women’s nature allows Amazons & other women to die like men in battle

Amazons fighting Greeks in Trojan War

Gynocentric societies throughout history have controlled men’s bodies and forced them into the horrors of war. A leading twelfth-century Byzantine intellectual expressed poetically the gynocentric sense of males being intended from birth to bleed in battle:

The newborn baby is of the male gender; male, O earth and sun! Did you see him right away as he slid out, full of blood and tainted by gore as if coming from war and battle? [1]

Overcoming gynocentrism and achieving gender equality in military service requires recognizing that men aren’t naturally destined to labor to provide goods for women and children and to fight and die in wars. According to a declamation of the sixth-century public speaker Choricius of Gaza, the Trojan king Priam long ago affirmed that women’s nature is no obstacle to Amazons and other women dying in battle just like men.

Examples from non-human animals make clear that females can be fearsome fighters. According to Choricius of Gaza, King Priam directed to an unbeliever the example of bitches:

Have you never observed the bitches among the guard dogs? Have you not noticed that they do not stay at home to breed and feed the cubs, but go out with the males in the pack? [2]

The Byzantine epic Digenis Akritis, which shows extraordinary critical awareness of women’s privileges under gynocentrism, described the hero Digenis’s encounter with a family of bears. The bear family consisted of a mamma bear, a papa bear, and their two cubs. Gynocentric society grants men respect for engaging in violent, dangerous acts. Digenis thus attacked the family of bears:

The female stood her ground and did battle for her cubs,
but he {Digenis} was quick and went for her
yet did not close up quickly to strike her with his stick,
but as he got near, he locked her in his arms
and tightened his grasp and promptly throttled her.
When her mate saw this, he turned round
and ran a mile away in flight from Digenis. [3]

The mamma bear died fighting for her husband and children. Human women are fully capable of doing likewise.

Achieving gender equality in military service and other lines of work requires only that women be trained like men. King Priam explained:

I agree that women are weaker than men, but this is a matter of training, not of nature. If we {men} were skilled by nature in war, why should we have expected our sons from childhood to engage in bodily exercise, to go out with the hounds, and to practice tracking and using arms and bows and learning all the other skills? Where nature is dominant, there is no need for labor; god needs no labor to be immortal, because it is his nature, and no man tries to be a god, because it is not in his nature. Similarly, you would not see either men or women exercising, if nature sufficed for the men and forbade the women even to wish to do so. The activities of war are so far from being natural to human beings that a person who possesses one of the skills required does not thereby have the other kinds of expertise at his disposal; among all the multitude of the Trojans and of our enemies it would be hard to find a single man who was both infantryman and archer and was well trained as a horseman. What is there surprising if practice has taught women {Amazons} to fight? [4]

Today elementary school teachers — who shape the future generation — are nearly all women. Yet, with proper training, men could succeed as elementary school teachers and in other, relatively safe, women-dominated occupations. Women could be trained to work in the dangerous occupations that for long have been mainly filled with men:

If men give up their arms and take to working wool, you will soon see them doing women’s work. How many men do you think understand weaving, how many are embroiders of clothes? They say that Achilles’s mother dressed him as a girl and made him do what girls do. So, just as experience teaches us {men} women’s work, what is there to prevent women practicing something that we do? … If you asked the Amazons to weave you a tunic, they would say, “Sir, you deceive yourself; do you not see that we carry arms? It is not our way to do this sort of work.” [5]

An ignorant one groused, just as some do today, that achieving gender equality in military service would destroy the armed forces: “success does not follow a womanized rabble.”[6] Intellectual authorities from Plato to present-day thought leaders affirm that biology isn’t destiny. Compared to women, men aren’t naturally destined to suffer more violence and have shorter lifespans. With proper training, women could relieve men of much of men’s burden of fighting and dying.

While King Priam believed that Amazon warriors could help save Troy, he deeply felt the effects of daughters not being treated like sons. Priam’s son Hector was killed in the Trojan War, and Hector’s body was then abused. Priam wept when he recalled his son Hector. Priam explained:

I do not go much among the fighting men, since I am old and cannot bear to see my sons torn limb from limb [7]

Bravely facing reality is the first step toward gender equality. Sons are not born inevitably to be torn limb from limb in military service.

