In Greek mythology, tales of heroic figures and skilled fighters are nothing new. Many people are familiar with Ares, the Greek god of War, and famous warriors like Heracles and Achilles. But despite the prevalence of male figures, female fighters were common in Ancient Greece, too.
One of the most famous female warriors was Hippolyta, also known as Hippolyte. She belonged to a group of skilled women warriors called the Amazons. Hippolyta eventually rose the ranks to become their leader. The queen of the Amazons was a ferocious soldier who presented challenges for many figures in Greek mythology.
The Origins of Hippolyta – the Queen of the Amazons
Hippolyta’s proficiency on the battlefield was not a coincidence. It was in her blood! Her father was Ares, the Olympian god of War. Meanwhile, her mother was Otrera, the Queen of the Amazons. Because of her father, Hippolyta had demigod status. But like other demigods, that didn’t qualify her to sit on Mount Olympus with other deities of the Greek Pantheon.
However, that made no difference. Hippolyta belonged to the Amazons and fought alongside them.
The Amazons were a group of female warriors with strength and physical agility that matched the best male soldiers. Their skills were nothing short of impressive, excelling in everything from archery to sword-wielding. The Amazons appeared pretty frequently in Greek mythology, showing up in works by Homer, Rhodius, and more.
Her mother, Otrera, is considered the mother of all the Amazons. However, Hippolyta later took the helm and led the female warriors as their queen. She’s also had two siblings, including sister Antiope and sister Melanippe.
Queen Hippolyta wore her father’s war girdle, which holds importance later. The girdle reportedly held magical powers, making it a source of jealousy for many in Ancient Greeks. This female warrior’s role in Greek mythology typically revolves around other figures. Her most prominent appearances occur in stories of Heracles and Theseus.
Hippolyta and Heracles
There are a few different versions of the myth of Heracles (Hercules) and how he interacts with Hippolyta. Generally, most scholars agree that Hippolyta plays a part in the “Twelve Labours of Heracles.”More specifically, she holds the objective of the hero’s “Ninth Labour.”
King Eurystheus tasks Heracles to retrieve the girdle of Ares, which he wants to present to his daughter, Admente. Heracles and his band travel to Themyscira to demand it from Hippolyta. Here’s where the narrative differs between retellers.
Some accounts say that the warrior Hippolyta was so impressed with Heracles that she simply gave up her father’s war belt! However, another version retold by Pseudo-Apollodorus is a bit more interesting.
In that iteration, Hera disguises herself as one of the Amazons to spread a rumor that Heracles was there to kill Hippolyta. Hera was the goddess wife of Zeus, the King of Mount Olympus. She had it out for Heracles, so her acts were an attempt to get him killed.
The Amazons advanced on Heracles and his ships with weapons drawn to save their queen. The ensuing battle was gruesome, and Heracles saw his opportunity. He killed Hippolyta and stole her magic girdle, completing his “Ninth Labour.”
Yet another version of the myth exists. Another retelling states that rather than killing Hippolyta, Heracles abducts her. He flees Themyscira, taking the queen of the Amazons to Theseus to be his wife. This is where the legend of Hippolyta and Theseus giving birth to Hippolytus comes from.
However, most scholars agree that this tale belongs to Hippolyta’s sister, Antiope, instead.
Hippolyta and Theseus
The stories of Theseus and Heracles overlap a bit. It’s not clear whether Theseus was with Heracles in Themyscira or encountered Hippolyta later.
Some accounts say Theseus kidnapped Hippolyta, while others say that the queen of the Amazons left willingly after falling in love with him! Whatever the case may be, this version of events leads to the Attic war.
The Amazons reportedly attacked Athens and eventually succumbed to the Athenian forces. Hippolyta died during the battle, but the specifics surrounding this version of her death are up for debate. Again, it all comes down to her actual relationship with Theseus, the King of Athens.
She either died fighting alongside Theseus or during a scuffle against him. In the former, retellings say she was slain by an Amazon named Penthesileia or Molpaida. In the latter scenario, it was Theseus himself to killed Hippolyta.
Either way, the death of Hippolyta caused the Amazon warriors to retreat.
Hippolyta is credited with being a massive figure in women’s liberation. Ancient Greece was not as male-focused as many modern societies. Strong women like Hippolyta were the perfect example that they were not living in a man’s world. These women were powerful and strong enough to take down any man.
The Amazon queen’s most notable contribution to modern fiction is DC Comic’s Wonder Woman series. In Wonder Woman, Hippolyta is the queen of the Amazons of Themyscira. She’s the mother of Princess Diana, who ends up becoming Wonder Woman. In the comics, she typically stays on Paradise Island. However, she plays an important part in the story.
Hippolyta even appears in the Wonder Woman and Justice League films, which are part of the DC Extended Universe. In recent films, she’s portrayed by Connie Neilsen.
The comic book depictions of Hippolyta and her daughter Diana pull from Greek mythology. While the story isn’t exact, it brings her mythos to a wide modern audience.
Hippolyta Facts & Trivia:
Hippolyta is the daughter of Ares and Otrera. She has two sisters, Antiope and Melanippe.
She was technically a demigod.
Hippolyta became queen of the Amazons, a group of skilled warrior women.
She wore her father’s war belt.
Hippolyta appears in myths about Heracles and Theseus.
She’s also a figure in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by Shakespeare.
In some versions of her story, Hippolyta marries Theseus and gives birth to their son, Hippolytus.
There are several versions of her death.
Hippolyta serves as inspiration for many fictional characters, including a depiction in works by DC Comics.
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