Amazon Myrina, Destroyer of Cerne, Conqueror of Atlantians – Myth Or Proto History?

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A hippeis rider seizes a mounted Amazonian warrior armed with a labrys by her Phrygian cap. Roman mosaic Daphne, Antioch-on-the-Orontes (now Antakya in Turkey), (fourth century AD)/ Louvre, Paris. (Jacques MOSSOT/ CC BY-SA 4.0)

Amazon Myrina, Destroyer of Cerne, Conqueror of Atlantians – Myth Or Proto History?

Diodorus Siculus’ Library of History is a mine of information about the ancient world, its peoples, histories, legends, and myths. Most interesting in Book 3. 52. is the narration of the myth of Myrina, an Amazon Queen, who conquered a city in the marsh Tritonis, called Cherronesus. Setting out from the city of Cherronesus, the first people against whom the Amazons advanced were the Atlantians. Diodorus, who lived around 80-20 BC, drew his story from the works of an earlier writer called Dionysus Skytobrachion, variously identified as Dionysus of Mytilene or Miletus. Unfortunately, except for the excerpts in Diodorus, none of his works have survived.

Diodorus Siculus as depicted in a 19th-century fresco (Public Domain)

Diodorus Siculus as depicted in a 19th-century fresco (Public Domain)

Geographical Backdrop of the Myth

At first sight this narrative is so fantastical and has seemingly no bearing on anything told elsewhere about the Amazons from other extant sources, that hitherto the response has been to discard it totally as being a mere fabrication by a late mythographer with no bearing whatsoever upon reality. Consensus on clues given as to the possible geographical location of the narrative is that it was set in the western parts of ‘Libya’, on the bounds of the inhabited world; the city was located on an island called Hespera (meaning in the west), set in a marsh called Tritonis, near the ocean which surrounds the earth and named after a river Triton which fed it. The location of the marsh was near Ethiopia and “that mountain by the shore of the ocean which is called by the Greeks Atlas”. The Amazons subdued all cities on the island except one: Mene which considered sacred and inhabited by Ethiopian ichthyophagi (fish eaters). The island/city was subjected to great eruptions of fire and it possessed a multitude of precious stones.  Setting out from the city of Cherronesus, the first people against whom they advanced were the Atlantians, the most civilised people, who were prosperous and possessed great cities; the birth of the gods was placed in these regions that lie along the shore of the ocean. On entering the land of the Atlantians they defeated the inhabitants of Cerne and razed the city to the ground. Amazon Queen Myrina founded a city that bore her name in place of the razed city and settled both captives and natives who so desired to settle there.


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