Warning: don’t mess with the fairer sex!

Our next destination has a unique history, and perhaps the earliest forerunner of women’s liberation. Then again, what happened may raise a few brows and possibly considered extreme as to the outcome. We are off to the Island of Hephaistos/Hephaestus, today known as Limnos/Lemnos. It is one of the northern islands of Greece and not far from the Hellespont, the Dardenelles in Turkey, the famous trade route between the west and east, and also where Troy was situated.

From Google maps

There are few versions of mythology as to how the island became the place of worship of Hephaistos: the most common and the one I was familiar with was that Hera despised Hephaistos for his ugliness and tossed him from Mount Olympos. He landed on the island and broke his leg (or hip) and caused him to be lame. Another myth says Hera threw Hephaistos in a fit of anger after he interfered in an argument between her and Zeus, hence maiming him when he landed on the island; and there’s also the story that Zeus flung him out of Olympos and Hephaistos broke his legs and ended up lame. Either way, Hephaistos was thrown away by his parents, and the people on the island took care of him and worshipped him. (A sidenote, the ancient Greeks, as did many other ancient civilisations, practiced infanticide—the killing of babies who were considered unhealthy or disabled).

Building at the hill of Poliochne, dating from the Early Bronze Age. By ale3andro – https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7792422

There is another interesting story about Hephaistos’ island, and that it was inhabited by women. Legend has it the men of the island deserted their wives for Thracian women, and in turn the jilted females murdered every remaining male, with the exception of the king, whose daughter, had hid him when she ruled in his stead. Why did the husbands leave their wives? Apparently they smelled. The women collected murex snails-a sea snail-prized for the purple colour they exuded. The women of Limnos extracted the dye from the snail, and then they would colour the linen. The colour purple was sought after by rulers and the wealthy. For those who’ve read or are familiar with the story of Jason and the Argonauts, on their way to Colchis (western part of Georgia on the Black Sea) stopped at the island and had fathered many children.

Jason and Medea – as depicted by John William Waterhouse, 1907. By John William Waterhouse – http://www.jwwaterhouse.com, Public Domain

Amazon wearing trousers and carrying a shield with an attached patterned cloth and a quiver. Ancient Greek Attic white-ground alabastron, c.470 BC, British Museum, London. By Marie-Lan Nguyen (2007), CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2596541

There is also a connection to the Amazons. The capital of Limnos is Myrina, named after an Amazonian queen. According to some sources, the island was matriarchal society, which gave rise to various myths of a woman only island and female rulers. Archaeologists have found evidence on the island of a possible connection to the Amazons from Scythia (Ukraine, southern Russia and western Kazakhstan).

As to how Evan and his companions end up on the Island of Hephaistos, you will have to read the book 😉

Thank you for your continued support and as always, I look forward to your comments and will respond.

Historical fiction novelist and a secondary teacher, Luciana Cavallaro, burnt out but not done… yet.

Advertisements

12 thoughts on “Warning: don’t mess with the fairer sex!

    • I am a bit of fan of John Waterhouse’s paintings. His artwork is poignant and I love the way he depicts women.
      Amazing what women did wear back when, even bikinis!!

      Like

  1. Thank you, Luciana, for sharing this tale about the women of Island of Hephaistos/Hephaestus (modern day Limnos/Lemnos). It is fascinating that purple dye was extracted from snails and that there would be a tale that women smell as a result of wearing clothing using this dye. It is also fascinating that the island was associated with the Amazonian women and that it was possibly ruled by a matriarchal society. It continues to amaze me the bits the information you’ve found about ancient civilizations. Have a lovely week!
    Best,
    Linnea

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Linnea 😀
      It is an extraordinary story. When I first read it, I was thought how shallow people, men in this case, be. However, it is true to human behaviour. The killing is extreme, but then again, women weren’t treated well by men!
      This is what I love about research, the interesting facts of information you come across.
      Have a great week.
      Best wishes,
      Luciana

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Apollo's Raven and commented:
    The following is a reblog of an article entitled, Warning: don’t mess with the fairer sex!” posted by Luciana Cavallaro on March 12, 2018. It is a fascinating overview of the unique history of Island of Hephaistos/Hephaestus, today known as Limnos/Lemnos. There are tales that a matriarchal society inhabited the island and archaeologists have found evidence on the island of a possible connection to the Amazons from Scythia. Fascinating read!

    Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.