About Maximapedia

Hippolytus, Myth

HIPPOLYTUS, MYTH, in Greek legend, son of Theseus and Hippolyte, queen of the Amazons (or of her sister Antiope), a famous hunter and charioteer and favourite of Artemis. His stepmother Phaedra became enamoured of him, but, finding her advances rejected, she hanged herself, leaving a letter in which she accused Hippolytus of an attempt upon her virtue. Theseus thereupon drove his son from his presence with curses and called upon his father Poseidon to destroy him. While Hippolytus was driving along the shore at Troezen (the scene of the Hippolytus of Euripides), a sea-monster (a bull or phoca) sent by Poseidon emerged from the waves; the horses were scared, Hippolytus was thrown out of the chariot, and was dragged along, entangled in the reins, until he died. According to a tradition of Epidaurus, Asclepius restored him to life at the request of Artemis, who removed him to Italy (see VIRBIUS). At Troezen, where he had a special sanctuary and priest, and was worshipped with divine honours, the story of his death was denied. He was said to have been rescued by the gods at the critical moment, and to have been placed amongst the stars as the Charioteer (Auriga) . It was also the custom of the Troezenian maidens to cut off a lock of their hair and to dedicate it to Hippolytus before marriage (see Frazer on Pausanias ii. 32. i). Well-known classical parallels to the main theme are Bellerophon and Antea (or Stheneboea) and Peleus and Astydamia. The story was the subject of two plays by Euripides (the later of which is extant), of a tragedy by Seneca and of Racine's PhUre. A trace of it has survived in the legendary death of the apocryphal martyr Hippolytus, a Roman officer who was torn to pieces by wild horses as a convert to Christianity (see J. J. Dollinger, Hippolytus and Callistus, Eng. tr. by A. Plummer, 1876, pp. 28-39, 51-60).

According to the older explanations, Hippolytus represented the Sun, which sets in the sea (cf. the scene of his death and the story of Phaethon), and Phaedra the Moon, which travels behind the Sun, but is unable to overtake it. It is more probable, however, that he was a local hero famous for his chastity, perhaps originally a priest of Artemis, worshipped as a god at Troezen, where he was closely connected and sometimes confounded with Asclepius. It is noteworthy that, in a speech put into the mouth of Theseus by Euripides, the father, who of course believes his wife's story and regards Hippolytus as a hypocrite, throws his son's pretended misogyny and asceticism (Orphism) in his teeth. This seems to point to a struggle between a new ritual and that of Poseidon, the chief deity of Troezen, in which the representative of the intruding religion meets his death through the agency of the offended god, as Orpheus (q.v.) was torn to pieces by the votaries of the jealous Dionysus. According to S. Reinach (Archiv fur Religionswissenschaft, x., 1907, p. 47), the Troezenian Hippolytus was a horse, the hypostasis of an equestrian divinity periodically torn to pieces by the faithful, who called themselves, and believed themselves to be, horses. Death was followed by resuscitation, as in the similar myths of Adonis (the sacred boar), Orpheus (the fox), Pentheus (the fawn), Phaethon (the white sun-horse).

See Wilamowitz-Mpllendorff 's Introduction to his German translation of Euripides' Hippolytus (1891); A. Kalkmann, De Hippolytis Euripideis (Bonn. 1882) ; and (for representations in art) " l)ber Darstellu'ng der Hippolytussage " in Archaologische Zeitung (xli. 1883); J. E. Harrison, Mythology and Monuments of Ancient Athens (1890), cl.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

Privacy Policy | Cookie Policy | GDPR