In prehistoric times, a group of five beings who would later be known as Aphrodite, Artemis, Hestia, Athena and Demeter of the Greek Gods, went about and collected the souls of women who were either unjustly slain or having died for a noble cause, storing them in a vessel called the Cavern of Souls.
Centuries later, the Five looked down upon the world and worried that the hearts of men were falling to the whim's of Ares too easily. The Five partitioned for the other gods to join their efforts to equalize the balance and create a race of women who would teach men the values of the gods, but they were denied.
The Five went on regardless, gathering at a lake in Greece they created clay bodies for the all-female race they breathed life into, with the souls they collected long ago, the first one to rise was Hippolyta. The second was Antiope, Hippolyta's sister.
The women created their city-state of Themyscira on the banks of the lake that gave them life and lived in peace, but not for long.
Ares' influence still ran strong in the world and Themyscira's neighbors did not all appreciate the rumors they heard of the splendor of Themyscira. One such king was Eurystheus, who held sway over Heracles due to Hera's ire being upon the demigod. The son of Zeus was met in single combat by the Amazon Queen who easily defeated him as she carried the Girdle of Gaea, that made her invincible and a physical sign of the Five's favor of the Amazons. However Hippolyta wished not to kill him but instead believed Heracles found them to be worthy allies of his.
Hippolyta was deceived and poisoned by Heracles himself, who took the Girdle from her. Instantly the Amazons lost the favor of the Five as Heracles's men attacked them, capturing them and burning Themyscira to the ground.
Enslaved, the Amazons were taken away from the ruins of their home to suffer at the hands of Heracles and his men, their gods having abandoned them because of the ease of which they were undone. In the darkness of her cell after Heracles left for the battle of Troy, Hippolyta wept for her people and pleaded the gods for salvation. And Athena heard her prayers, granting her salvation if she would not seek revenge for what had happened to her and her people, and Hippolyta complied. The Amazons broke free, having regained their god given strength, breaking the shackles that bound them. But many would no longer follow Olympus, Antiope included, those like her would become the Amazons of Bana-Mighdall. Those who still followed Hippolyta and Olympus were met on the shores of the sea by the Five, who expressed their disappointment in the Amazons, who would now be associated with violence due to their actions.
As penance for their failure, the seas were parted by Poseidon and the Amazons were led away to Paradise Island, to forever guard the entrance to the Underworld known as Doom's Door and to wear the shackles that once bound them as reminders. In return they would live as immortals on their new island home, as long as they remained there and continued to uphold their duty. Also it was forbidden for men to set foot upon the island or the Amazons would loose their immortality. And so they lived and guarded the Door for thousands of years, forgotten as myths by the pages of history.
After three thousand years of living in isolation, Hippolyta grew weary for reasons unknown to her as the voices of Olympus grew dim as time passed and faith in them became scarce in the outside world. Seeking council, she learned of her people's past lives and that there still remained one soul inside the Cavern, that of Hippolyta's unborn child, as she was stuck down while pregnant with it. Hippolyta was instructed to fashion a body for her unborn child and open herself to Artemis while holding an image of her desire. In the darkness of the Cavern of Souls the Five goddesses and Hermes watched as the last soul departed and blessed it with these words;
"I, Demeter grant her the power and strength like that of the Earth itself!"
"I, Aphrodite giver her great beauty and a loving heart!"
"I, Athena grant her wisdom!"
"I, Artemis shall give her the eyes of the hunter and unity with beasts!"
"I, Hestia grant her sisterhood with great fire, that may open men's hearts to her!"
"I, Hermes giver her speed and the power of flight!"
And the sculpture Hippolyta had fashioned came to life, and she became Diana. More beautiful than Aphrodite, wiser than Athena, swifter than Hermes, and stronger than Hercules.
Young Diana would grow to adulthood on Paradise Island before the veils that had sheltered the island. Menalippe, who had foretold the coming of Diana, had a portent that told of evil, and that a champion was to be chosen to face this evil. Despite having been refused to enter the competition, Diana entered and won the mantle.
The evil Menalippe foresaw, came in the shape of Colonel Steve Trevor, who was assigned to bomb Themyscira unknowingly, believing it to be a training exercise. Diana saved Trevor from his burning aircraft and was tasked to return him to Man's World, revealing her people's existence to the modern world.
