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7-10-2015, 23:19

Hippolyte and Theseus

In some accounts, the Athenian hero Theseus accompanied Heracles on his journey to the Amazon capital. In return, Heracles gave him Hippolyte as a gift. In other accounts, Theseus kidnapped Hippolyte and took her back to Athens. The abduction led the Amazons to march to the Greek city to reclaim their queen—they were defeated in the battle known as the Amazonomachy. Still other accounts say that the Amazons approached Athens only after Hippolyte gave birth to Theseus’s son Hippolytus.

There are several different tales of how Hippolyte died. Greek poet Simonides (c. 556—c. 468 BCE) suggested that Hippolyte was fiercely jealous of Theseus’s subsequent marriage to another woman, Phaedra. Hippolyte led a charge into Theseus’s palace on his wedding day and was killed in the fray. Apollodorus also questions whether Theseus himself or his men killed her intentionally, or if

Above: This 1470 illustration from Giovanni Boccaccio’s poem Teseida (c.1341) depicts the battle between the Greeks under Theseus and the Amazons under Hippolyte.

Penthesilea, a future Amazon queen, killed Hippolyte accidentally. One reason for the number of stories surrounding her death could be the confusion between Hippolyte and Antiope, another Amazon queen who may or may not have been Hippolyte’s sister. Some writers suggest that it was Antiope whom Theseus took back to Athens; others, such as Greek dramatist Euripides (c. 486-c. 406 BCE), maintain that it was Hippolyte. The confusion demonstrates how, over time, storytellers could lose track of names in their desire to tell a good tale.