When enemies invade or attack men would gather their weapons, saddle up their warhorses, and kiss their women goodbye before riding off to battle. Women knew their role: protect the children and household until the men returned. Traditionally women have been kept from participating in wars as active battles, primarily due to their role as the life-givers in society.
History does show that there have been women who have broke through the mold of societal bonds, some are very familiar: Cleopatra VII, Queen Eleanor of England, Joan of Arc, Queen Elizabeth I, Harriet Tubman, and Golda Meir. There are many other women whose names are not as well known.
Here is just a peek of a few lesser known female warriors...
Aethelflaed of England was born into Saxon royalty, the daughter of Alfred the Great, considered the first King of England. He was King of Wessex, when the island was divided in to city-states. His daughter Aethelflaed led troops on her father’s behalf, watching for and fighting the Norseman (aka Vikings) who continually pillaged the eastern English coastline.
She married Aethelraed, of East Mercia, but she still spent most of her time riding with her army. Aethelraed died in 911, leaving his wife to rule East Mercia. She allied with her brother, Edward when daddy past on. The brother and sister teamed up to fight the Vikings, Aethelflaed’s superb tactics making the difference. After the Norse campaign was done, she turned her eyes to the Welsh. Successful, the Queen sought to take Leicester. The region gave up without a fight just on her reputation. Sadly, she died of unknown causes in June 918.
Catalina de Erauso of Spainlived from 1592 until 1650 AD. Much of what is known about Catalina comes from her autobiography and Church documents. She started out her adventures escaping from a convent in San Sebastian and signed on with her uncle as a cabin boy on a ship sailing to the New World. She maintained her male disguise, sailing on to South America.
Catalina had a temper, getting involved in multiple duels over her life resulting in jail sentences – when she couldn’t get sanctuary at local churches- including one where she killed her own brother by accident. She fought in many battles. Another arrest in 1619 sent Catalina to a convent after she pled innocence via right of her virtue (she was still a virgin). Catalina had the nerve to demand a pension from King Phillip, who agreed to her request. Pope Urban VIII gave her a dispensation to wear men’s clothing during an audience. Catalina moved to Mexico, marrying a man who suffered through his wife’s habits the best he could (she challenged him to a duel once, which he declined).
Dahia al-Kahina of North Africaruled in Mauritania, North Africa from 688-705 AD. Arabs were pushing from Carthage in 698 AD. Dahia, who took leadership after Kuseila died, rallied her people. She was able to unite them and force the Arabs back to Tripolitania. Once the Arabs were gone, Dahia al-Kahina burned fertile croplands as a ‘scorched earth policy’ to discourage the Arabs from making any further attempts at conquests. It didn’t stop the Arabs, who came and defeated her in 705 A.D.
Shagrat al-Durr of Egypt took the title of Sultan after her husband, Salih Ayyub, died. The French King Louis IX, along with his army of Crusaders, arrived in Damietta. Afraid of the assembled army deserting her if they heard of her husband’s death, Shagrat put the word out that Salih was ill and led the men against the invading Christian forces.
After the battles are done, she returned to deal with the aftermath of her husband's passing. The Caliph of Baghdad declared her rule invalid and sent a Mamluk soldier, Aibak, to take her place as Sultan. Shagrat eventually her way, convincing Aibak to divorce his first wife and marry her. When Aibak married a second woman, Shagrat had him murdered. This didn’t go over very well, causing the people to riot. With half of the city supporting her and the other favoring Aibak’s son from his first marriage, it became ugly. Shagrat was caught by an unruly mob of slaves and beaten to death. After thinking about it, calmer heads prevailed and her bones were enshrined in a mosque known under her name.
Sonduk of Korea ruled for fourteen years in the Silla Kingdom as sole monarch starting in 634 to 647 AD, when she was replaced by Chindock, her cousin. Sonduk was very intelligent. Sonduk was said to have foresight, somehow knowing of events before they happened – attributed to her beliefs in Buddhism and her tradition as a shaman. She built the Temple of the Moon and Stars, the first observatory. Most of her rule was spent fighting the neighboring kingdom of Paekche.
Tamoe Gozen of Japan lived in the twelfth century in Japan, a legendary fighter in the Genpei War. Tomoe was associated with Minamoto no Yoshinaka, the Japanese Commander. It is not certain what her status was prior to her becoming a warrior, the records conflicts between wife, concubine, or female attendant.
Tamoe was renowned as an archer and swordswoman. It was said she had a gift when it came to breaking horses. Minamoto used Tamoe as part of his first assault unit, where she served as a Captain, her skills unmatched. Unfortunately, Minamoto had high ambitions which led to his death on the battlefield by the Minamoto clan. Records are not clear about the fate of Gozen.
Zenobia of Palmyra lived from 240 to somewhere around 274 AD, in Palmyra, in Syria. Zenobia took the throne as a single ruler after her husband Odenath died in 267. Zenobia had a healthy appetite for adventure, and didn’t hesitate get out with the soldiers on marches. She could be found drinking, riding, and fighting with the best of the men.
Zenobia led her army and increased her lands, adding Egypt and large parts of Syria. She fought off the Romans sent to deal with her. Zenobia declared independence from Rome, proclaiming her son, Vaballathus as Augustus (Emporer). Rome couldn’t ignore a rebellion, especially from a woman ruler. Aurelian & his legion were sent to quell her uprising. Aurelian and Zenobia met near Antioch, where she and her forces were defeated. Depending on the sources, Zenobia committed suicide, was executed, or was taken to Rome where she eventually married a Roman Senator.
In Thaelia’s World, women do not fight alongside men, although it is not forbidden for a woman to train as a knight, all religious Temples discourage it. Most of the Kings and Queens actively ban women fighting, except in defense of their, or their children’s, lives. There are two exceptions, women who are members of the Golden Daggers and those belonging to the Temple of the Red Snake. Golden Daggers are healers who are required to be on battlefields, and as such may encounter active hostilities. In general, most armies & mercenaries will leave healers alone, but there are always a few exceptions to the rule. Thus, priests and Priestesses of the Golden Dagger Temple learn basic defensive skills. The Temple of the Red Snakes are assassins and due to their nature, have the means to protect themselves.