Partially due to Wonder Woman, Themyscira has since endured renewed predations of the outside world and the reunification with the Bana, who also had survived to the modern age thought by different means. The harshest blow to the nation came when the New God Darkseid sought to remove the 'lesser gods' as he called the Olympians, slaughtering half of the Amazon population. Another crucial blow came when they were invaded by an army of OMAC's commanded by Brother Eye as a fail-safe if Max Lord was to die at the hands of Wonder Woman. Being prevented from killing the OMAC's, due to the innocents trapped inside and Eye's twisting of images broadcast to the world, the Amazons instead prayed to the gods and Paradise Island was taken away completely, leaving only Diana behind by her own volition. By then, Hippolyta had been slain at the hands of Imperiex and the Island was governed by Philipus and Artemis as joint rulers since then.
Later, Paradise Island and the Amazons would return with the help of Wonder Woman's longtime enemy Circe, who resurrected Hippolyta to lead her people to war against America, as Diana had been captured by the Department of Metahuman Affairs, whom Diana had otherwise been working for in her civilian alter-ego.
Granny Goodness impersonated Athena at the end of the struggle and wiped clean the memories of all Amazons participating as aggressors but Hippolyta, leaving the Queen alone with only four Amazon criminals who were not brought along for the battle, while the rest wandered the Earth without knowledge of who they were.
After the Final Crisis was concluded, the true Olympian Gods returned to Earth, finding what their followers having forgotten themselves and that Wonder Woman now fought in the name of another, returned them all to Paradise Island and returned their memories.
The Amazons' Gifts
The people of Paradise Island are by all accounts ageless, appearing as adult women in their prime, despite being over three thousand years old.
Universally they are skilled in all forms of armed and unarmed combat that was present in the Hellenistic World. Their long lives spent in training for combat having honed their skills in these styles to near supernatural levels, such as piercing the throat of a jet pilot with a bow and arrow.
As a boon from the gods, all amazons posses superhuman strength and durability, though they all vulnerable to piercing attacks. Such as Artemis once easily overpowering Batman, but was sedated with a tranquilizer.
Despite their conservative society and preferred way of living, the Amazons are a technologically advanced people having created such items as the Purple Healing Ray and its opposite the Purple Death Ray and in some incarnations been responsible for creating the Invisible Plane Wonder Woman pilots. In the latest incarnation however the plane was originally an alien device given to Diana, since then replaced with a plane from Wayne Enterprise with the same abilities.
The New 52
One of the most notable changes to Wonder Woman and her stories in the new 52 reboot has been her relation to the Amazons. She first learned from her mother that Zeus is in fact her father, whereas she believed before that she had none. Later Hephaestus explains to Diana the tale of the male Amazons. In order to replenish their numbers the Amazons habitually capture wayward seafarers and seduce them before killing them. Any daughters born are accepted into the group, but the males are traded to Hephaestus in return for weapons. These males are henceforth labourers to Hephaestus on his foundry and smiths. Once Diana discovered this she intended to free them from their slavery, but they resisted, thinking instead that it is not slavery, that the god saved them from death and this is their way to repay him.
Queen Hippolyta, ruler of Themyscira.
Antiope, Hippolyta's sister, later Queen of the Bana.
Io, blacksmith, creator of the Purple Healing Ray.
Phillipus, general and former co-ruler of Paradise Island.
Princess Diana, Wonder Woman.
Artemis of Bana-Mighdall, Bana warrior, former co-ruler of Paradise Island and former Wonder Woman.
Alkyone, Amazon heretic, attempted to murder Princess Diana as a child believing her to be an abomination.
Nubia, is Wonder Woman's "black sister" Queen Hippolyta's daughter.
Hippolyta Trevor-Hall, daughter of Diana (Wonder Woman) and Steve Trevor.
Donna Troy, the first Wonder Girl and member of the Titans of Myth, Queen Hippolyta's adopted daughter.
Cassandra Sandsmark, the second Wonder Girl, daughter of Zeus.
Fury, Helena Kosmatos, Heroine who channels the power of the Greek Furies.
The Olympian, Achilles Warkiller became the King of the Amazons, later gives Queen Hippolyta back the throne.
Steve Trevor, love interest of Wonder Woman and first man on Themyscira.
Thomas Tresser, also known by Nemesis is an historian male Amazon.
Princess Koriandi'r, Starfire, Tamaranian Princess.
Kara Zor-El, Supergirl, trained by Artemis after arriving on Earth.
Lyla, Harbinger of The Monitor, served as a historian to the Amazons.
Julia Kapatelis, one of the first women Diana met that was not an Amazon per see, later revealed to have been one of the children that had been Sent Forth.
The Amazons were featured in the animated film Justice League: the New Frontier (2008) Wonder Woman (2009). In late 2010 they were seen in Superman/Batman: Apocalypse.
The Super Friends.
1988 Superman animated series.
Justice league and later Justice League Unlimited included the Amazons on Paradise Island in a few episodes. Most notably in the episodes "Fury", "the Balance" and "Paradise Lost".
Batman the Brave and the Bold.