THE MAKING OF AN AMAZON QUEEN
IAXS Research Project #261
By Matthew Steele
Copyright © 1997 held by author
THE ROLE OF ROYALTY
THE RIGHT OF CASTE AND SUCCESSION BY COMBAT
PAST HOLDERS OF THE THRONE
THE ROLE OF ROYALTY
 The role of royalty in a society may vary greatly depending on the nature of that society. This role may range from that of an absolute ruler to that of a figurehead. The origins of whatever power held by the royalty of a society are also variable. In some cases, it is a matter of physical agility: the strongest shall lead. In others such as the Pharaohs of Egypt, certain rulers of medieval Europe, and the imperial line of Japan, the ruler derives whatever power he or she holds from the belief that they directly represent a deity or deities interest(s) with regard to their people and lands. In the most extreme of these cases, the rulers themselves are believed to be divine. In some variations of Divine Right, it is believed that whatever virtue or power possessed by the ruler is passed on through the blood of the family, thus empowering the notion of a caste system.
 The portrayal of the Amazon Nation in XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS is to some degree representative of a stereotypical view. We are shown in those glimpses provided a culture based largely on a mixture of warrior and shamanic traditions. The Amazon Nation is ruled more or less completely by its chosen Queen. An individual may apparently claim the throne in one of only two ways: (1) possession of the right of royal caste, or (2) defeat of the current claimant to the throne in single mortal combat.
THE RIGHT OF CASTE AND SUCCESSION BY COMBAT
Gabrielle becomes an Amazon Princess by Right (or is it Rite) of Caste.
 The matter of caste is a particularly interesting one in that it alone requires none of the extensive ceremony which seems to form the basis of the Amazon culture. The right of caste can be passed simply by stating that the holder is passing it to whomever has been chosen, especially when the original holder is near death. The passing of this right apparently makes the new holder the heir to whatever place in the royal line which the original holder possessed. It is apparently also possible to name one's heir in this matter.
 In the first example, Gabrielle is an outright stranger given the full standing of princess and heir to the throne of the Amazon Nation by the fallen warrior, Terreis, whom she tried to protect [HOOVES AND HARLOTS (#10)]. In the second, Velasca is named the heir to the current Amazon Queen, Melosa. Velasca later chooses to challenge Melosa for the throne and succeeds [THE QUEST (#37)]. However, it bears noting that Gabrielle's claim on the throne has precedence over Velasca's. Apparently inheritance of the throne through caste is held above gaining it through combat.
 Velasca also apparently had no lawful ability to challenge Gabrielle's claim to the throne, which would seem to contradict the precedent set by her successful challenge of Melosa. One theory is that only existing rulers can be challenged, suggesting that Velasca might have been able to challenge Gabrielle to single combat if she had be patient enough to allow her to assume the throne without incident.
 A final observation on tradition is the notion that caste may also be refused and the throne returned to the previous holder. Two examples of this are Xena's return of the rulership to Melosa once she had managed to avert war with the Centaurs [HOOVES AND HARLOTS (#10)], and Ephiny's apparent ability to refuse the right from the dying Gabrielle [IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE? (#24)]. Also, Ephiny's ability to stand as acting Queen only in Gabrielle's ongoing absence is noteworthy in that it shows an uncommon flexibility of custom [A NECESSARY EVIL (#38)].
PAST HOLDERS OF THE THRONE
 The how of the Amazon Queen having now been described, it remains to discuss the why and the who. Specifically, what quality or qualities are ideal or at least preferential for the ruler of the Amazon Nation to possess? The various holders of the throne each bear discussion.
Melosa wasn't seen after HOOVES AND HARLOTS (#10), but she was by no means forgotten.
 Melosa was presumably the Queen for years or even decades. The circumstances of Melosa's rise to the throne are unknown. We do not know whether she assumed the Queenship through caste or challenge. It is clear that she possessed both great force of arms and personality.
 Melosa's long standing no doubt brought her closer to the hearts of the Amazons than any other of the queens discussed here. However, long years of war with the Centaurs and the decline of the Nation clearly made Melosa somewhat bitter and set in her ways. It was difficult for her to let go of past prejudices.
Xena, the Amazon ideal?
 Xena was the one time Queen by combat, then declined the throne of her own choice. Xena was the ultimate ideal of the Amazons: the premiere warlord of her generation, a warrior without mortal peer, and skilled in medicine and ancient lore. Xena was closest of all mortals to being the woman which all Amazons wished to be: Artemis herself. Xena's flaws laid in her choices, in the carnage she had caused, and the suffering of innocents which remained on her hands. Xena could not accept elevation of any kind. It was difficult for her even to accept a compliment. For her, what remained of her life had to be spent trying to atone for her past. She was not the future of the Amazons, though she may have been the one to bring Gabrielle to understand her own great gifts and realize her own destiny with the Amazons.
