Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the mightiest of them all? The legacy of Golden Dawn Women’s belief in the Amazonian ideal. A myth that has a long and complex history in Greek culture, dating back to ancient times

New Amazons
old nationalism

7 min read
Foto: Unsplash/engin akyurt

The global crises, the conflicts, and the refugee waves to Europe, provided fertile ground for the rise of nationalist movements, which would have otherwise been kept away from the political scene. Greece was no exception to that paradigm. Golden Dawn, a nativistic, far-right and ultra-nationalist political party in Greece founded in 1980, gained popularity and electoral success in the 2010s. The party’s ideology is based on extreme nationalism, anti-immigrant sentiment, and opposition to the European Union. It promotes a vision of Greece as a homogenous and racially pure nation, hence nativistic, and it has been accused of promoting violence and hate crimes against immigrants, leftists, and other minority groups. Although the party's leadership has denied any association with Nazism, several of its members have been convicted of crimes related to neo-Nazi activities.

In 2012, Golden Dawn gained 7% of the vote in the Greek parliamentary elections and secured 18 seats in the Hellenic Parliament. However, after a high-profile murder of an anti-fascist musician by a Golden Dawn supporter in 2013, the party's popularity began to decline. In 2020, Golden Dawn was officially declared a criminal organization by a Greek court, and its leadership was sentenced to prison for running a criminal gang. The party no longer exists as a political force in Greece, but has been replaced by a plethora of smaller iterations. In Golden Dawn both genders participated with a mixture or roles and functions. Its nativistic aspect seemed appealing to women, who found themselves in a group revered for their function (transfer of the purity of the nation). At the same time females took to heart the militaristic aspect of Golden Dawn, considering themselves the archetypical Amazons. It is this notion, that Golden Dawn’s female supporters think of themselves akin to the Amazons, that we want to highlight in this article. The belief in being descended from the Amazons is not new in Greece, but it has gained renewed interest due to the rise of the far-right.

The Amazonian myth has a long and complex history in Greek culture, dating back to ancient times. According to Herodotus, the Amazons were a tribe of warrior women who lived in the region of the Black Sea and were renowned for their prowess in battle. In Greek mythology, they were often depicted as fierce, independent, challenging traditional gender roles and embodying ideals of strength, courage, and autonomy. In her essay of 1995, Nicole Loraux noted that the Amazons seemed to pose a threat to the male-dominated order of Greek society. Their very existence challenged the norms of patriarchal culture and raised questions about the nature of gender identity and sexual difference.

This belief also seems to have been used by the males of Golden Dawn in order to shape Pierre Bourdieu's concept of Habitus, aimed at the females. We refer to a Habitus as the internalized dispositions, attitudes, and beliefs that individuals acquire through socialization and that shape their perception of the world and their behavior. In this case, Golden Dawn's female adherents have internalized the party's far-right ideology, presented by their male counterparts, which draws on a range of cultural and historical references, including the Amazonian myth, to construct a narrative of Greek identity that excludes and demonizes marginalized groups. We digitized issues from the three main far-right journals in Greece, namely MAIANDROS, PATRIA and ANAKTISI and, using Sketch Engine, created a corpus from all the writings. We saw references to women given the role of the Keeper and its core aspects:

  • Reproduction (Mothers)
  • Family (Ladies)
  • Race (Blood)
  • Nation (Nurturers)

So, the Habitus imagined by Golden Dawn’s men is a traditional woman with a support to the Male role. Given, though, that Golden Dawn is trying to reinvent themselves to reflect the changing attitudes towards gender, power, and authority, this “Habitus” changed, and women are allowed to fulfill the characteristics of an ideal that would include strength, courage, and autonomy – namely the Amazons. Golden Dawn's ideology draws heavily on ideas of ancient Greek heritage and cultural purity, with the Amazons serving as a symbol of Greek strength and resilience. However, their version of the myth also includes a gendered dimension, with female members of the party encouraged to see themselves as modern-day Amazons, embodying the virtues of strength, courage, and independence.

Consequently, the belief in being descended from the Amazons serves several ideological functions for the women of Golden Dawn, including the legitimation of their political activism, the affirmation of their identity as Greek women, and the promotion of a patriarchal and nationalist agenda. This is how the ascension of Eleni Zaroulia, wife of Golden Dawn’s leader Nikolaos Mihaloliakos, to MP can be explained, who, while in office, took a stance asking for mandatory military service for women because the existing system was discriminating against them.[1]

However, the construction of an Amazonian identity by the women of Golden Dawn is not a simple matter of ideological manipulation, but rather a complex and dynamic process of identity formation, negotiation, and contestation as can be attested in the interviews contained within Konstantia Samaras’ (2015) thesis.

We visited the no longer functioning blog “White Women Front” and, using Sketch Engine, created a corpus with all the writings these women offered to other female party members. The qualitative examination of their own writing attests this viewpoint, with successful references to Alefanto Zana, one of the women who fought during the Greek war of independence, as “brave and fearless like an Amazon” and “ever present in all battles” while she still found the time to care for her daughter and to sing songs for the troops during rest.[2]

The belief in the prototypical nature of Golden Dawn's female supporters has significant implications for Greek society, particularly in terms of gender relations and political ideology. On the one hand, it challenges traditional notions of femininity and women's roles in society, empowering women to embrace a more assertive and active role. Who was there to maintain Golden Dawn’s political presence in Parliament when all major players were convicted and ushered to jail? Their women, their wives, their daughters.

On the other hand, it reinforces a rigid gender binary and an exclusive notion of Greek identity that excludes those who do not fit into the narrow confines of this ideal. This binary effect can be plainly seen in the documentary Golden Dawn Girls (2017), shot by Havard Bustnes. These women through sarcasm, ambiguous answers, or dismissal or questions, toy with the documentarian much like big cats and their prey, while maintaining an outward appearance of a traditional female, in line with party ideals.

In conclusion, the belief of Golden Dawn's women supporters that they are prototypes like Amazons reflects a complex and multifaceted phenomenon that has its roots in Greek culture and mythology. It is a product of the party's far-right ideology, which draws on a range of cultural and historical references to construct a narrative of Greek identity to manipulate and reinforce the exclusion and demonization of marginalized groups. While this belief has empowered some women to challenge traditional gender roles, it has also reinforced a narrow and exclusionary notion of Greek identity that undermines the values of democracy and diversity.


[1] Source: NewsNowGR:14/11/2012

[2] White Women Front Blog:10/2010:Post 13 (last accessed July 2022)