The race of Amazons or fighting women, is not yet extinct, as the

chronicles of every police court can tell, and as an organised body of

warlike soldiers--the King of Dahomey still keeps them up, or did until

very recently. According to Herodotus, the Greeks, after having routed

the Amazons, sailed away in three ships, taking with them as many

Amazons, as they had been able to capture alive--but, when fairly out at

the ladies arose, stood up for women's rights, and cut all the

Greeks in pieces. But they had not reckoned on one little thing, and

that was, that none among them had the slightest idea of navigation;

they couldn't even steer or row--so they had to drift about, until they

came to Cremni (supposed to be near Taganrog), which was Scythian

territory. They signalised their landing by horse-stealing, and the

Scythians, not appreciating the joke, gave them battle, thinking they

were men; but an examination of the dead proved them to be of the other

sex. On learning this, the Scythians were far too gentlemanly to

continue the strife, and, little by little, they established the most

friendly relations with the Amazons. These ladies, however, objected to

go to the Scythians' homes, for, as they pertinently put it, "We never

could live with the women of your county, because we have not the same

customs with them. We shoot with the bow, throw the javelin, and ride on

horseback, and have never learnt the employments of women. But your

women do none of the things we have mentioned, but are engaged in

women's work, remaining in their wagons, and do not go out to hunt, or

anywhere else; we could not therefore consort with them. If, then, you

desire to have us for your wives, and to prove yourselves honest men, go

to your parents, claim your share of their property, then return, and

let us live by ourselves."

This the young Scythians did, but, when they returned, the Amazons said

they were afraid to stop where they were, for they had deprived parents

of their sons, and besides, had committed depredations in the country,

so that they thought it but prudent to leave, and suggested that they

should cross the Tanais, or Don, and found a colony on the other side.

This their husbands acceded to, and when they were settled, their wives

returned to their old way of living--hunting, going to war with their

husbands, and wearing the same clothes--in fact they enjoyed an actual

existence, of which many women nowadays, fondly, but vainly dream. There

was a little drawback however--the qualification for a young lady's

presentation at court, consisted of killing a man, and, until that was

effected, she could not marry.

Sir John Mandeville of course knew all about them, although he does not

pretend to have seen them, and this is what he tells us. "After the land

of Caldee, is the land of Amazony, that is a land where there is no man

but all women, as men say, for they wil suffer no man to lyve among

them, nor to have lordeshippe over them. For sometyme was a kinge in

that lande, and men were dwelling there as did in other countreys, and

had wives, & it befell that the kynge had great warre with them of

Sychy, he was called Colopius, and he was slaine in bataill and all the

good bloude of his lande. And this Queene, when she herd that, & other

ladies of that land, that the king and the lordes were slaine, they

gathered them togither and killed all the men that were lefte in their

lande among them, and sithen that time dwelled no man among them.

"And when they will have any man, they sende for them in a countrey that

is nere theyr lande, and the men come, and are ther viii dayes, or as

the woman lyketh, & then they go againe, and if they have men children

they send them to theyr fathers, when they can eate & go, and if they

have maide chyldren they kepe them, and if they bee of gentill bloud

they brene[16] the left pappe[17] away, for bearing of a shielde, and,

if they be of little bloud, they brene the ryght pappe away for shoting.

For those women of that countrey are good warriours, and are often in

soudy[18] with other lordes, and the queene of that lande governeth well

that lande; this lande is all environed with water."