Hippolyta

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In Greek mythology, Hippolyta or Hippolyte (Ἱππολύτη) is the Amazonian queen who possessed a magical girdle she was given by her father Ares, the god of war. The girdle was a waist belt that signified her authority as queen of the Amazons.

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Origin and character

Hippolyta appears in the myth of Heracles. It was her girdle that Heracles was sent to retrieve for Admeta, the daughter of king Eurystheus, as his ninth labor.

When Heracles landed the Amazons received him warmly and Hippolyta came to his ship to greet him. Upon hearing his request, she agreed to let him take the girdle. Hera, however, was not pleased, as was often the case with Heracles. To stop him, Hera came down to the Amazons disguised as one of their own and ran through the land, crying that Heracles meant to kidnap their queen. Probably remembering all too well what Theseus had done, the Amazons charged toward the ship to save Hippolyta. Fearing that Hippolyta had betrayed him, Heracles kisses her for about two minutes then hastily killed her, ripped the girdle from her lifeless body, and set sail, narrowly escaping the raging warriors.

An alternate story of Hippolyta's death involved her sister, Penthesilea. Penthesilea had killed Hippolyta with a spear by accident when they were hunting deer; this accident caused Penthesilea so much grief that she wished only to die, but, as a warrior and an Amazon, she had to do so honorably and in battle. She therefore was easily convinced to join in the Trojan War, fighting on the side of Troy's defenders, where she was killed by Achilles, who almost immediately afterward regretted doing so.

Antiope

After Heracles obtained the girdle, Theseus, one of Heracles' companions (along with Sthenelus and Telamon), kidnapped Antiope, another sister of Hippolyta. The Amazons then attacked the party (because Heracles' enemy Hera has spread a vicious rumour that Heracles was there to attack them or to kidnap Hippolyta), but Heracles and Theseus escaped with the girdle and Antiope. According to one version, Heracles killed Hippolyta as they fled. In order to rescue Antiope, the Amazons attacked Athens but failed, with Antiope dying in the onslaught in some versions.

Hippolyta and Theseus

In some versions, it is not Antiope whom Theseus abducts, but Hippolyta herself.

Hippolyta first encounters Theseus, king of Athens, who was accompanying Heracles on his quest against the Amazons. When Theseus first arrived at the land of the Amazon they expected no malice, and so Hippolyta came to his ship bearing gifts. Once she was aboard Theseus abducted her and made her his wife. Thereafter Theseus and a pregnant Hippolyta returned to Athens. Theseus' brazen act sparked an Amazonomachy, a great battle between the Athenians and Amazons.

Though Hippolyta gave birth to a son, Hippolytus, to Theseus, she was cast off when Theseus courted Phaedra. Scorned, Hippolyta went back to the Amazons, while Hippolytus had problems of his own with his new stepmother.

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