Book VI, Chapter XXXIII
Of the women of the Indies who live in republics as their own masters, in imitation of the Amazons; here are two brief accounts that will suffice until we reach the proper places and provinces where such women live in the second part of this General History, where what is to be said about them will be told in greater detail.
Translated by Eliana Blam ’22
Having been banished from their homeland, Sylisios and Scolopicus passed over to Cappadocia, along the Thermodon River, with a multitude of young men. Once there, they took over the Themiscyrian fields, where they took to robbing the neighbors, until the townspeople eventually killed them. The women, seeing themselves widowed and banished, took up arms, and, at first defending their land and waging war, dared to create their republic without husbands, setting a wonderful example for all times. They rejected the neighbors in marriage, because it would not be called marriage but servitude; and so they ruled, discarding the idea of having a husband. And so that one did not have an advantage over the other, they killed the ones who had stayed at home and took vengeance for their dead husbands through the death of the living. Then, having achieved peace through force, they began to procreate with their neighbors to ensure the continuation of their generations, and if some male children were born they were killed, and they passed on their customs to the female children, not keeping them in leisure nor occupied with housework, but teaching them arms, horse-riding, and hunting; when these were small, they burned their right breast, so that it would not interfere when pulling the bow, which is why they were called amaçonas or Amazons. They had two queens, Marpesia and Lampedo, etc.
This was the origin of the ones called Amazons, according to Justinus’s longer description in the summary to his Epitome historiarum Trogi Pompeii, and their state became very large. Another thing that amazes me more than what has been said, is that these Amazons preserved and increased their republic by allying themselves with men at certain times. But a republic of chaste men, living without women, maintaining and expanding a longstanding republic, this is much more admirable and a very possible thing as in the case that Pliny describes when he writes of Lake Apháltide: “On the western banks there live the Essenes people, who fled all things bad; they are a wonderful people in all meanings of the word, and they live without women and without lust, without greed. They don’t disappear because from time to time people who are tired of their adverse fortune go to live with them and follow their customs; which is why for many centuries these people among whom none are born endured. How fruitful to them is other people’s boredom or anger against life!” All this is from the author cited.
Concerning what has been said in both instances, I will add to the aforementioned accounts two remarkable recollections about women. The first is that when Governor Gerónimo Dortal was on the Mainland, the Spaniards found many towns where women were queens or cacicas and supreme female leaders, commanding and governing without their husbands, even if they had them; especially one, called Orocomay, who lorded over more than thirty leagues beyond her town, and she was a very good friend to the Christians. And she was only assisted by women, and in her land and holdings there were no men, except for those she called on to command them or send them to war, as will be said in book XXIV, chapter X. When Captain Nuño de Guzman and his people conquered New Galicia they heard news of a population of women, and then our Spaniards began calling them Amazons. A captain named Cristóbal de Oñate pleaded early on with Captain Nuño de Guzmán, his general, to give him the task of pacifying those Amazons; the general agreed, and Cristóbal de Oñate went with his soldiers in search of the Amazons, but in a town along the way he was very badly wounded and the other Spaniards seriously hurt by certain Indians who came out to meet them, impeding this captain and those who went with him from continuing. And the general having arrived there, his field master, Captain Gonzalo López, asked for the commission to go to the town of the women, which was granted to him. Then the same general wanted to see these women, and they arrived there without resistance, and entered the town with their men; the town was called Çiguatan (they call it that because in that language Çiguatan means town of women), and they gave the Spaniards very good food and everything they needed. That republic has a thousand houses and is very well organized. They learned from the women that the young men of the region come to their city for four months out of the year to lay with them, and only for that time do they mock-marry them, and the men are only concerned with serving them and doing what the women ask of them during the day in the town or in the countryside; at night the women give themselves to them. During those months the men cultivate and sow the land of corn and legumes, gathering it for the houses where they have been staying. Having completed this process, all the men leave and return to their native lands. If any of the women get pregnant, after they have given birth, they send their boys to their fathers so that they can raise them and do with them what they want; if any of the offspring are girls, the women keep them and raise them to maintain their republic. They have many turquoises and emeralds of very good quality. But the proper name of that city itself is not Çiguatan, as he said, but Çiguatlam, which means the town of women. Of the others, its particulars will be described more extensively in Book XXXIV, Chapter VIII.
Later in Spain I wanted to get information about these women from the same Nuño de Guzmán, because he is a fine gentleman and worthy of credit. He told me that it is a joke, that they are not Amazons, although the truth of some of the things that were said could be debated; he said he went there and found them married, and that it is all a fiction. I say that it could be that he found them married because it was during the time of their unions; but let’s leave that there and move on.
Having completed these brief accounts, I want to talk about Pliny’s remarks regarding the Essenes people. And so you do not marvel, reader, at this, I will bring to mind other generations of similar people that you and I and many others have seen flourish and live throughout the ages without the company of women; I will even remind you of other congregations of women who live and persevere and never falter without the company of men.
Other than what Saint Isidore says in his Etymologies, we already know that the convent is taken to be a place where many gather, and I understand that there are many convents and communities of religious men who live a saintly life without the company of women; there are also many women and convents of women who live without men and are sustained for long periods of time that way, as attested to by the Benedictines, the Bernardines, the Carthusians and other holy religious orders. And that is the way the communities of the Essenes must have been, the ones that Pliny places in some part of Judea; these must have been chaste Jews, but not of equal sanctity or goodness to the communities or convents of religious Christian women or men, who like the Essenes, fleeing from evil and sin, turn away and confine themselves to serve God, and the men live without women and the women without men, chastely and in all honesty. And they must be mentioned, because from time to time those who tire of adverse fortune go to live in such company, and they want to serve God and leave the world and make a profession of faith with those who previously took the vow of religion; which is why for many centuries and times such people remain, even though no creatures are born among them, because the opportunity of renouncing secular practices can be very enticing and excellent. And when, by the industry and temptation of the devil some transgression or ugly sin is committed by some professed person, there is no lack of repentance or penance for his crime and for the remedy of his soul. Let us move on to the other accounts.
 Justinus, Book II.
 Pliny, Book V, Chapter 18.
 Cives vocatique in unum coeuntes vivat, et utita comes et ornatior fiat et tutior. Etymologies, Book IV, Chapter 4.
Image: An 1882 print showing an Amazon about to spear a panther, retrieved from National Geographic.