The Grotesque versus the Heroic: An Examination of the Female Barbarian Warrior Motif in Ancient Greek and Latin Sources
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ABSTRACT The Grotesque versus the Heroic: An Examination of the Female Barbarian Warrior Motif in Ancient Greek and Latin Sources Hillary Catherine Shellnut Director: Kenneth Jones This thesis examines how ancient authors used the motif of the female barbarian warrior to depict their enemies. Although the specific details vary amongst the authors, overall this motif is used to underscore the grotesqueness of the barbarian enemy and the heroism of those who conquer them. Several members of the intelligentsia of Classical Athens (such as Aeschylus and Euripedes) include this Amazon motif to emphasize the grotesqueness of the East. In his Histories, Herodotus also portrays several of his characters as manly warrior-women (such as Tomyris, Pherentime, and Artemesia) in order to exemplify the inverted eastern world. However, in Hellenistic literature, the fighting barbarian woman emerges as a more conflicted image. Depending on the source, the female barbarian warrior motif associates Alexander the Great with either Achilles, who subjugates Troy, or with Agamemnon, who is made weak by eastern influence. In closing, this thesis examines how the Romans, the inheritors of Alexander’s empire use the same motif to discuss and imagine their own barbarian enemies and heroes.