View Full Version : Women Warriors from Amazon fought for Britain's Roman army

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2004, 10:30 PM

December 22, 2004

Women warriors from Amazon fought for Britain's Roman army

By Lewis Smith


THE remains of two Amazon warriors serving with the Roman army in Britain have been discovered in a cemetery that has astonished archaeologists.

Women soldiers were previously unknown in the Roman army in Britain and the find at Brougham in Cumbria will force a reappraisal of their role in 3rd-century society.

The women are thought to have come from the Danube region of Eastern Europe, which was where the Ancient Greeks said the fearsome Amazon warriors could be found.

NI_MPU('middle');The women, believed to have died some time between AD220 and 300, were burnt on pyres upon which were placed their horses and military equipment. The remains were uncovered in the 1960s but full-scale analysis and identification has been possible only since 2000 with technological advances.

The soldiers are believed to have been part of the numerii, a Roman irregular unit, which would have been attached to a legion serving in Britain. Other finds show that their unit originated from the Danubian provinces of Noricum, Pannonia and Ilyria which now form parts of Austria, Hungary and the former Yugoslavia.

Hilary Cool, the director of Barbican Research Associates, which specialises in post- excavation archaeological analysis, said that the remains were the most intriguing aspects of a site that is changing our understanding of Roman burial rites.

“It seems highly probable that we have a unit raised in the Danubian lands and transferred to Britain,” she says in British Archaeology.

“Though the numerii are generally referred to as irregular units, they are not thought of as having women among their ranks. However, the unit came from the area where the Ancient Greeks placed the origin of women warriors called Amazons. Could the numerii be even more irregular than anyone has ever dreamt?” The cemetery at Brougham served a fort and the civilian settlement of Brocavum in the 3rd century and analysis of the remains of more than 180 people showed that everybody’s ashes were buried there. Archaeologists have been able to determine the ages and gender of the dead and to build up a detailed picture of Roman funerals in Brougham. One of the sets of women warrior’s remains were found with the burnt remnants of animals. Bone veneer, used to decorate boxes, was also found alongside evidence of a sword scabbard and red pottery. The possessions suggest that she was of high status and her age has been estimated at between 20 and 40 years old. The other woman, thought to be between 21 and 45, was buried with a silver bowl, a sword scabbard, bone veneer and ivory.

Tuesday, January 4th, 2005, 02:39 PM
Quite interesting though I think its a bit strange of them to use the term "Amazon warrior". Though there were undoubtably female warriors, or at least females trained in battle, in most tribes of the time from what I've seen most in the history field view the Amazon warrior women to be a more "mythological" presence than fact. Its still debatable whether or not the Amazons, as portrayed by the Greeks, actually existed. Women warriors in ancient tribes are a different story. I would not be surprised if this element existed in eastern European tribes as well and we know the Romans did have a tendancy to take warriors from the tribes of defeated peoples. It would be an interesting subject to look into more, and now I wish I had more of a knowledge on eastern tribes :biggrin:

Wednesday, April 27th, 2005, 03:24 PM
Amazons, rubbish! These were Gothic women.

The Danubian Islands at that time were a Gothic stronghold, though traditionally the island of Peuke belonged to the Germano-Celtic Bastarnae, who in turn were vassals of the Carpi. These people had more or less been subsumed by the Goths during their expansion into the lower Danube during the 240s. Indeed all of these peoples comprised contingents in the enormous horde led by King Cniva that later overpowered and killed the barrack-Emperor Decius at Abrittus in 251.

The Scriptores Historiae Augustae(compiled around AD400) describes a triumph held in 274 to celebrate the successful outcome of the Gothic War of 271 conducted by the Emperor Aurelian. In the procession were ten Gothic female warriors, who were preceded by a sign designating them as 'Amazones'. These Gothic women were the sole survivors of an entire division who had fought against the Romans and who had been later captured.

The original Amazones were a prehistoric Scythian tribe from the same area ie The Pontic Steppes.