Tuesday, 04 November 2008

The Labors of Hercules: Ninth labor, the Belt (Girdle) of Hippolyte an Amazon Queen


Hippolyta was a warrior woman and one of the queens of the Amazons. Ares the god of war gave her a belt of armour. Some sources refer to a belt of leather and others to a golden girdle. Nevertheless, she wore this belt around her upper body and used it to secure her sword and spear.
I could not find much on what made the belt special, but it was important enough for Eurystheus to send Hercules off to find the belt and bring it back to him as a present for his daughter.
This was Hercules’ ninth labour.
Hercules did not undertake this task on his own, and a number of his Greek friends accompanied him, to help out if needed. The Amazon woman were well known for their bravery and fighting skills.
When Hercules arrived in the land of the Amazons their ship was peacefully welcomed by Hippolyta herself, who would have no problems in handing over the belt to Hercules as a gift of love.
This was not what Hera wanted. She then disguised herself as an Amazon woman and spread a rumour that Hercules and his men were there to kidnap queen Hippolyta. To protect their queen the Amazons donned their armour and went to her aid. When Hercules and his men saw the armed Amazons quickly approaching on horseback ready for war, he responded, and a fierce battle took place.
Other sources state that Hercules killed Hippolyta before a battle could take place, and took her belt and weapons from her body.
In any event, Hercules took the belt from her, and returned it to Eurystheus as a gift for his daughter Admete

List of the 12 labors and links to other Heracles posts on this blog here

EDIT on 5 November 2008
After doing the above post I felt that I had not really done justce to the occasion, but published anyway. My argument is to create an awareness and stimulate further reading and finding out.
I received this article from Arras and am posting it as well. Excellently written and really does justice to the occasion. Thank you Arras

Arras said...
The girdle was a symbol of office, like the ceremonial necklaces that mayors still wear today for their inaugurations and parades--a bit of regalia. The point of sending Herakles after it was, as with all the labours, to get him killed. Eurystheus was Hera's agent, and each labour was chosen not so much to test Herakles but to finish him off. The bait to lure him to his death was the promise of immortality if he could succeed at all of them--he may have been a demigod, but he was still fully mortal at the time.

The presumption in this case was that sending him into the Amazon capital to steal their regalia would be an impossible task. So far from home, surrounded by thousands of angry Amazons, he'd surely be slaughtered.

Hera's miscalculation in this case was that she expected Herakles to stupidly barge in and try to steal the girdle, which would have certainly been his undoing. Instead he and his companions were diplomatic and respectful of the Amazons and their customs, and were treated like guests--famed heroes from Athens (Theseus, the slayer of the Minotaur and future King of Athens was with him)--and this set a very different kind of tone.

Herakles and Hippolyte had great respect for one another, from one champion to another, and they hit it off. He explained to her the nature of his labour and what it required, and she willingly gave him the girdle as a token of her respect.

Hera, furious at this clever circumvention of her murderous plot, appeared among the Amazons as one of their number and incited them by claiming that Herakles and his men were about to kidnap the Queen. The Amazons rose up and attacked Herakles and his companions, accidentally killing Hippolyte when she got in the middle.

Badly outnumbered, the men fled to their ship, but they did not leave empty-handed. Herakles had the girdle he came for, and Theseus brought with him Hippolyte's sister Antiope, who had technically become Queen when Hippolyte died. Some versions of the story paint this as a love story, with Antiope having fallen for Theseus and agreeing to return to Athens with him, while others are clear about it as a trophy kidnapping. In any case, it was the event that would spark the Attic War, when the Amazons massed to attack Athens itself to rescue their Queen

5 comments:

Arras said...

The girdle was a symbol of office, like the ceremonial necklaces that mayors still wear today for their inaugurations and parades--a bit of regalia. The point of sending Herakles after it was, as with all the labours, to get him killed. Eurystheus was Hera's agent, and each labour was chosen not so much to test Herakles but to finish him off. The bait to lure him to his death was the promise of immortality if he could succeed at all of them--he may have been a demigod, but he was still fully mortal at the time.

The presumption in this case was that sending him into the Amazon capital to steal their regalia would be an impossible task. So far from home, surrounded by thousands of angry Amazons, he'd surely be slaughtered.

Hera's miscalculation in this case was that she expected Herakles to stupidly barge in and try to steal the girdle, which would have certainly been his undoing. Instead he and his companions were diplomatic and respectful of the Amazons and their customs, and were treated like guests--famed heroes from Athens (Theseus, the slayer of the Minotaur and future King of Athens was with him)--and this set a very different kind of tone.

Herakles and Hippolyte had great respect for one another, from one champion to another, and they hit it off. He explained to her the nature of his labour and what it required, and she willingly gave him the girdle as a token of her respect.

Hera, furious at this clever circumvention of her murderous plot, appeared among the Amazons as one of their number and incited them by claiming that Herakles and his men were about to kidnap the Queen. The Amazons rose up and attacked Herakles and his companions, accidentally killing Hippolyte when she got in the middle.

Badly outnumbered, the men fled to their ship, but they did not leave empty-handed. Herakles had the girdle he came for, and Theseus brought with him Hippolyte's sister Antiope, who had technically become Queen when Hippolyte died. Some versions of the story paint this as a love story, with Antiope having fallen for Theseus and agreeing to return to Athens with him, while others are clear about it as a trophy kidnapping. In any case, it was the event that would spark the Attic War, when the Amazons massed to attack Athens itself to rescue their Queen.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Arras
Much appreciated
Have Included in original post
Can I have yout URL for a link please
Thamks again
Graham

Arras said...

I'm glad to have made a contribution, Graham. Amazons happen to be my research passion, so when I tripped across your blog entry I felt compelled to fill in some of the blanks--not to contradict your words but to supplement them. As I'm not a blogger myself I haven't got a URL to give you, alas. Kudos on the fine work you're doing here!

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