The romantic liaison between the great Amazon warrior queen and the conqueror of the known world has been much mythologised. But did such a delicious pairing really happen? Adrienne Mayor investigates.
Alexander of Macedon had conquered Persia. Now he was determined to expand his empire all the way to India. In 330 BC Alexander’s army of more than 30,000 began marching east from Ecbatana (Hamadan, Iran), through the high desert toward Rhaga (Tehran). Threading through the ‘Caspian Gates’, a narrow defile in the Elburz mountains, they reached Hyrcania on the southern shore of the Caspian Sea. Here Alexander made camp at a huge rock with a spring about 15 miles north-west of the ancient city of Hecatompylus. From this base Alexander rode out to subdue several Hyrcanian towns and skirmished with the Mardians, mounted nomads who stole Alexander’s horse Bucephalus and held him for ransom. Back in Hecatompylus, Alexander met with envoys from tribes near and far, who were curious to pledge allegiance to the young world conqueror.
While at this camp Alexander received an extraordinary visitor: Thalestris, an imperious Amazon queen accompanied by 300 warrior women on horseback. Thalestris had a mission: to have Alexander’s baby. According to several ancient accounts, Alexander did his best to fulfill her desire.