In Greek their name means “those who have no breast”, but they really existed in Abomey Kingdom.
In the ancient times, Amazons were a mythological she-warriors population, and according to the legend they use to amputate the right breast, in order to have no impediment while using bow and javelin.
They used to couple only in determined times and with foreign men, just aiming to have children: the male ones were slave, and educated to serve women since childhood. The female ones would be instructed in the art of war, and usually fought on horseback. We frequently find them in mythology, and in the Iliad they are mentioned twice.
The participation of Amazon queen Penthesilea in the siege of Troy on Priam’s side and her death, provoked by Achilles, belong to a version from aposterior age.
The most famous legend is about Hercules’s ninth labour; he had to get the girdle of queen Hippolyta.
Theseus, Hercules’s mate, fell victim to their wrath: an Amazon army invaded Attica and besieged Athens. At the end of the fight Theseus was the winner, he took Hippolyta prisoner and, afterward, she became his first wife..
As far as history is concerned and apart from mythology, we find a really existed Amazon military corps.
King Houégbadja had already created a detachment of “elephant huntresses”, who also had the role of bodyguards.
King’s son, Agadia, made them into real she-warriors.
E. Chaudoin, in "Three months in captivity in Dahomey”Tre mesi in cattività nel Dahomey", described them as follows in 1891:
“Old or young, ugly or beautiful, they are wonderful to look at. They are as well built as the male warriors and their attitude is just as disciplined and correct, lined up as though against a rope". Some women joined up as volunteers, other ones, who were intolerant of matrimonial life and whose husbands complained about them to the king, would get officially recruited.
Serving in the army would strengthen their discipline, and the character they used to show in matrimonial life could be expressed in war actions.
On the battlefield, the Amazons would protect the king and actively participate in fights, sacrificing even their own lives; as long as they were in the army, they could not marry nor have children.
They were forged to fight, and, on principle, their lives were consecrated to war.
“We are men not women. Those coming back from war without having conquered must die. If we beat a retreat our life is at the king's mercy. Whatever town is to be attacked we must overcome it or we bury ourselves in its ruins. Guézo is the king of kings. As long as he lives we have nothing to fear". “Guézo has given birth to us again. We are his wives, his daughters, is soldiers. War is our pastime, it clothes us and feeds us.”
Often drunk with gin, accustomed to sufferings and ready to kill without caring about their own lives, they fought valiantly and always preceded troops and incited them to fight.
In 1894, at the beginning of the war between the troops of general Dodds and the ones of Abomey Kingdom, the army had about 4,000 Amazons, divided into three brigades. "They are armed with double-bladed knives and Winchester rifles. These Amazons perform wonders of bravery; they come to within 50 feet of our positions to be killed..." (Captain Jouvelet, 1894).
The Amazon corps was disbanded by Agoli Agbo, Gbèhanzin, after the defeat of Abomey Kingdom.