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12 Labors of Heracles: Hippolyte

Hippolyte was an Amazonian queen whose father (Ares) was the god of war. Her father had given her a waist belt that signified her position as queen of the Amazons. Obtaining the magical girdle became one of the 12 Labors that Heracles had to complete. In this article, you will learn more about the hero’s ninth labor.

In the ancient Greek myth of Heracles, Hippolyte appears because it is her girdle that King Eurystheus wishes the hero to obtain for his daughter Admeta. The task did not start out as difficult as the king and others would expect. When Heracles reached the Amazons, he received a warm welcome. Hippolyta came to his ship to greet him personally. When she heard what he had to accomplish, she agreed to let him take the girdle. The queen of gods, Hera, was not happy with this outcome. She decided to make the task much harder to complete.

Hera disguised herself as an Amazon and ran about the land, crying out false claims about Heracles. She told the Amazon people that the hero had come to kidnap the queen. Upon hearing the lie, the Amazons made their way to the ship to save their queen. Heracles thought that Hippolyta had betrayed him. He briefly kissed the queen and then killed her. He ripped the girdle from her dead body, and set sail to avoid the ire of the warriors.

Other accounts of the murdered queen involve her sister, Penthesilea. Some said that it was Hippolyta’s sister that was responsible for her death. She accidentally killed her with a spear while they were hunting deer. Saddened by the death of her sister, Penthesilea wanted to die, but as a warrior , the only way to honorably perish was in battle. She joined the Trojan War and found on the side of Troy. She was ultimately killed by Achilles.

The Kidnapping of Antiope

The story of Heracles and the girdle continues on with Theseus , one of Heracles’ companions. After obtaining the girdle, Antiope (sister to Hippolyta) was kidnapped. The Amazons immediately attacked because they were still affected by the lie regarding Heracles’ intentions.  In the end, Heracles and Theseus were able to escape with the girdle and Antiope. The Amazons did not stop with the kidnapping of Antiope. Some versions say that they attacked Athens, but were unsuccessful in their attempts to retrieve Antiope, who is often said to have died in the meantime.  

Hippolyta and Theseus

Other versions do not mention Heracles killed the queen, but instead, say that Theseus kidnapped Hippolyta instead of her sister. It is said that Hippolyta first comes in contact with Theseus (king of Athens) when he is accompanying Heracles on his quest for the girdle. Once Hippolyta comes aboard the ship bearing gifts, Theseus kidnaps her and makes her his wife. When Theseus returns to Athens, he brings along a pregnant Hippolyta. This bold act cause the Athenians and Amazons to battle one another.

Hippolyta gives birth to a son named Hippolytus, but is sent back to the Amazons when Theseus turns his attention towards Phaedra. Hippolytus stays with his father and is left with issues between he and his new stepmother. Another account states that Hippolyta is killed when she returns to the wedding of Theseus and Phaedra , after condemning anyone participating in the festivities.