A fictional warrior queen who ruled over black Amazons in the mythical Island of California. She is the main character of the 1500 novel The Adventures of Esplandian by Garci Rodriguez de Montalvo.
In the novel Califia and her Amazons travel on griffins to help the Moslems fight Christians. The griffins prove to be unpredictable steeds for they attack both enemies and allies, so Califia and her troops continue fighting as foot soldiers. When she is captured she converts to Christianity and marries into Esplandian's family. She and her army return to California.In the year 1532, Hernan Cortes sent an expedition west through Mexico to find a mysterious island which, it was believed, had brought immense wealth to the emperor Montezuma. When one of his men gazed across the waters at what appeared to be an offshore island, he believed that he had found the fabled island of wealth. Nor did he doubt that this was also the land described by Montalvo in his epic novel. That "island" was actually Baja California, and it stretched to the north, but the conquistadors named it California anyway. There's no knowledge as to whether they found gold but 316 years later, gold would be found by a certain James W. Marshall, launching the Gold Rush of 1849.
"On the right side of the Indies there was an island called California, which was very close to the region of the earthly paradise. There were no males among them at all, for their way of life was similar to that of the Amazons..."
Queen Califia is described as "the beautiful black damsel who was very magnificently attired", beauteous of face, powerful of arm, noble of heart, full in the bloom of womanhood, the most beautiful in a long line of queens who ruled over the realm of California. It was said "she conceived a desire to see the world". She wants to prove her might by demonstrating her fighting ability to the rest of the world with her women warriors.
"These women had energetic bodies and courageous, ardent hearts, and they were very strong. On this island called California, there were many griffins, because these beasts were suited to the ruggedness of the terrain..."
Despite living on the "island" of California, Queen Califia commands a fleet of ships plus an aerial defense force of griffins, animals native to California, trained to kill any man they found.
"On occasion, they kept the peace with their male opponents, and the females and the males mixed with each other in complete safety..."
Califia meets a Moslem warrior named Radiaro who convinces her to join him in retaking Constantinople from the Christians. Though Califia is netiher Christian nor Moslem she gathers her ships, weapons, armor and 500 griffins to sail to Turkey to fight. Their armor and weapons are made of gold because their are no other metals in California. Landing at Constantinople, Califia meets with other Moslem leaders, who have retreated form battle, and tells them to observe her superior combat style. "I and my forces shall take the vanguard in this battle."
The next day Califia and her forces mount their griffins-wearing gold armor plated with precious stones-and the hungry griffins attack the Christian soldiers, killing and eating them. Califia then passes word to her Moslem allies that they are free to advance and take the city. However the griffins, not knowing Christian from Moslem, only man from woman, attack, kill and eat the Moslem soldiers as well. "How can my arrival have favored my enemies as well as my friends?" Califia asks herself with remorse. She calls off her griffins and their trainers and the griffins return to their ships to roost.
"The Queen was a double prisoner of both her body and her heart." Feeling guilty for this error, Califia decided that her and her amazons would continue fighting alongside her Moslem allies on foot. Using a group of her best women warriors, including her sister Liota, she attacks a city gate guarded by Norandel, the half brother of Christian King Amadis. The battle leaves 200 of Califia's women dead.
"I will not enter the lists against such a man without first seeing him and speaking with him." More Christian soldiers arrive, including an army led by King Amadis himself. With him is his son, Esplandian. Califia and Radiaro issue a challange: let two Christian warriors engage them in combat to decipher who should win the battle. King Amadis and Esplandian accept the challenge. The Queen, not seeing Esplandian in person doesn't know how he looks but when she decides to meet him before the fight, she is "shocked to see how handsome he was." She immediately falls in love with him. Good thing she spent the whole night trying to decide whether she would undertake the visit wearing her armor or not. In the end, she decided on feminine apparel. She was seated among the Christian kings wearing a thick golden toga embroidered with jewels. She sends word that if her and Esplandian both survive the battle, she wishes to speak further with him regarding their future together. But the prince considers Califia to be an abomination; she does not honor the rightfully subservient position of woman in relation to man and refuses to respond. Besides he's already engaged to the beautiful Leonorina.
The next day Califia battles King Amadis and Radiaro fights Esplandian. "She took up her sword with both hands and went to attack him full of rage." Califia and Amadis trade blows until Amadis disarms her and knocks her helmet off. Both Califia and Radiaro surrender and Califia not only acknowledges Radiaro's marriage to Leonorina but comes to the conclusion that Christianity is the one true religion.
" On account of you, the island will change the style of living it has observed for a very long time." Califia ends up marrying a knight named Talanque while Liota marries Maneli. The women return to California with their husbands to establish a new society of both sexes observing the Christian faith.