 In addition to all of her "many skills", Xena possessed an understanding that the gods as they were did not have a particular virtue to them. They were all too human in their vices and pettiness. From her example, Gabrielle began to learn that mortals have to live for themselves rather than spending their lives (or the lives of others) trying to please the immortals.
Velasca, a different spelling for B*tch!
 Velasca was Queen briefly through a successful challenge to Melosa. Velasca was a strong and savage warrior. She had vast strength of will and purpose. Her personal vitality was such that the majority of the Amazons initially flocked to her banner, even though it meant turning against both Gabrielle and their own trusted warrior, Ephiny [THE QUEST (#37)].
 At the same time, Velasca was a fanatic who danced near the line of insanity for years, and very quickly moved across it and stayed there. The will to pursue her goals in the face of injury led her to ambrosia and godhood, and she nearly destroyed the Nation before being stopped (apparently).
The Amazon Nation could do much worse than a Queen like Gabrielle.
 Gabrielle was the Queen in absentia during Velasca's short reign. Apparently Gabrielle was the rightful ruler of the Nation by right of caste and popular support.
 Gabrielle held an enormous potential to be a truly great ruler. She possessed all of the classical virtues such as compassion, tolerance, creativity, fairness, strength, determination, innocence, and faith. She lost precious loved ones to death and returned from death itself. She held the temptations of godhood in her hands and did not succumb. She had a love of history and a great belief in justice. She was the great future that may have been for the Nation, if she had chose that path. However, she did not choose it. Gabrielle, like Ephiny, had no real desire to lead others or to be someone of fame and stature. She did not see a destiny for herself, which was understandable given who her closest companion was (Xena).
Queen Ephiny has many challenges ahead.
 Ephiny was the Acting Queen in Gabrielle's stead after the deposing of Velasca. Ephiny was more a "woman of the people" than any of the others listed above. She was a reformer, having seen her own share of grief from war and misfortune. Her marriage to a centaur marked her as a revolutionary, one who could lead her people away from the mistakes of the past to a promising and peaceful future. She understood both tolerance and aggression.
 Ephiny's only real flaw as a leader was that she did not seem to see herself in that light, but rather as someone simply holding the place for another. The fact the she apparently did not desire power or authority was a benefit to those around her.
THE FUTURE OF THE AMAZONS
 The Amazon Nation had apparently stagnated greatly in its most recent generation. Velasca spoke emphatically about this, saying that the Nation had become fragmented and scattered. The Amazons had become a bad joke told by old men in taverns. Velasca blamed Artemis for this situation, revealing that even she was bound by the traditional perception of the Olympians' role in the affairs of mortals. It should be noted that Velasca's outrage at Artemis indicated clearly that she believed that the goddess should have a direct role of leadership in the Nation. Unfortunately, the Olympians were nothing if not fickle. They could favor both individuals and nations, but that favor could turn at any time for any reason, or for no reason at all.
 One of the underlying truths of the world of XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS is that mortals have to take their destiny into their own hands. The gods are present certainly, and they have the power to make or break people and kingdoms more or less at their whim, but they cannot be relied upon to provide meaning or enlightenment for anyone. Xena, herself, is a fine example of a someone who has learned this truth, and no longer has any reliance on the Olympians for anything other than complications. This point of view is rare among the mortals of the period, but it is an important trait for the leader of the Amazon Nation to possess. Not an individual who blames the gods for human misfortunes, either directly or by inaction, but one who relies on human efforts for human needs.
Ephiny has some tough choices to make in her first Season 3 episode, MATERNAL INSTINCTS.
 Ephiny may well be such a leader. Her personal example could easily lead to an alliance between the Amazons and their neighbors, the Centaurs, one that would benefit both peoples. Though the role of the Amazon has traditionally been one of a warrior, the Nation must grow into a people skilled in the arts of peace and peace-making as well as war.
 Ideally, Gabrielle would return in about ten years time, either to assume the throne (if it still existed) or to serve as an advisor to Ephiny. By this time, she would have a range of skills and abilities in peace and wartime efforts. However, it is clear that Gabrielle will never be primarily a warrior. Though her ability is already significant when Ephiny assumes the throne and will surely increase through her travels and battles at Xena's side, Gabrielle will always be a bard first and foremost. She knows how to fight, but she would rather talk things over instead. This makes her better suited to the Amazon future than the present. Her path will cross with that of the Nation again when they are ready for her.
 Xena's role in the Amazon future, beyond the respect both they and the Centaurs have for her and her role as Gabrielle's mentor, is likely to be an indirect one. She will always be a powerful ally in times of need. Ultimately, however, Xena's crusade to defeat the oppressors of the world will lead her to Olympus itself. She has seen examples of the gods' pettiness many times, and knows only too well the misery that Ares and his like can cause. Her multiple encounters with ambrosia will eventually lead her to shoulder one final burden: the struggle against the gods themselves. Perhaps the method in which "her courage will change the world" is this one last struggle, sweeping the Olympians from the world so that they only exist in myth. Battle on, Xena.