In Classical Greek mythology, Hippolyta, or Hippolyte (Ancient Greek: Ἱππολύτη) was a daughter of Ares and Otrera, queen of the Amazons, and a sister of Antiope and Melanippe. She wore, as an emblem of her dignity, a girdle given to her by her father Ares.
Hippolyta figures prominently in the myths of both Heracles and Theseus. The myths about her are varied enough that they may therefore be about several different women.
The name Hippolyta comes from Greek roots meaning "horse" and "let loose".
Ninth Labor of Heracles
In the myth of Heracles, Hippolyta's girdle (ζωστὴρ Ἱππολύτης) was the object of his ninth labour. He was sent to retrieve it for Admete, the daughter of King Eurystheus.
Most versions of the myth indicate that Hippolyta was so impressed with Heracles that she gave him the girdle without argument, perhaps while visiting him on his ship.
Then, according to Pseudo-Apollodorus, the goddess Hera, making herself appear as one of the Amazons, spread a rumour among them that Heracles and his crew were abducting their queen, so the Amazons attacked the ship. In the fray that followed, Heracles slew Hippolyta, stripped her of the belt, fought off the attackers, and sailed away.
Adventure of Theseus
In the myth of Theseus, the hero joined Heracles in his expedition, or went on a separate expedition later, and was actually the one who had the encounter with Hippolyta.
Some versions say he abducted her, some that Heracles did the abducting but gave her to Theseus as spoils, and others say that she fell in love with Theseus and betrayed the Amazons by willingly leaving with him. In any case, she was taken to Athens where she was wed to Theseus, being the only Amazon to ever marry.
In some renditions the other Amazons became enraged at the marriage and attacked Athens. This was the Attic War, in which they were defeated by Athenian forces under Theseus or Heracles. In other renditions Theseus later put Hippolyta aside to marry Phaedra.
So Hippolyta rallied her Amazons to attack the wedding ceremony. When the defenders closed the doors on the attackers, either Hippolyta was killed, Theseus directly killed her in the fight, she was accidentally killed by another Amazon, Molpadia, while fighting by Theseus' side, or was accidentally killed by her sister Penthesilea during this battle or in a separate incident.
This killer was in turn slain by Theseus or Achilles. Some stories paint Theseus in a more favorable light, saying that Hippolyta was dead before he and Phaedra were wed, and this battle did not occur. Further complicating the narratives, a number of ancient writers say the Amazon in question was not Hippolyta at all, but her sister Antiope, Melanippe, or Glauce.
Moreover, there are combined versions of the tale in which Heracles abducts and kills Hippolyta while Theseus, assisted by Sthenelus and Telamon, abducts and marries Antiope. There are also stories that Hippolyta or Antiope later bore Theseus a son, Hippolytus.
Homer, Iliad 2. 649 ff (trans. Murray) (Greek epic C8th BC):
Euripides, Heracles Mad, 408 ff (trans. Coleridge) (Greek tragedy C5th BC)
Euripides, Ion, 1143 ff (trans. Way) (Greek tragedy C5th BC)
Euripides, Heracleidae, 214 ff (trans. Coleridge) (Greek tragedy C5th BC)
Herodotus, Herodotus 4. 9-10 (trans. Godley) (Greek historian C5th BC)
Herodotus, Herodotus 4. 82
Apollonius Rhodius, The Argonautica 2. 750 ff (trans. Coleridge) (Greek epic C3rd BC)
Apollonius Rhodius, The Argonautica 2. 777 ff
Apollonius Rhodius, The Argonautica 2. 966 ff
Lycophron, Alexandria 1327 ff, (trans. Mair) (Greek epic C3rd BC)
Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 2. 46. 3-4 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st BC)
Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4. 16. 1-4 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st BC)
Seneca, Agamemnon 848 ff (trans. Miller) (Roman tragedy C1st AD)
Seneca, Hercules Furens 245 ff (trans. Miller) (Roman tragedy C1st AD)
Seneca, Hercules Furens 542 ff
Seneca, Hercules Oetaeus 21 ff (trans. Miller) (Roman tragedy C1st AD)
Seneca, Hercules Oetaeus 1183 ff
Seneca, Hercules Oetaeus 1450 ff
Seneca, Hercules Oetaeus 1894 ff
Plutarch, Theseus 26 ff (trans. Perrin) (Greek historian C1st to C2nd AD)
Pseudo-Apollodorus, The Library 2. 5. 9 (trans. Frazer) (Greek mythographer C2nd AD)
Pausanias, Description of Greece 5. 10. 9 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd AD)
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 30 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd AD)
Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 6. 240 ff (trans. Way) (Greek epic C4th AD)
Nonnus, Dionysiaca 25. 148 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th AD)
Tzetzes, Chiliades or Book of Histories 2. 309 ff (trans.Untila et. al.) (Byzantinian historian C12 AD)
Tzetzes, Chiliades or Book of Histories 2. 497 ff
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