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Refiguring myth across time: the impact of the Amazons on Herakles' heroic profile

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posted on 2022-10-14, 01:44 authored by Zakiya Gora-Ivanoff

Herakles is the quintessential Greek hero, and much has been written about him since antiquity; however, there is a lacuna when viewing his relationship with the feminine from a gendered and Christian perspective, which offers significant insight into the development of ancient social imaginaries. Herakles has been analysed as demarcating ancient Greek culture, including his relationship with the divine, the polis, nature and the feminine, as well as to Judaism (comparison with Samson) and Christianity (comparison with Christ). Furthermore, Herakles has even drawn the attention of trans-cultural anthropologists. However, beyond Nicole Loraux’s seminal work (Herakles: The Super Male and the Feminine), there has been little written about his interactions with women. Loraux identified numerous feminine qualities in Heracles’ representations, especially his lack of self-restraint and emotional outbursts. In her view, however, this connection to the feminine served to pronounce his masculinity more dramatically. I aim to shift my methodology and focus on how the Amazons contributed to shaping Heracles’ heroic profile, and how their contribution was received by later audiences, notably in early Christianity. The Amazons are especially interesting to me because they share several traits with Heracles which deserve closer examination: they are legendary, wild, independent, and incompatible with the structure of the ancient city-state. Importantly, their wild femininity which excites the imagination of ancient writers right from the beginning is underpinned by strong, masculine, warlike elements. Thus, eventually the Amazons are adopted as a symbol of imperial power by the Romans who imagine their city as an Amazon, and they continue to inspire the Christian audiences who redefine through them the notions of female virtue and chastity. Hence, the Amazons provide a unique lens to observe not only the reception of Heracles and his accommodation in Christianity but, crucially, the gender dimensions associated with his supra-masculinity, and how he is used within the social imaginaries of Greek, Roman and Christian communities.


Table of Contents

Introduction -- Chapter One: Herakles and the Amazons in Archaic and Classical Greece -- Chapter Two: Hercules and the Amazons in the Hellenistic Period -- Chapter Three: Hercules and the Amazons in Rome -- Chapter Four: Hercules and the Amazons in the Early Christian Period -- Conclusion -- Appendix I: Amazons, Herakles and Marriage -- Appendix II: Alexander and Herakles/Hercules -- Appendix III: Stoic Hercules and Christianity -- Appendix IV: Amazons and Hercules in Art -- Bibliography

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


Thesis MRes, Macquarie University, Department of Ancient History, 2021

Department, Centre or School

Department of Ancient History

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Eva Anagnostou-Laoutides


Copyright: The Author Copyright disclaimer:




98 pages

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