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pagated toward the north,” so that Columbus and other navigators who followed him heard of them repeatedly before reaching the mainland of America.
A generation later the woman state is spoken of by Schomburgk, who traversed Guiana in 1835-43. Everywhere the Caribs told him of the Woruisamocos, a tribe of warlike women who lived near the sources of the Corentyne in a district where no white man had been. They shot with the bow and arrow and used the blow-pipe. Their own fields they cultivated, and men came thither only as their lovers, and but once a year. Schomburgk pushed on to the district where the women should have been; they were not there.
In the remote regions of the River Amazon's northern affluents, says a recent geographer, the women warriors are still vainly sought.
Thus this world-wide, world-old story has been followed through perhaps thirty centuries of tradition on four continents and in five seas; and the end is a doubt. Men have fought with parties of armed women, but none has found the City of Women. Stories of male and female islands may have arisen from the custom of naming companion islets “brother” isles and “sister” isles, like North Brother and South Brother islands in New York's East River. It is contended that Orellana concocted his tale to divert attention from his desertion of Pizarro; that Spaniards mistook young Indian braves, with topknots and berry-bracelets on their arms, for women; and that the prose behind the poetry of the American Amazons is the tribe of Naupes, which still wears green stones for amulets. It is even suggested that the New World legend grew out of the coast Indian word, Amazuni, to denote a tidal bore upon the great waterway of Brazil.
It has happened that the vivid imagination of the conquistadors projected stories among the Indians which came back later with such a wealth of detail as to seem native stuff. Is the New World Amazon tradition merely Book III, Chapter XXXIV of the Travels of Marco Polo, writ large upon the wax-like minds of savages by the curiosity of Columbus and his great companions?
Before answering, it will be well to turn from stories of a woman state to authentic records of women who were less than the Amazons of fable, but more, or rather other, than women of the hearth. Perhaps the answer is there.
The Amazons of History
WHETHER there have been Amazon states or no, there have been Amazon queens—warrior women who knew how to lead and whom men were willing to follow. The portrait gallery of history has set aside its more spacious halls for women of another kind, for Helen, Cleopatra, Messalina, Theodora, and their sisters of blandishment. But women militant have also a place. Tomyris, queen of the Massagetæ, defeated and slew Cyrus the Great. Semiramis, legendary queen of Assyria, matched her adulteries with her victories in arms, won all her campaigns except the Indian, and, in the words of Strabo, left her monuments in “earthworks, walls, and strongholds, aqueducts, bridges, and stair-like roads over mountains. Boadicea led the Britons in momentarily successful revolt against Nero. Zenobia, Arab queen, established the Palmyrene power over the trade routes of the east and swayed Egypt, Syria, Mesopotamia, and part of Asia Minor, until the arms and gold of Aurelian encompassed her downfall. Under the poetess Telesilla the women of Argos repelled a Spartan attack. Joan of Arc led the armies of France as a girl of nineteen.
Women have gone to war as single soldiers or in troops, in disguise, or with husbands, brothers, and lovers. When the Goths crossed the Roman frontiers their families came with them in ponderous wagons, and their yellow-haired wives figured in the Roman triumphs. American Indian women, as the Spaniards found, were able to use the bow, and defended their homes when their husbands were away, and sometimes went with them in battle. The aftermath of a victory among various tribes of North American Indians—the scalping of the dead, the tor. ture of the living—was intrusted to the women. They bear their part in the Mexican revolutions. Thus Ibanez puts it: “The army is composed of men and women. No one has ever decided which of the sexes makes the better soldier,"
To count the women, the Spanish author says, is to count the Mexican soldiers, for every one has a wife along, and more often than not a string of children. The woman is called a “soldierette” or a “hard-tack,” and if her man is tiring of her, "the Indian”; and generals have their "generalettes.” Women constitute the commissary of the army. Each carries bedding for herself and man, a basket, and perhaps a parrot. With her sisters she forms an advance guard several miles ahead of the main force when the troops are on the march. When the latter reach camp they find the fires burning and a stew in the pot. The stew comes out of the basket and the basket is filled by foraging along the way. The Mexican hard-tack does this thoroughly, Ibanez thinks: “She passes over the country like a scourge of God. Along her path not a tree remains with a piece of fruit, not a garden with a turnip, not a coop with a chicken, not a barnyard with a pig.” When a soldier dies his companion passes to another through the swift courtship of circumstance; and sometimes she seizes the rifle of her fallen mate and uses it in his stead.
Among nomad peoples women have always shared the activi. ties of the men; the seclusion of the harem is for settled folk. The chronicles and legends of High Asia have their instances of feminine prowess in arms. Marco Polo devotes a chapter to Aigiarm, daughter of Kaidu, king of Great Turkey and nephew to the Grand Khan. She would marry no man, she said, who could not overcome her by force. Suitors came from other lands and wrestled with her before the court. Her hand was the prize of success and a hundred horses were the forfeit of failure. “In this manner,” says Marco, “the damsel gained more than ten thousand horses, which was no wonder, for she was so well made 'in all her limbs, and so tall and strongly built, that she might almost be taken for a giantess.” In war she fought beside her father.
From Usbeck ambassadors at Delhi François Bernier heard vaunts of the Amazonian ferocity of the Tartar women. One of their stories was of the campaign of Aurungzebe against the Khan of Samarcand. A score of Mogul horsemen had plundered a village and were binding its people to sell them as slaves, when an old woman said: "My children, be not so cruel. My daughter, who is not greatly addicted to mercy, will be here presently. Should she meet with you, you are undone.” With a laugh the horsemen tied her up also, and started with their captives across the plain. The old woman kept looking behind her, and at last uttered a scream of joy.
The raiders turned and beheld a cloud of dust, and in the midst of it a young woman furiously riding. Raising her great voice, like the heroines of Russian epic, she bade them loose their captives and she would spare them. The horsemen heeding not, her bowstring twanged and twanged again. Four men tumbled from the saddle, shot at a range beyond their own arrows. The young Amazon galloped in among the others, slew the greater part with her unerring bow, and with her saber cut down the rest.
There may be an element of romantic exaggeration in each of these stories. But they make the point that the women of the Asiatic highlands knew the bow as well as the distaff, and they bring the tradition of female warriors into the region where Greek fable placed the Amazons. There are continued references to women bearing arms in Armenia, in Kurdistan, and in the early wars of Islam in Arabia. Women in armor fought with Miltiades of Pontus against the Romans. The seventeenthcentury traveler, Sir John Chardin, had adventure with a ragamuffin and lewd-tongued queen of the Mingrelians. The Prince of Georgia said the women of the Caucasus rode as well as the men, and he accepted the Amazon legend. When Father Angelo Lamberti was in Mingrelia in 1654, word came that among the dead in a raiding force from the Caucasus were a large number of women. They wore complete coats of armor over brightred woolen skirts. Their half-boots were adorned with brass disks and their gilded arrow-shafts bore heads shaped like the new moon.
As late as the Crimean war "the Black Virgin,” a Kurdish woman, paraded at the head of a thousand horsemen before the palace of the Sultan in Constantinople, and led them away to the campaign on the Danube.
The outlines of a veritable woman's state almost take shape in Bohemian chronicle and legend of the eighth century. There was a Slavic queen named L'ibussa who is supposed to have