Hippolyta’s Girdle

Eurystheus now dispatched Heracles northeast towards the furthest reaches of the known world: the Black Sea coast, home to the female warriors, the Amazons. His mission was to steal the battle-belt (or girdle) of their queen Hippolyta. It meant a long sea voyage, and Heracles assembled an heroic crew, whose number included the Athenian Theseus and Peleus, the father of Achilles.

The journey was fraught with danger, but at last they reached the River Thermodon, on whose banks the Amazons lived. According to some accounts, Hippolyta graced Heracles with an audience and was so taken with his muscly manhood that she willingly removed her battle-belt and gave it to him.

Hippolyta’s Girdle Photo Gallery

Others describe a tragic sequel. Believing that Hippolyta had been abducted, the Amazons donned their armour, mounted their horses and attacked Heracles and his ship. The Greeks fought back, and in the melee Hippolyta and many Amazons were killed. In a different version the Amazons gave the battle-belt to Heracles as ransom when he captured their princess, Melanippe. In yet another, it was Theseus who captured Hippolyta, gave the battle-belt to Heracles, and in return for the queen’s freedom took as his slave the Amazon princess Antiope (with whom he had fallen in love). So rich in amorous potential, it is no wonder that the episode excited the imagination of many a Classical mythographer.

Back in Tiryns, Heracles presented the battle-belt to Eurystheus who gave it to his daughter Admete – although one late version has her accompanying Heracles to the Black Sea. She was certainly feisty. A priestess at Hera’s sanctuary at Argos, she later ran away to Samos with the goddess’ statue. When a ship was sent to fetch it back, Hera made the statue so heavy that the vessel could not sail. Both it and Admete remained on the island.

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