Women in the army

René

Mongoose
Aquilonia p.47 says women in the Aquilonian army are not that rare.
Does someone out there know of a real life army (pre-firearms era) which employed regularly women as fighting soldiers?

The armies of antiquity (Rome, Greeks, Macedons, Egypt, Near and Middle East) didn't inlcude the better half of mankind in their ranks - afaik (I'm a student of Classical antiquity). Amazonians were just a myth.

I read a book about the golden age of pirates (16th and 17th century) that spoke only of 2 pirate girls and both started as concubines to a captain, i.e. not the standard warrior women of male pubertarian fantasies :wink:

Went Wiking women plundering with their husbands? What was the situation with the native Americans?

I want to present my players a "realistic" Hyborian Age and the idea of soldier women seems to me a little bit fantastic.
 

Foxworthy

Mongoose
I'm not one hundred percent sure, but I think the ancient Crete people {Cretians?} had women that fought and trained with the men. It came up when I had an art history class when I was a freshman in high school. Of course the teacher could ahve been wrong.

And I'm pretty sure that the Scythians had warrior women as well.
 

Tim Mercado

Mongoose
René said:
The armies of antiquity (Rome, Greeks, Macedons, Egypt, Near and Middle East) didn't inlcude the better half of mankind in their ranks - afaik (I'm a student of Classical antiquity). Amazonians were just a myth

you mean...the "other" half. and i believe that the celtic/germanic tribes (the ones rome beat up on continually) utilized females in combat. hard to call celts "soldiers", "militia" might fit the bill more...but for some reason it seems like women fought in the wars if they decided to, not because they had to or because they could not. hmm...im curious now. ill have to do some research myself.
 

René

Mongoose
foxworthy said:
I'm not one hundred percent sure, but I think the ancient Crete people {Cretians?} had women that fought and trained with the men. It came up when I had an art history class when I was a freshman in high school. Of course the teacher could ahve been wrong.

And I'm pretty sure that the Scythians had warrior women as well.

Crete: did your teacher show you pictures / statues of warrior women? If so, I'm inclined to say that these are born more of male fantasy than real life. Compare the warlike goddess Athena in Greek mythology: the Athenians and a lot of other city states had her protrayed in full armor with helmet, shield and spear - but no women fought in the armies of classical Greece.
I'm not an expert in ancient Crete history (the sources are very scarce and almost exclusivley archeological, i.e. some graves with female skeletons, who have their bones smashed by weapons, and clad in armor would be needed as a valid proof), but I'm skeptical.

Scythians: I don't remember exactly, but I think Herodot mentions something like this. I'll investigate...
 

GregLynch

Mongoose
I don't recall the details, but there was a several-thousand-year-old grave unearthed in Iran(istan) a few months back containing the skeleton of a woman buried with armor and weapons. It came as something of a surprise, I believe, as there was little or no previous evidence that women from that part of the world, from that time period, may have been warriors.

No idea if there have been any updates or not on the story - you could probably find it with a little searching.

Otherwise, I'm not aware of any historical, formal armies that included women in their ranks. The various tribes, clans and other peoples (sundry Goths, Celts, Vikings, Picts and so forth) where women fought beside the men have already been mentioned.
 

jay13

Mongoose
I think the burial mounds you are speaking of were unearthed in the Ukraine and were Scythian. There were the bodies of a few women who were buried with bows and arrows and throwing spears along with other things like jewlery and mirrors. Anyway, from what I have read from historians is that it is likely women were left with these weapons incase defence was needed of the settlements while men were gone to pasture their herds. And as for the Germanic peoples, while it is beleived that women did acompany men to the battlefield at times, there is little evidence that they actually engaged in combat. They would help collect and tend to the wounded.
 

jay13

Mongoose
René said:
Aquilonia p.47 says women in the Aquilonian army are not that rare. ...
And I'm not positive, but doesn't that contradict what was written in another book Mongoose published?
 

S'mon

Mongoose
There's plenty of archaelogical evidence for individual warrior-women; especially in the upper classes of tribal societies or as gladiators, pirates etc. You don't get many women forming regular military units though (although AIR one near-eastern king's harem also formed his army!), certainly not heavy infantry, and personally I don't see the idea fitting into Aquilonia. GMing Conan, normally I have warrior-women from Hyrkanian (Scythian) tribes, occasional Cimmerian or Nordheimer, and oddballs like Belit from the southern patriarchal kingdoms.
 

Foxworthy

Mongoose
René said:
foxworthy said:
I'm not one hundred percent sure, but I think the ancient Crete people {Cretians?} had women that fought and trained with the men. It came up when I had an art history class when I was a freshman in high school. Of course the teacher could ahve been wrong.

And I'm pretty sure that the Scythians had warrior women as well.

Crete: did your teacher show you pictures / statues of warrior women? If so, I'm inclined to say that these are born more of male fantasy than real life. Compare the warlike goddess Athena in Greek mythology: the Athenians and a lot of other city states had her protrayed in full armor with helmet, shield and spear - but no women fought in the armies of classical Greece.
I'm not an expert in ancient Crete history (the sources are very scarce and almost exclusivley archeological, i.e. some graves with female skeletons, who have their bones smashed by weapons, and clad in armor would be needed as a valid proof), but I'm skeptical.

Scythians: I don't remember exactly, but I think Herodot mentions something like this. I'll investigate...

I'm sure it was pictures and as I said he probably was wrong. I'm also trying to remember the details from nine or so years ago,

As for the scythians all I did was a quite search on wikepedia and it gave me the information that they had warrior women. They also claim they were the basis for the Greeks beliefs in the Amazons. Of course none of this can be 100% accurate.
 

