javelin and mace.  Killing is the occupation of soldiers, and they were masters of their craft.  They were battle-tested, hardened to shrieks of death, renowned for combat spirit.  "Fire from Zeus," declared their platoon flag bearing a lightning bolt.

All the soldiers had been proclaimed patriotic heroes by the Kavopolis Assembly for their part in a gory victory over Ionians. They were equipped with the finest iron swords forged at the Chalcis foundry on the island Euboea, and with the strongest bows of mountain goat horns: state-of-the-art killing instruments. The unit contained seven horseback lancers, thirteen archers, twenty foot-soldiers, a camp cook and a supply wagon, all under leadership of hawk-faced Commander Patros.

The warriors were marching to a new assignment, a search-and-destroy mission. From spy intelligence, they knew the concealed location of their target, a secret colony of rebels hidden in an isolated side-valley. The mouth of that valley was overgrown by an impenetrable thicket of thorn trees and vines. The spot appeared to be lonely wilderness. But the spy report disclosed that, beside a cliff at one edge of the ravine, tree branches could be pulled aside, revealing a narrow lane into the enclave. Also, the report said, occupants of the hidden colony always kept a sentry posted on a ledge above the cliff, lest outsiders discover the unknown sanctuary.

Commander Patros rode at the front, tall on a high black steed, a stiff figure of authority. From a rich family, he exuded the confidence of rank, social and military. Approaching a riverbend, he swung his horse and squelched the chanting.

"Silence among the troops."

The commander led the unit off the trail into the screen of trees.  The men threaded the forest quietly until Patros waved a halt. He dismounted and peered between trunks at an overgrown side-valley barely visible ahead. He summoned a wiry archer he had selected for a stealthy task, and instructed him carefully:

"Don't approach directly or you will be seen. The sentry will sound an alarm and we will lose the element of surprise. Instead, climb the intervening hill, cross the ridge, and descend silently from above, unseen. After the sentry is removed, signal us and we will advance."

The archer checked his weaponry, test-pulled his bowstring, saluted, and hastened toward the hill. Grass of the valley floor was baked dull but foliage on the hillsides remained lush. The bowman stayed within the cover of bushes as he crept to the top, then quietly descended the opposite slope.

The sentry, a young Amazon, was bored from staring at the still ravine. Day after day, she had served her shift on the clifftop ledge without even a passing squirrel to break the monotony. Around her neck, suspended by a leather thong, was a trumpet crafted from a ram's horn. In event of intruders, she was to sound it and run down the path to the village, blowing as she went, to alert the whole Amazon colony. But the trumpet never had been blown, by her or others taking their turns on watch.

The sentry's hair was honey color, unlike the black locks of most Mediterranean people, indicating that her ancestors were Slavs from the north. In the sultry heat, she wore the briefest tunic. She paced back and forth on the ledge, restless. She watched a spider string its web between branches of a bush. She scratched and fidgeted. She stretched and yawned. She was in mid-yawn when the arrow pierced her heart. She looked astonished and clutched the shaft protruding between her breasts. She tried to gasp, but couldn't breathe. Her knees buckled. She fell onto the front of the ledge and tumbled down the cliff.

Moments later, the archer emerged into the Thermodon Valley sunshine and waved to the waiting platoon. Commander Patros signaled the advance. The warriors left the woods, approached the side-valley, and carefully entered the hidden lane by the cliff. They passed the twisted body of the sentry, her arms and legs skewed oddly.

The Greek fighters neared the upstream edge of the thicket. Through branches, they glimpsed the colony, the secret village of Amazons. Some women swam nude in a dammed creek. Others cooked in doorways. In vegetable gardens, male slaves hoed under female supervision. A few girl children were seen.

Hidden by greenery, Patros quietly arrayed his warriors for the attack. Horsemen readied their lances. Archers fitted arrows to strings. Foot soldiers drew their swords and adjusted their shields. Silently, the commander raised his arm to launch the surprise assault.