Tuesday, 22 June 2010
(The archaeological site at Thermi)
Homer once wrote that the island of Lesvos was named after a son-in-law of the mythical king Makar. Makar had five daughters and different places (which still exist to this day) were named after them: Mytilini, Mithimna, Arisvi, Eresos and Andissa. However there are people who think that it was someone else who gave the capital of Lesvos its name: a famous queen Myrina, who named Mytilini after her sister.
Myrina was one of the queens that reigned over the notorious fighting women known as Amazons. It is not known for sure where they lived, but most historians think it was originally around the Black Sea and that they moved south later. It is said that queen Myrina raised an enormous army of thousands of women to conquer the south: Syria, Libya and Egypt and that she then planned to go deep into Asia. Mytilini was the Amazon who fought by sea and tried to conquer Greece from the Aegean Sea. On their way south the Amazons founded different cities, including in Myrina (capital of Lemnos) and Myitlini in Greece, and in Turkey Cyme (an old Aeolian city now called Namurt), Smyrna (Izmir) Ephesus, and Cyrene in Libya
It is difficult to say what is really true in these stories and what is fantasy. But, after all, it was once conventional wisdom that the splendid story of the siege of Troy was made up, a myth, but archaeological discoveries prove that the Trojan war as described in the ‘Iliad’ of Homer, really did take place.
Just as the heroes who fought in the Trojan war were thought to be mythical so too were the Amazons. Several ancient writers, like Homer, Herodotus or Pausianas, described their brave feats of arms, but just as with Troy archaeology gives us proof that perhaps these fabulous female fighters really existed. In different parts of Greece graves of women fighters have been discovered and in the land were the Sarmatians lived - what is now the Ukraine - more graves have been found of women buried with weapons. So they could be the Amazons.
The Amazon Research Network tries to list all scientific publications about Amazons in order to convince us that they were real historical figures. That is how I discovered that archaeologist suspect that the Amazons once lived here on Lesvos too, and on the neighbouring island of Lemnos. The physical proof have been found in diggings at the sites of the ancient towns of Thermi on Lesvos and Poliochni and Myrina on Lemnos. All three cities seems to be similar and the artefacts found there indicate that female soldiers lived there..
Lesvos once gave its name to the lesbians but Lemnos also has a place in the history of women. Once the women there stopped worshipping Aphrodite, goddess of love and she became so angry she gave a bad smell to all the island’s women. It was bad enough to put men off from sleeping with them - and so they decamped to Thrace on the mainland where they found women who would bear their offspring. However, the women on Lemnos became angry and murdered all men left on the island, including young boys. That is why when Jason and his Argonauts came looking for the Golden Fleece, they found only women there - women who welcomed them with open arms.
I dare not make a link between the story of the women of Lemnos and the whereabouts of the Amazons. But both groups of women were eager to get men into their beds. It is a story of survival.
Nowadays it is quite the opposite: there is a shortage of women both on Lesvos and on Lemnos. Because most people work in the agricultural sector and there are very few jobs for women, so they leave and flee to the mainland, hoping to find a more satisfying and modern life.
The successful Dutch television program ‘Farmer searches a wife’ has been made in Greece as well, but with this program just a few farmers find a wife this way. On Lemnos they have come up with another solution: why not get a group of Russian women to come to the island? After all, the internet is full of ads from desperate Russian women offering their love and many successfully leave a miserable life behind and come to a sunny island like Lesvos. Here there is more than one Greek man who has separated from his Greek wife because he has found a Russian bride (in a brothel or another dark room!). A sensual Russian woman who will do anything to improve her life seems irresistible to a Greek man.
On Lemnos a group of some seventy men got together to try and get a group of women to come to the island. They even found some forty Russian women who were interested in sharing the life of a Greek farmer. The problem is that they could not find a tour operator to bring them to the island. So what now?
If this group of women eventually succeeds in getting to the island, I am curious about the reaction of the women of Lemnos. When Russian Amazons come to take their husbands and sons away from them, will they temper their wrath this time?
(With thanks to Tony Barrell)
@ Smitaki 2010