René

Mongoose
jay13 said:
And as for the Germanic peoples, while it is beleived that women did acompany men to the battlefield at times, there is little evidence that they actually engaged in combat. They would help collect and tend to the wounded.

Yes, when guys like Gaius Cesar report about fighting Germanic women, the critical reader has to see that he was not an objective historian, but a general who wanted to impress his senators and the common people at home; so he has to show the Germanics as savage as possible.
 
Are we forgettign the Celts here? After all the have female war goddesses- Brigid and the Morrigan. [Forgive my inability to spell here] Tribe leaders had to be warriors and there were warrior queens. Brodducca(sp?) the woman who raised a failed rebellion against the Romans is a historical figure. There are more, but I lack a photographic memory or a reference book at the moment.

Raven, who'd like to point out that her net name and attitude should be a dead giveaway to any Celtic scholar about which Power is my patron. 8)
 

René

Mongoose
S'mon said:
There's plenty of archaelogical evidence for individual warrior-women; especially in the upper classes of tribal societies or as gladiators, pirates etc.

I don't want this thread to go academical, but can you please specify which culture had women as pirates? Since the evidence is archeological, I think it will be an ancient culture?
 

René

Mongoose
Raven Blackwell said:
Are we forgettign the Celts here? After all the have female war goddesses- Brigid and the Morrigan. [Forgive my inability to spell here] Tribe leaders had to be warriors and there were warrior queens. Brodducca(sp?) the woman who raised a failed rebellion against the Romans is a historical figure.

Warlike goddesses can be revered in cultures that haven't fighting women (male fantasies, of course; compare the function of the black warrior woman in CONAN - The Destroyer) , e.g. Athena in Greek culture, so maybe this isn't so much evidence.

Warrior Queens: I also think that there were such women, but only in the upper class. Confer noble women in the middle ages who were often almost emancipated in today's meaning of the word, while the "normal" women hadn't any special "male" rights or behaviors. The same was true in classical antiquity: upper class women often had positions of open power (in opposition to the strong woman which is said to stand behind every successful man :wink: )

What I'm looking for are women who fought regularly in their tribe, army etc. Does some of the U.S. guys know how the situation with the native Americans was?
 

S'mon

Mongoose
René said:
S'mon said:
There's plenty of archaelogical evidence for individual warrior-women; especially in the upper classes of tribal societies or as gladiators, pirates etc.

I don't want this thread to go academical, but can you please specify which culture had women as pirates? Since the evidence is archeological, I think it will be an ancient culture?

Re pirates I was thinking more re the documentary historical evidence, like those well known 18th century Caribbean female pirates or Queen Artemisia commanding a squadron at Salamis and (unlike her boss King Xerxes) leading from the front, on the deck of her command ship.
 
René said:
Warrior Queens: I also think that there were such women, but only in the upper class. Confer noble women in the middle ages who were often almost emancipated in today's meaning of the word, while the "normal" women hadn't any special "male" rights or behaviors. The same was true in classical antiquity: upper class women often had positions of open power (in opposition to the strong woman which is said to stand behind every successful man :wink: )

Well, unlikely. Someone had to keep the food production going while the men were eagerly getting slaughtered. Doesn't make much sense to send the membes of the tribe that can produce future members of said tribe in harm's way.

What I'm looking for are women who fought regularly in their tribe, army etc. Does some of the U.S. guys know how the situation with the native Americans was?

:?: on that. Despite being a shaman and about 4% native blood, I'm white in all the ways that matter. Tribal history has been obliterated by the ancestors of this country. [I'm actually the grandchild of immigrants, so it wasn't my ancestors from both sides of the tree, but I bet my Celt forebears did something equally horrible] What's left of the native tribes's true wisdom that's survived cultural annhilation and the desire to run casinos is well concealed, if it still exists.

Raven, who's not really a U.S. 'guy' 8)
 

Brajah

Mongoose
Here's some links I found about Women Warriors in about ten minutes

http://www.lothene.demon.co.uk/others/women.html

http://www.koryu.com/library/wwj1.html#Introduction

http://ancienthistory.about.com/library/weekly/aa032703a.htm

Just do a Google search for <insert culture here> warrior women
 

Raphael

Mongoose
At the risk of sounding chauvanistic...
One can certainly find many examples of women warriors in many cultures, however, they are most often the exception. The original question was about the "historical" reality of women serving in a pre-modern army. Undoubtedly there would be the exceptions. Women who had somehow distiguished themselves or were generals daughters reared as warriors or woman dressing as men to serve in the Army. But, by and large, the percentage of women in ancient Armies wouldn't register.

Now, does this have anything to do with women in Hyborian armies? Depends on how "realistic" you want your Hyboria to be.

Peace,
Raphael
 

René

Mongoose
Brajah: thanks for the links! Especially the first promises a lot of information!

MountZionEditor: I agree. This seems to be indeed the case - the more exotic and challenging to throw a heroine at my players (this was metaphoric, of course).
And thanks for giving us the most funny avatar! No offense meant: I like it!
 

S'mon

Mongoose
Leaving aside realism, I'm pretty sure I read in a Howard story something along the lines of Conan noting that southern (Hyborean) women were soft and weak, unlike Cimmerian women who fought alongside the men. I think it's rather against the spirit of the setting to have women soldiers common & accepted in Hyborean culture armies. I'd stick to the occasional cross-dresser incognito. Female Cimmerian, Hyrkanian or even Nordheimer warriors are more likely, or exceptional individuals operating outside normal society like Belit.
 
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