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Notes:

[1] From Michael Psellos, To Konstantinos, nephew of the patriach Michael Keroularios, when his son Romanos was born (written 1063-1065?), Letter S 157, from Greek trans. Stratis Papaioannou, in Kaldellis (2006) p. 173.

In another letter, Psellos similarly figured a new-born son as a man bleeding from combat wounds:

Indeed, did I even wait to see the newborn baby? No, O sacred one. I both embraced him and filled him with kisses and I almost stained my lips with blood, as if I had clasped a bravest warrior made red by blood returning from battle.

From Psellos, To Ioannes Doukas (written 1063-1065?), Letter S 72, from Greek trans. Papaioannou, in Kaldellis (2006) p. 172.

[2] Choricius of Gaza, Declamation 2.25, trans. D. A. Russell in Penella (2009) p. 78. The context of Priam’s declamation:

After Hector’s death, Achilles, having fallen in love with Polyxena, sends an embassy to the Trojans, promising alliance in return for the marriage. The Trojans deliberate; Polydamas recommends acceptance, Priam opposes.

Choricius, Declamation 1 {by Polydamas}, Theme, trans. Russell in id. p. 61. Polydamas disparaged the Amazons’ ability to help the Trojans and men’s ability to do work that women did:

We know that when a man tried to do some woman’s work, the product, generally speaking, is poor and clumsy. But if we allow that it is not normal for us to spin wool, are we to grant that they {women} can learn the experience of arms to a high standard? I do not at all agree with you here; the Amazons are indeed better than their sex, but they are nonetheless women.

Declamation 1.14-5, trans. id. p. 64.

[3] Digenis Akritis, Escorial version ll. 766-72, from Greek trans. Jeffreys (1998) p. 297.

[4] Choricius, Declamation 2.15-9, trans. D. A. Russell, in Penella (2009) p. 77. Emphasizing women’s fighting spirit, Priam also observed, “women are all contentious by nature.” Id. 2.79, trans. id. p. 85.

[5] Choricius, Declamation 2.19-20, trans. id.

[6] Choricius, Declamation 3.33 (the Lydians), trans. Simon Swain in Penella (2009) p. 92. The Persian king Cyrus, seeking to subdue the Lydian men’s independent initiatives and aggressiveness, ordered them to wear women’s clothes and sing and play music. Cyrus latter sought to recruit the Lydian men into his army. Pleading their acquired womanly ways, the Lydian men argued against their joining Cyrus’s army. The Lydian men further argued to Cyrus:

If it’s numbers you want and numbers you call protection, then it’s time to arm our women, to refuse our boys leave to reach their fighting age, and to drag from their homes those burdened with age — even if they have to stand bent over their sticks.

Id. 3.35.

[7] Choricius, Declamation 2.27, trans. D. A. Russell, in Penella (2009) p. 77.

[image] Amazons fighting against the Greeks in the Trojan War. At the center, Achilles holds the dying Penthesilea. Panel of a marble sarcophagus, Roman artwork, 3rd century GC. Item Inv 933 in Vatican Museums, Museo Pio-Clementino, Octagon Hall, Hermes Cabinet. Photo thanks to Marie-Lan Nguyen (2009) and Wikimedia Commons.

References:

Jeffreys, Elizabeth, ed. and trans. 1998. Digenis Akritis: the Grottaferrata and Escorial versions. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.

Kaldellis, Anthony, ed. and trans. 2006. Mothers and sons, fathers and daughters: the Byzantine family of Michael Psellos. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.

Penella, Robert J., ed. 2009. Rhetorical exercises from late antiquity: a translation of Choricius of Gaza’s Preliminary talks and declamations. Cambridge: Cambridge Cambridge University Press.

2 thoughts on “women’s nature allows Amazons & other women to die like men in battle”

  1. Ideally, the human race must work to eliminate war. I think this is possible if there is a strong enough will among enough political leaders. But I fully agree with you that, if first-world women want to be fully equal to men, then they should fully share the burden of military service and war. The question is no longer whether women should serve in the military; the question is, why are first-world men so stupid as to think that “equal rights” for the other sex does not mean “equal responsibility.”

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