[The AMAIC considers the Middle East – West comparisons of John R. Salverda as interesting, with some of them we think being very likely. But we do not necessarily agree with all of the following]
The Amazons and the Reproach of Egypt
by John Salverda
It is from Diodorus Siculus where we learn that the Amazons came originally from Libya, a land that we suppose began at the Western bank of the Nile River and ran to the shore of a huge lake called Lake Triton that occupied the entire Sahara Desert (not now, but anciently). Diodorus himself identifies this as the land of Mount Atlas and the Gorgons. They then took a large army of women into Egypt where they became allied to the Pharaoh, who was, at that time, Horus the son of Isis. (Diodorus places this mass movement of the Amazons into Egypt chronologically just before the deeds of Perseus.) From there they came up out of the land of Egypt under their Queen whose name has variously been handed down to us as "Myrina," "Marian," or as an alternative version of the name, given to us by Robert Graves has it, "Mariamne." Diodorus goes on to say that they then invaded Arabia and took over Syria before they eventually showed up in Asia Minor. This association of the Amazons with the Libyans also associates them with the Egyptians, for the Nile delta was peopled largely with Libyans who worshipped a Goddess named "Tanit," after whom the leading city of the district, and the capitol of Egypt, was named "Tanis" (not to mention the entire nation of Tunisia which is also her namesake). Tanit was perhaps even more well known as a "Phoenician" goddess while the Egyptians more regularly called her Neith or Nut and the Hebrews knew her as Anat or Zion, the Greeks used the name Athena. The Amazons were in fact well known worshippers of the warrior goddess Athena (Pallas Athene, Baalath Zion), who was identified, even in ancient times, with Tanit the chief goddess of the Egyptian city of Tanis, which city was otherwise known to the Hebrews by the (suspiciously "Zion" sounding) name of "Zoan," the very name of the Hebrew home during their period of Egyptian slavery.
Now, the question arises; When were the Amazons in Egypt' Diodorus himself gives us a clue to the answer, for he says that Horus, the son of Isis, was the Egyptian Pharaoh at the time. Since it was this same Horus who famously defeated Seth in a well known cataclysmic battle, and established the Osirian religion in Egypt. And since the Greeks have identified this conflict with the battle of Zeus against Typhon, and the establishment among the Greeks of "Olympianism," we can logically suppose that the Amazons came up out of Egypt under Mariamne about the same time that Zeus battled Typhon. Quoting Herodotus, "Before men, they said, the rulers of Egypt were gods, ... Of these gods one or another had in succession been supreme; the last of them to rule the country was Osiris' son Horus, whom the Greeks call Apollo; he deposed Typhon [Set], and was the last divine king of Egypt. (Histories 2. 144. 1) I consider this is to be a fair chronological reference for I have shown in an article called "The Olympians," that this was the exact same time that THE ALMIGHTY battled Leviathan (typical symbolic poetry used by the Hebrews to indicate the Red Sea crossing) and the Hebrews came up out of Egypt. Now, if the Amazons came up out of Egypt at about the same time that the Hebrews did, then perhaps we can find some mention of the Amazons in the Scriptural account of the Exodus. As we know, the Scriptures do mention that a large compliment of "mixed company" came up out of Egypt with the Hebrews, however, we certainly could not rely on such a general statement as this to identify the Amazons, but then, we don't have to.
There was a group of specifically women who were detached from the men, and were lead separately, by "Miriam," the little understood "sister" of Moses, at the Hebrew Exodus from Egypt. Furthermore these women had a very Amazonian sounding law that was enforced amongst them while they were in the land of Zoan, insisting that the male babies born must be put to death, but the girls should be preserved alive. Just as the name Mariamne, from the Greek stories, has it's equivalent Hebrew form Miriam, (thought to be Hebrew for "rebellion" but just as likely from an originally Egyptian name such as "Meri-Amon,") so, if the Greek word "Amazon" were the corruption of a Hebrew word, as many so called "Greek" words were, it could be referring to the "mothers" (ama) of "Zoan." Now, the question must be asked; How many groups, of specifically women, were lead up out of Egypt by a leader named "Miriam," into the land of Arabia and Syria, in the days when God/god fought the great dragon, were there'
While the Scriptures don't seem to mention the Amazons by that name, the Greek myths do give a fairly thorough account of their peregrinations. Of course the Greeks could not read the Scriptures, and don't seem to have had an interest in tracing the travels of Israel or any lost tribes thereof. The Greek myths are the reports of a disinterested third party, so to speak, and yet, they place the Amazons where ever and when ever the Scriptures, and later historians, place the Israelites. The Amazons went as foreigners into the land of Egypt, came up out of Egypt into Syria. (Io met the Amazons during the course of her famous wanderings and the first Greek hero to battle against them was Bellerophon, herein identified with Joshua.) Then, where the Scriptures loose track of the "lost" Israelites, the Greek myths trace the Amazons to all the places where historians claim that the Scythians and Cimmerians went. For the Greek myths then say that the Amazons went north to the area around the Black Sea, (near the Thermodon River, thence the Amazons are said to have fought on behalf of Priam's Trojans. Achilles, is said to have killed an Amazon Queen named Penthesileia. Priam speaks of himself as having, in his youth, fought against Amazons invading Phrygia, Iliad 3. 188) and from there they began to take over Asia Minor founding several cities such as Sinope, Ephesus, Cyme, Myrina and Smyrna before they were again obliged to move, flushed out by the Lydians (These Amazons were thought to be of the Scythian race, but this should not deter us from identifying them as a branch of the Dam-ascenes [Ashkenaz] and Samarians [Cimmerians] exiled by Tiglathapilezer, as many do.).
