In Greek mythology, Hippolyta, Hippoliyte, or Hippolyte was 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. She figures prominently in the myths of both Heracles and Theseus. As such, the stories about her are varied enough that they may actually be about a few different characters.
Versions of the myth
In the myth of Heracles, Hippolyta’s girdle was the object of his ninth labor. He was sent to retrieve it for Admeta, the daughter of king Eurystheus. Most versions of the story say that Hippolyta was so impressed with Heracles that she gave him the girdle without argument, perhaps while visiting him on his ship. But then (according to Apollodorus) the goddess Hera, making herself appear as one of the Amazons, spread a rumor among them that Heracles and his crew were actually 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.
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 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, Hippolyta was killed. Or Theseus directly killed her in the fight. Or 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. But some stories paint Theseus in a more favorable light, saying that Hippolyta was dead before he and Phaedra were wed and so this battle didn’t occur. Further complicating the narratives, a number of ancient writers say the Amazon in question wasn’t 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.