The Greek Myths That Inspired Wonder Woman

DC's Wonder Woman franchise revolves around the Amazon Diana (of course, better known as Wonder Woman) as she both defends the innocent from her own nemeses such as Cheetah and aids her Justice League allies in defeating more overarching threats. She originates from the mythical Greek island of Themyscira, where the island's inhabitants are all warrior women like her. While she and her people were created in 1941, they were derived from the Amazons of ancient Greek mythology (via BBC). 

The Amazonians were inspired by the women of Central Asian cultures like the Scythians, when the Anatolian-born Greek writer Herodotus wrote of them. While not female-only societies, women were nonetheless prominent in them and often fought in battle as their men did (via Live Science). According to Herodotus, but not any practical evidence, it was in fact the supposed arrival of the Amazons that led to this unique cultural facet.

The creation of Amazons predates one of their best historical exemplars

The Amazonians, per the Greek poet's mythology, were a (relatively) dominant power in the ancient world, waging several successful campaigns against adversaries ranging from the Mycenaean Greeks to the Persians. In order to sustain their population, they may have procreated with the men of captured or allied territories, keeping any resulting daughters for themselves (via Britannica). Their apparent downfall came when they fought the Greeks at Thermodon, where they were defeated and subsequently sailed east in search of new lands. Upon encountering the Scythians, they supposedly overcame initial hostilities and merged into one people.

While the Amazon portion of Herodotus' history is a mix of speculation and fabrication, there was another historical culture that in many ways overlapped with it 80 years after his death. In ancient Illyria, a society which spanned the northwestern Balkans, women were frequently known to partake in battle, per Ancient Origins. Alexander the Great's half-sister Cynane, herself half-Illyrian through her mother and in many ways a shoo-in for a historical Wonder Woman, achieved massive fame for killing an enemy Illyrian queen in battle in the name of Macedonia. Later in life, she planned to secure the late-Alexander's empire for her daughter at the head of a massive army, and likely would have succeeded had she not been prematurely assassinated (via Turning Points of the Ancient World).