Hippolyta is a character from Greek mythology, queen of the Amazons, daughter of Ares and Queen Otrera and sister of Pentesileia, Melanipe and Antipope. She is known for possessing a magic belt, the obtaining of which was the ninth of the Twelve Labors of Hercules.
She is one of the most famous Amazon queens, having appeared in works of art, literature, and film, a bold woman.
Little is known about Hippolyta before her confrontation with Hercules. It is known that she received from her father, the god of war Ares, a magic belt as a symbol of her power and authority over the Amazons.
Hercules' ninth task was to obtain the belt from Hippolyta and deliver it to Admeta, daughter of King Eurystheus and priestess of Hera. To do this, he sailed, accompanied by Theseus and his troops, to Point Euxinus, in the city of Temiscira, at the mouth of the river Thermodon, where the palace of the Amazons was located.
There are several versions about how Hercules accomplished his task. Some say that Hippolyta was impressed by the hero upon meeting him and gave him the belt willingly. Others say that Hercules (the Roman name for Heracles) kidnapped Melanippus, one of Hippolyta's sisters, and demanded the belt as a ransom price.
According to Diodorus Siculus, Hercules demanded that they give him the belt, but since the Amazons ignored him, he started a war against them. In the fight, Heracles killed Aella, Phillipis, Prothôe, Celeno, Eurybia and Phoebe, the last three hunting companions of Artemis, Dejanira, Asteria, Marpê and Tecmessa Alcipe.
Finally the commander of the Amazons, Melanipe, was defeated. Of the captives, Antipope was given as a gift to Theseus, and Melanipe was freed, in exchange for the belt as the price of his ransom.
Confrontation with the Greeks
According to Pseudo-Apolodorus, Hera disguised herself as an Amazon and spread a rumor among the warriors that Heracles had gone to them to imprison his queen. They then attacked Hercules' troops. He then defeated them, obtained the belt and left. According to Hyginus, Hippolyta was killed in this battle.
Many versions say that the Amazons decided to take revenge on the Greeks for what Heracles had done, and in particular the Athenians, because Theseus had taken Antipope, the leader of the Amazons or, according to other versions, Hippolyta, captive.
The Scythians joined the Amazons, crossed the Cimmerian Bosphorus, Thrace and reached Attica. According to Pausanias, the leader of the expedition was Hippolyta.
Theseus arrived for the fight, bringing Antipope, with whom he had had a son, Hippolytus. She sided with her husband Theseus, and died fighting heroically. Theseus fought the Amazons and defeated them.
According to some authors, the fight took place during the wedding feast between Theseus and Antipope, the latter being the first known amazon to marry. Everyone agrees that the Amazons were defeated, however, according to some, Antipope survived and remained married to Theseus until she was abandoned by him or died during childbirth.
About Hippolyta, some authors say that Theseus killed her in battle, others, that the queen was accidentally killed by her sister Pentesileia or by another Amazon.
However, both versions disagree with Pseudo-Apolodo, who says that Hippolyta survived and continued to be queen of the Amazons, until she was killed (also accidentally) by her sister Pentesileia, who succeeded her to the Amazon throne.
Hippolyta in popular culture
Hippolyta has appeared in many works of art, in literature, theater and film. The Amazons' fight against Heracles and the Attic War were subjects of many paintings in Greek art, and she is even depicted in the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus.
Hippolyta appears in two works by William Shakespare, A Midsummer Night's Dream, in which she is promised in marriage to Theseus, and The Two Noble Kinsmen.
The opera Ercole su'l Termodon by Antonio Vivaldi depicts the meeting of the heroes Hercules and Theseus with the Amazons, although it is very different from the original myth, for in this story Hippolyta is not queen but her sister Antipope; Hercules does not go to the Amazons in search of a belt but of Antipope's weapons, and in the end, Theseus marries Hippolyta.
In the DC Comics and the 1976 Wonder Woman television series, Hippolyta is queen of Paradise Island, inhabited by the Amazons, and mother of Diana Prince, who later becomes Wonder Woman.
In the 1994 television movie Hercules and the Amazons, Hercules (played by Kevin Sorbo) and his best friend Iolaus go on a mission to help a village whose inhabitants say they are being attacked by monsters.
When they enter the forest, they discover that the "bestial creatures" are in fact women warriors who live near the village and do not accept the presence of men. They are commanded by Queen Hippolyta, who obeys the orders of Hera, Hercules' enemy. In this film, Hercules and Hippolyta fall in love, but do not stay together.