The Library of History

Page 111

Page 111 In the Western Parts of Africa, upon the Borders of those Tracts that are inhabitable, there were anciently a Nation under the Government of Women, whose Manners and Course of Living were altogether different from ours. It was the Custom for those Women to manage all matters of War, and for a certain time keeping themselves Virgins, they went out as Soldiers into the Field, and after so many Years run up in their warfare, they accompany'd with Men, for the preservation of Posterity; but the Magistracy and all publick Offices, they kept wholly in their own Hands; and the Men (as the Women do with us) lookt to the Houshold Affairs, submitting to whatever was thought sit to be done by the Wives; and were not upon any terms admitted to intermeddle in Martial Affairs, or to Command, or be in any publick Authority, which might any ways incourage them to cast off the Yoak of their Wives.

As soon as any Child was born, they deliver'd it to the Father to nurse it up with Milk and other Meat agreeable to its Age. If it were a Girl, they sear'd off its Paps, lest they should be burthensom when they grew up; for they lookt upon them to be great hindrances in Fighting; and from the searing of their Paps, the Grecians call'd them Amazons.

It's reported, they inhabited an Island call'd Hisperia, because it lies to the West near to the Morass call'd Tritonides: This Fen they say, is near to the Ocean which surrounds it, and is call'd Tritonides, from a River that runs into it, call'd Triton. This Morass borders upon Ethiopia, under the greatest Mountain in those Parts, call'd by the Grecians Atlas, extending it self to the Ocean.

This Island, they say, is very large, abounding with all sorts of Fruit-Trees, which supply the Inhabitants with Food: That they have many Herds of Cattel, and Flocks of Sheep and Goats, which feed their Possessors both with their Milk and Flesh: But that they had no sort of Corn, for that in those Times they knew not what it was.

These Amazons therefore, for Valour eminent above all others, and heated with an ambitious desire of War, first subdu'd all the Cities of this Island (except one call'd Mena, accounted Sacred) inhabited now by the Ethiopians, call'd Ichthophages: It's often scorch'd with many Eruptions of Fire, which break out of the Earth, and its Bowels are inricht with precious Stones, which the Grecians call Anthraces,Sardes and Smaragdos.

Afterwards having subdu'd many of the Neighbouring Africans and Numidians, they built a great City in the Morass of Triton, which for the shape of it was call'd Chersonesus.

Then being further instigated by their innate Valour and Courage, they attempted greater Matters, and invaded many other Countries. And first they set upon them upon Mount Atlas, a soft sort of People, who injoy'd a rich Country full of great Cities; among whom (in those Parts bordering upon the Ocean) the Gods first had their Original, as the Grecians fabulously report, of whom a particular Account shall be given hereafter.

To this end, when Merina was Queen of the Amazons, she rais'd an Army of Thirty Thousand Foot, and Two Thousand Horse, for they were very exact and diligent in Training up Horses for the War. The Armour they wore for Coats of Mail, were the Skins of vast Serpents, with which sort of Creatures Africa abounds. But for offensive Arms, they carry'd Swords, Darts and Bows, in which they were so expert, that with these they not only broke their Enemies Battalions; but when they pursu'd them upon their Flight, they were sure to hit their Mark.

Entring therefore the Country of the Atlantides, in a Battel they routed them that inhabited Cercenes, and pursu'd them so close, that they enter'd pell-mel with them that got within the Walls, and took the City: And to strike a greater Terrour into their Neighbours, they executed horrid Cruelties upon the Conquer'd; for they put all the Men to the Sword, and having raz'd the City to the Ground, carry'd away Captive all the Women and Children. The noise of this Destruction being spread all over the Country, the rest of the Atlantides (being struck with a Pannick Fear) submitted, and deliver'd up all their Cities: Whereupon Merina receiv'd them all into her Favour, and made a League with them, and in the room of that which was destroy'd, built another City, calling it after her own Name, and peopled it with the Captives, and with such as were willing to come there to inhabit.

Bibliotheca Historica

The first five books