The Island of the Amazons

Aretias - Giresun Adasi


Ancient reference:
The Argonautica by Apollonius of Rhodes (Apollonius Rhodius) contains a precise description of the Black Sea's south coast. This opus gives an account of the voyage of the Greek hero Jason and his comrades from Greece along the Black Sea's south coast to Colchis in the east of the Black Sea.
Apollonius Rhodius lived in the 3rd century BC. He was the librarian of the Musaeum (the University) at Alexandria in Egypt. Its famous library was the most comprehensive repository of knowledge and scholarship in antiquity.
Apollonius handed down to us an account of the Amazons, and he described the island of the Amazons - Aretias.

Here are the original passages:
Book II, 382 - 388: The blind seer Phineus describes Jason his further voyage to Colchis. So he gives an account of the land of the Amazons at the river Thermodon and of the island of the Amazons - Aretias.
» ... ye must beach your ship upon a smooth island, when ye have driven away with all manner of skill the ravening birds, which in countless numbers haunt the desert island. In it the Queens of the Amazons, Otrere and Antiope, built a stone temple of Ares what time they went forth to war. «
Book II, 1169 - 1176: This is about Jason and his comrades on the island of the Amazons.
» Then all together they went to the temple of Ares to offer sacrifice of sheep; and in haste they stood round the altar, which was outside the roofless temple, an altar built of pebbles; within a black stone stood fixed, a sacred thing, to which of yore the Amazons all used to pray. Nor was it lawful for them, when they came from the opposite coast, to burn on this altar offerings of sheep and oxen, but they used to slay horses which they kept in great herds. «

Site plan
Site plan of Giresun Adasi and environment
Site plan of the Black Sea coast from the Thermodon plain to Giresun

The distance between the mouth of the Thermodon and the island Aretias (Giresun Adasi) is about 120 kilometers (= 75 miles), as the crow flies. Giresun Adasi is approximately 2 kilometers (= 1.2 miles) off the coastal town Giresun.

Detailed drawing of Giresun Adasi
detailed drawing of Giresun Adasi

Current situation:
Today this island is deserted. However, there have been discovered remains of some buildings, one of them a Byzantine monastery.
Astonishingly, this islet is still the venue for fertility rites. Every May, women from the mainland come to this island to perform ritual acts.
=> Research campaign 1999


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