Alexander the Great finally had to build the Caspian gate in the Caucasus to keep out the "Red Jews" and, guess who' The Amazons, who were apparently with them, and, also apparently from this study, they were with (and in opposition to) the Israelites all along. At this point the reader's mind must be running wild wondering what was the role of the Hebrew women in saving the ancient world from Amazonian feminism. Well, obviously it would take another entire book to explain such a thing. It would be entitled "The Way of the Wells" and would include chapters with titles like; "Eve vs. Lilith and the Head Waters of Eden", "Sarah vs. Hagar and the Well of Ishmael's Salvation", "Dinah at Shechem and Jacob's Well", "Hebat vs. Persephone and the Well of Sheba", "Zipporah vs. Miriam and Miriam's Well", etc. But, this is not the place for such a book, and it will have to wait until someone writes it. Until then all we can expect from this article is to touch on the origins of the Amazons as they relate to the identity of Joshua with Bellerophon, and in regards to how the Hebrews saved civilization from matriarchy, the next few paragraphs will have to suffice.
It is apparent that Egypt was matriarchal at the time that Israel was enslaved there. However, the Hebrew midwifes eventually balked at the Egyptian command to sacrifice the male babies. The life of Moses was nearly aborted under the Egyptian system, (in fact, overcoming such circumstances is a well known messianic attribute.) Miriam, the older sister of Moses is accredited with overlooking the safety of the infant Moses. (The reader is urged to do a triple comparison between the story of Moses, the Greek myth of Perseus, and the Egyptian tale about the infancy of Horus, where Horus is fostered by Isis and Nephthys at the delta city of "Chemmis.") Although she probably nurtured Moses in the beginning, and was apparently reconciled to him in the end, "Miriam" was a "bitter rival" to the rule of Moses, murmuring and complaining about him throughout the Exodus wandering.
She denigrated the race of Zipporah, the Cushite wife of Moses and the expounder of circumcision, getting Aaron to join her in her in questioning the authority of THE ALMIGHTY's chosen servant. Miriam said, speaking for Aaron and herself, "Is it by Moses alone that THE ALMIGHTY has spoken' Is it not also by us that he has spoken'" THE ALMIGHTY Himself had to correct her of her error, reminding her of His direct support of Moses and striking her with a temporary bout of leprosy (Num. 12 :1-15). Although the "rebellion" of "Miriam" is downplayed in the Scriptural account, and gets rationalized in the legends, a more careful study of her story in conjunction with the Greek "myths" about the Amazons, reveals something a bit more disturbing concerning her rivalry. Moses certainly wrote Genesis 3:16, and it is evident that Miriam and her followers, the ancient feminists, resented their new station in regards to men. Furthermore, the Midianites whose priesthood Moses had married into, were strict circumcisers. (I believe that circumcision is patriarchal evolution's determining factor, and the turning point of civilization, tipping the scale from barbaric Amazonian feminism, which included child sacrifice and even cannibalism, toward a slightly more refined existence.) They were proud children of Abraham, the patriarchal champion of circumcision through his third wife Keturah.
The Hebrews had a very hard time overcoming the influences of Egyptian matriarchy. Moses adopts the priesthood of his wife Zipporah's father, not that of his own father, a point that causes the ever present "mumbling" of Miriam. On the other hand, it was the priesthood of Midian, as the descendants of Abraham through Keturah, that had more closely maintained the patriarchal Abrahamic traditions, such as circumcision and the name of THE ALMIGHTY, while Moses and Israel was being polluted under the Egyptian matriarchy. Zipporah chides Moses for not circumcising even his own sons. Moses, reluctant to be a patriarch, lets Miriam and the women march independently singing and dancing with their tambourines, and taking the credit for overthrowing the Pharaoh. Amazonian rites were also evident in the debauched worship of the calf god, but that was the last straw for Moses who would finally put his foot down. Even so the Israelites wanted to reject Moses and go back to Egypt. Those wayward leaders of Israel, the underlings of Moses, after much hardship and purging, which included killing many of them, would eventually come around and change their matriarchal ways. However, it would have to wait for a future generation to attempt a sincere effort to cleanse Israel of their Amazonian tendencies. Even they had to have one last plunge into dionysian matriarchal licentiousness at the incident of Baal Peor. It was not until Joshua at Gilgal when the reproach of Egypt would finally be rolled back. They celebrated their victory over the "reproach of Egypt" with a mass circumcision. And this, I suspect, is what has come down to us via Greek mythology as the defeat of the Amazons by Bellerophon.
For more articles by John R. Salverda on the Hebraic Connections of Greek Mythology, see:
"Helleno-Yishurin. The Hebrew Origin of Greek Legends"