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Girdle of Hippolyte

by Ron Leadbetter
The ninth labor imposed on Heracles by Eurystheus, was to bring back the precious girdle of Hippolyte, queen of the Amazons. She was the daughter of Otrera and Ares (the god of war). It was Admete, the daughter of Eurystheus, who begged her father for the possession of this symbolic girdle (it gave supremacy and power to the wearer). The Amazons were an all female race and is believed that they lived in the mysterious lands in the north, their capital Temiscyra, lay on the slopes of the Caucasus.

To execute this expedition Heracles had to organize a group of volunteers, among them were Telamon and Theseus. They armed a ship, expecting the Amazons to be hostile against them, then set sail on their long voyage. But when they reached Temiscyra on the mouth of the river Thermodon, they were unexpectedly welcomed by the Amazon women, especially by Hippolyte, who was charmed by the looks of the heroic band. Heracles explained to Hippolyte the reason for their expedition to her far off land, to which Hippolyte replied, you are welcome to take the girdle as a gift. Hera, on hearing this, took the form of an Amazon, then spread a rumor that Heracles had come to steal away their queen, and take her back with him to Greece. The female warriors, in protection of their queen, began fighting the heroes, and in the fierce battle that ensued, Hippolyte was killed by the hands of Heracles, thinking she had betrayed him.

After the battle had been won, Heracles took the girdle and they all made their way home. On their return voyage Heracles saved the life of Hesione, daughter of Laomedon, king of Troy. To save her Heracles killed a sea-monster, to which Hesione was to be sacrificed. This was after a dispute Laomedon had with Apollo and Poseidon. The gods had built the walls surrounding Troy, but Laomedon refused the payment he had promised. Apollo sent a plague and Poseidon a sea-monster. The only way to rid these curses was for Laomedon to sacrifice his daughter. Heracles was also promised payment, a team of horses, but after Heracles rescued Hesione, the king once again refused payment. Heracles gave Hesione to Telamon, his companion in arms who married her, then took her to Salamis in Greece.

Heracles in retribution killed Laomedon and his sons, but spared, at the request of Hesione, Podarces the youngest son, who later became known as Priam which means "bought or ransomed" because Heracles exchanged him for a beautiful veil, which Hesione had embroidered with gold.


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