Diverting Strength to Arms: The Man-killing Women of the Sauromatae

Hippocrates of Cos, Airs, Waters, Places  17

“This is how things are for the people in Asia. In Europe, there’s a Skythian people which lives around the Maeotian lake and is different from other nations. They are called Sauromatae. While the women are still virgins, they ride, shoot bows, throw the javelin from horseback, and fight in battle against their enemies. They do not give up their virginity until they kill three of their enemies. Nor do they marry before they complete the traditional rites.

Once a woman accepts a husband, she stops riding unless a general expedition forces her. They do not have right breasts because, when they are still infants, their mothers heat a bronze instrument created for this purpose and use it to cauterize the right breast so that it cannot grow and all of its strength and size are given to the right shoulder and arm.”

XVII. Καὶ περὶ μὲν τῶν ἐν τῇ Ἀσίῃ οὕτως ἔχει. ἐν δὲ τῇ Εὐρώπῃ ἔστιν ἔθνος Σκυθικόν, ὃ περὶ τὴν λίμνην οἰκεῖ τὴν Μαιῶτιν διαφέρον τῶν ἐθνέων τῶν ἄλλων. Σαυρομάται καλεῦνται. τούτων αἱ γυναῖκες ἱππάζονταί τε καὶ τοξεύουσι καὶ ἀκοντίζουσιν ἀπὸ τῶν ἵππων καὶ μάχονται τοῖς πολεμίοις, ἕως ἂν παρθένοι ἔωσιν. οὐκ ἀποπαρθενεύονται δέ, μέχρι ἂν τῶν πολεμίων τρεῖς ἀποκτείνωσι, καὶ οὐ πρότερον συνοικέουσιν ἤπερ τὰ ἱερὰ θύσωσιν τὰ ἔννομα.

ἣ δ᾿ ἂν ἄνδρα ἑωυτῇ ἄρηται, παύεται ἱππαζομένη, ἕως ἂν μὴ ἀνάγκη καταλάβῃ παγκοίνου στρατείης. τὸν δεξιὸν δὲ μαζὸν οὐκ ἔχουσι. παιδίοις γὰρ ἐοῦσιν ἔτι νηπίοις αἱ μητέρες χαλκίον τετεχνημένον ἐπ᾿ αὐτῷ τούτῳ ιάπυρον ποιέουσαι πρὸς τὸν μαζὸν τιθέασι τὸν δεξιὸν καὶ ἐπικαίεται, ὥστε τὴν αὔξησιν φθείρεσθαι, ἐς δὲ τὸν δεξιὸν ὦμον καὶ βραχίονα πᾶσαν τὴν ἰσχὺν καὶ τὸ πλῆθος ἐκδιδόναι.


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