The Ancient Library

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On this page: Amazons – Ambarvalia – Ambitus – Ambrosia


the river-god Achelotis, who was glad to exchange it for his own horn, which Heracles had broken off. It is also an attribute of Dionysus, of Plutus, and other gods of earthly felicity.

Amazons (Gr. AmazOnls ; = " breastless "). A mythical nation of women-warriors, whose headquarters are placed by early Greek legend in Themisoyra, on the Thermodon, on the southern shore of the Euxine. In later accounts they also appear on the Caucasus and on the Don, where the nation called Saurfimatae was supposed to have sprung from their union with the Scythians. They suffered no men among them ; the sons born of their intercourse with neighbouring nations they either killed or sent back to their fathers ; the girls they brought up to be warriors, burning the right breast off for the better handling of the bow. Their chief deities were said to be Ares and the Taurian Artemis. Even in Homer they are repre­sented as making long marches into Asiatic territory ; an army of them invading Lycia is cut to pieces by Bellerophon ; Priam, then in his youth, hastens to help the Phrygians against them. They gained a firm footing in Greek song and story through Arctinus of Miletus, in whose poem their queen Penthe-sileia, daughter of AMAZON AFTER

Ares, as Priam's

(Berlin Museum.)

ally, presses hard on the Greeks, till she is slain by Achilles. After that they be­came a favourite subject with poets and artists, and a new crop of fable sprang up : Heracles wars against them, to win the girdle of their queen. Hippolyte ; Theseus carries off her sister Antiope, they in revenge burst into Attica, encamp on the Areopagus of Athens, and are pacified by Antiope's mediation, or, according to an-

other version, beaten in a great battle. Grave-mounds supposed to cover the bones of Amazons were shown near Megara, and in Euboea and Thessaly. In works of art the Amazons were represented as martial maids, though always with two breasts, and usually on horseback; sometimes in Scythian dress fa tight fur tunic, with a cloak of many folds over it, and a kind of Phrygian cap), sometimes in Grecian (a Dorian tunic tucked up and the right shoul­der bare), armed with a half-moon shield,. ; two-edged axe, spear, bow, and quiver, etc. The most famous statues of them in an­tiquity were those by Phidias, Polyclitus, ' and Cresllas, to one or other of which, as j types, existing specimens are traceable. (See cut.) Among the surviving sculptures representing an Amazonian contest should be especially mentioned the reliefs from the frieze of Apollo's temple at Bassae in Arcadia (in the British Museum, London).

Ambarvalia. The Italian festival of bless­ing the fields, which was kept at Rome on May 29th. The country people walked in solemn procession three times round their fields in the wake of the su-ove-taur-llia, i.e. a hog, ram, and bull, which were sacri­ficed after a prayer originally addressed to Mars, afterwards usually to Ceres and other deities of agriculture, that the fruits of the fields might thrive. Comp. abval. brothers.

Ambitus (lit., a going round) meant at Rome the candidature for a public office, because going round among the citizens was originally the principal means of winning their favour. When unlawful means began to be used, and bribery in every form was organized into a system, the word came to mean obtaining of office by illegal means. To check the growing evil, laws were passed at an early period, and from time to time made more severe. The penalties, which ranged at different times from fines and inadinissibility to office to banishment for ten years and even for life, produced no lasting effect. At last a special stand­ing criminal court was established for trying such cases, till under the Empire recourse was had to a radical change in the mode of election.

Ambrosia. Anything that confers or preserves immortality: (1) the food of the gods (as nectar was their drink), which doves, according to Homer, bring daily to Zeus from the far west: (2) the anointing oil of the gods, which preserves even dead men from decay: (3) the food of the gods' horses.

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All non-public domain material, including introductions, markup, and OCR © 2005 Tim Spalding.