by Adrienne Mayor (regular contributor)
A remarkable number of personal names of Amazons are preserved in Greco-Roman literature and art. Amazons appear on more than 1,300 ancient Greek vases and about 70 are labeled by name. A few of those names, such as Hippolyte, Antiope, and Penthesilea, are very well-known from mythology. But most of the Amazon names on the vases are unique. Since vase paintings often illustrated well-known characters from myth, the adventures of the Amazons with unknown names might have been famous in classical antiquity. Other names may have been made up by artists.
Most names of Amazons are Greek and many contain the root hipp (horse), reflecting the love of horses and equestrian skills, and pointing to the centrality of horses for Scythian peoples. Some Amazon and warrior women names in Greek sources may have been translations of barbarian names. Examples of horse-related Amazon names are Philippis (Loves Horses), Alkippe (Powerful Horse), Melanippe (Black Mare), Hippomache (Horse Warrior), Ainippe (Swift Horse), Hippothoe (Mighty Mare), Hippolyte (Releases the Horses), Xanthippe (Palomino), and Hipponike (Victory Steed).
Amazons and Scythians were archers and many Amazon names refer to archery, for example, Toxaris (Archer); Toxoanassa (Archer Queen), Toxis (Arrow); Toxophone (Whizzing Arrow), Toxophile (Loves Arrows), and Oistrophe (Twisting Arrow). Other Amazon names describe warlike attributes, such as Andromache (Manly Warrior), Polemusa (War Woman), Aella (Whirlwind), Deianeira (Man Destroyer), Charope (Fierce Gaze), Pantariste (Best of All); and Artistomache (Best Warrior). Still others refer to weapons or armor, such as Chalkaor (Bronze Sword) and Pharetre (Quiver Girl). Some names suggest character: Pisto (Trustworthy), Thraso (Confidence), and Areto (Excellence).
A significant number of Amazon names suggest equality with men, such as Isocrateia (Equal Power), Antianeira (Man’s Match), and Antibrote (Equal to Man). These bring to mind the meaning of Atalanta’s name, “Equal Balance” and the earliest Greek connotation of the word Amazones to designate a barbarian tribe of male and female “equals.”
Among those with non-Greek names are the historical warrior queen of Scythia who attacked Greek colonies in the northern Black Sea region, Tirgatao (Arrow Power) and Sparethra (Heroic Army), a Scythian warrior woman who battled Persians. A daredevil warrior woman of Central Asian legend, Harman Dali, means “Crazy-Brave,” yet another perfect name for an Amazon.
Until now about 150 names were known for Amazons. In my research, I have gleaned about 50 more names of historical and Amazon-like heroines from epics, chronicles, and accounts in Caucasian, Egyptian, Central Asian, and even Chinese sources, raising the number of ancient warrior women names to more than 200. These names, with translations, can be found in the Appendix of my new book, The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women across the Ancient World.