In the spring semester of 2019, Prof. Tomasso taught a course (CLCV 249/FILM 249/WMGS 249) about the female warriors called Amazons. The course, “Amazons Then & Now” compared ancient Greek and Roman depictions of Amazons in literature and art to modern takes on them. We read selections from epic poems, like Quintus of Smyrna’s Posthomerica, from philosophical treatises, like Musonius Rufus’ On Why Daughters Should Be Educated as Sons, to drama, like Euripides’ tragedy Hippolytus.
We had the good fortune to be visited by two experts on ancient depictions of Amazons. The first visitor was Prof. Lauren Caldwell, who spoke to us about the place of the Amazons in ancient Roman thought. We discussed, among other things, the funerary monument of Aelia Procula, a Roman girl who died in childhood and was depicted with Amazonian iconography: one of her breasts is exposed and she carries a bow (see image to the left). Our second visitor was Prof. Alison Poe, who spoke about the Amazons in the 1963 children’s book The Book of Greek Myths by the d’Aulaires (below).
Each ancient depiction of Amazons was paired with a modern depiction, and so we talked about how the portrayals of Amazons in modern media, such as the BBC/Netflix series Troy: Fall of a City. We also discussed the super heroine Wonder Woman, an Amazon whose mission it is to bring justice and peace to the mortal world. Wonder Woman’s look and narrative have changed quite dramatically over the years, and the class talked about how and why this happened. Student Mary Papantonis noticed the (probably conscious) resemblance between the inspirational image of Wonder Woman drawn by artist Cliff Chiang and a 1963 photo of Martin Luther King, Jr. (above).