The Complicated Origin Story Behind Wonder Woman

Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros.
Diana Prince, or, as you might know her, Wonder Woman, has been portrayed in film, TV, and comic books for nearly 70 years. In that time, her origin story as a character has gone through quite a few revisions. But, whether she's portrayed as Zeus' daughter, an animated lump of clay, or actually the God of War, Diana's roots are in Greek mythology. Specifically, her backstory always features the Amazons, a powerful race of warrior women.
The Amazons appear throughout Greek myths and legends, but their traits remain roughly the same: They hated all men, lived outside the bounds of regular Greek society, and, most importantly, they were the daughters of Ares, the Greek god of war. The story goes that the Amazons were so dedicated to warfare that they cut off their right breast so they could throw their spears better (according to Tufts University, the word "Amazon" roughly means "missing one breast" in Greek). For what it's worth, there's no evidence that having breasts makes you a poor spear-thrower, but this detail definitely makes it clear you don't want to mess with the Amazons.
As badass as the Amazons seemed, the Greeks mostly just used them as foils in their myths. These women were only characterized as fierce and strong to make the Greek warriors who defeated them appear even fiercer and stronger by comparison.
Archaeologists suggest that ancient tribes of warrior women really did exist, but it's pretty unlikely that the Greeks modeled the Amazons after anything from real life. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, the Amazons' homeland changed to fit the Greeks' understanding of geography. Basically, these warrior women lived where the Greeks did not. Their matriarchal community was created to be the opposite of Greek society and, more than anything, they represented the unknown and the unfamiliar.
Much like the mythical Amazons, Diana is always portrayed as a stranger to humanity. She finds humans fascinating and wishes to protect them, but remains an outsider, a member of a nearly forgotten race. But, unlike the Greeks' Amazons, Diana rarely sees defeat. Where they were used as narrative devices to make the Greeks seem strong, she is upheld as a symbol of female empowerment and strength in the face of adversity.
One thing that remains a mystery about the latest spin on Diana (Wonder Woman, which hits theaters today) is whether she's of divine origin or is simply a powerful warrior who took her place among the gods. Either way, we are ready to see the mystery unfold — and what's sure to be some excellent spear-throwing.

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