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Heracles’ ninth Labour: the Belt of Hippolyta

Drawn for revision of the OCR GCSE Classical Civilisation topic.

An illustration based on the metope at Olympia of the ninth Labour of Heracles - he stands over the Amazon Queen Hippolyte, who raises a shield to protect herself. She is dressed in traditional clothing, hat and tunic and boots, as seen on Classical pottery. Heracles wears the tunic and lionskin he is famous for. His club is raised over his head. He is shouting 'You betrayed me!' Hippolyte is shouting 'NO - You betrayed me!' Behind them, on a cloud, Hera is smirking 'Ha! I betrayed both of you!' By Greek Myth Comix

Heracles‘ eighth Labour from King Eurystheus was to fetch the belt of the Amazon Queen Hippolyta (or Hippolyte). (Some versions say this was to be a gift for his daughter.) This was a very long journey, and there was likely to be trouble along the journey, so he brought some warriors with him.

Upon arriving finally at the Amazons’ land near the Black Sea, Heracles was surprised to discover that Hippolyte was actually a fan. Having heard of his exploits even this far away from Greece, she was happy to give Heracles his belt in order to complete his quest.

However, Hera – enjoying Heracles’ struggles due to her ongoing, petty hatred of him – decided to intervene in what she thought was far too easy a task. Appearing as an Amazon, she spread a rumour that Heracles was here to abduct Hippoltyta. the Amazons attacked Heracles in their fury.

Heracles now thought that the Amazons had in fact been planning this all along, so retaliated.

In the battle, Heracles killed Hippolyta and escaped with her belt, heading home to complete his quest.

See the comic in more detail:

The comic is based on the metope from the Temple of Zeus at Olympia, but has additions in order to help students remember both the metope and the story.

A line drawing of a reconstructed metope of Heracles' ninth labour, from Olympia.
Sketch of the metope (author unknown, from Olympia) as it possibly looked when on the temple (photo taken by me at Museum of Olympia c.2015) – you can see only a little of it is left, the head and knees of Hippolyta, as well as part of her shield, and the legs, head and lower abdomen (ahem) of Heracles, as well as a touch of his club.

A photograph of the metope at Olympia of the ninth Labour of Heracles - he stands over the Amazon Queen Hippolyte, whose head and knees are still intact. Heracles head and knee are also intact. Photo by LJB.
Remaining parts of the carved stone metope from the Temple of Zeus at Olympia (photo taken by me at Museum of Olympia c.2015)

This metope is mostly filled by the two figures, making an upside-down ‘T’ shape. This leaves space in the top left and right corners, but also draws attention to the club above Heracles’ head.

NOTE: AGAIN Heracles isn’t wearing the lion skin but he IS holding the club to help identify him… and for once he might actually have used it in the myth, fighting Hippolyte.

In the illustration, Heracles is now dressed in a tunic and lionskin instead of being extremely naked. Hippolyta looks less like a regular Greek woman and instead is dressed in more typical ‘Amazon’ clothing as depicted on Classical and later pottery.

I have also added Hera to the image, to remind us of the myth where she gets involved and basically ruins everything because she’s a spiteful Heracles/hater.

heracles by greekmythcomix - a lineart drawing of him, older, holding his club over his shoulder. He has a figleaf over his member (hello US audience!) and is carrying his lion skin. He's based on most standing statues of Heracles.

Continue learning about the life of Heracles:

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