The Belt/Girdle

A role of dual importance was played by the belt.  As a golden and crystal sword belt, it was one of the Scythian royal insignia inherited from  their ancestors.  In more intimate form, it was a symbol of virginity and of their belonging to themselves alone.  "Virginity" during antiquity never meant "without a mate, untouched" but rather "unmarried."  When Greek adventurers in the thirteenth century B.C.E. first sailed their war fleet into the mouth of the Thermodon
to the capital of Themiscrya for the avowed purpose of taking the Amazon Queen's belt, this meant deposition and her ravishment.

There were a number of stories about the stealing of the Queen's belt though no pretense was made about the nature of the theft.  In one version, Heracles and Theseus together fell upon the undefended city and its Queen, Hippolyte, while Oreithyia, the other Queen, was defending the borders with her army.  The small garrison was overcome and slain, Heracles took Hippolyte's belt, while Theseus used trickery, love, or violence to get Antiope, the third sister, in his ship.  A different version had all these events transpire on three different expeditions: the stealing of the belt, the taking of the city, and the elopement with Antiope.  At any rate, the next event was the vengeance of the Amazons.

                        H. Diner
For the ninth labor, Eurystheus ordered Hercules to bring him the belt of Hippolyte [Hip-POLLY-tee]. This was no ordinary belt and no ordinary warrior. Hippolyte was queen of the Amazons, a tribe of women warriors.

 Queen Hippolyte had a special piece of armor.  It was a leather belt that had been given to her by Ares, the war god, because she was the best warrior of all the Amazons. A sacred girdle, a gift from Ares, the god of war, whom the tribe revered.  She wore this belt across her chest and used it to carry her sword and spear.  Eurystheus wanted Hippolyte's belt as a present to give to his daughter, and he sent Heracles to bring it back.

  Heracles' friends realized that the hero could not fight against the whole Amazon army by himself, so they joined him and set sail in a single ship.  After a long journey, they reached the land of the Amazons and put in at the harbor.  When Heracles and the Greeks got off the boat, Hippolyte came down to visit them.  She asked Heracles why he had come, and when he told her, she promised to give him the belt.  But the Goddess Hera knew that the arrival of Heracles meant nothing but trouble for the Amazons.  Disguised as an Amazon warrior, Hera went up and down the army saying to each woman that the strangers who had arrived were going to carry off the Queen.  So the Amazons put on their armor.
The women warriors charged on horseback down to the ship.
But when Heracles saw that they were wearing their armor and were
carrying their weapons, he knew that he was under attack.  Thinking fast, he drew his sword and killed Hippolyte.

Then he undid her belt and took it away from her.

Heracles and the Greeks fought the rest of the Amazons in a great battle.

When the enemy had been driven off, Heracles sailed away.  After a stopover at the city of Troy, Heracles returned to Mycenae, and he gave the belt to Eurystheus.

                                            Perseus Project

For the ninth of his twelve labors Hercules was required to go on a mission against the Amazons, to steal the girdle of Hippolyta, their Queen.  Because they were daughters of Ares, god of war, the Amazons' Queen was entitled to wear Ares' golden girdle.  This girdle, a kind of snake made of fabric, leather or metal, is a symbol for sexual power, channelled and kept within civilized bounds.  In Greek marriage ceremonies, when the bridegroom loosed the bride's girdle it signified the end of her free maidenhood and the opening of her body to her husband and to pregnancy.  If you look at the little Minoan snake-goddess you will see how two of the three snakes she wears actually form the girdle that goes round her hips and covers her womb.  For the Amazons, that band of women warriors who lived without men, it was also a symbol of their self-sufficient shakti-power.  The loss of their Queen's girdle would mean the end of their independent existence.

                     L.W. Wilde

In one warrior's grave was found an iron-studded battle-girdle.  The girdle, designed to protect the stomach and loins, would be the mark of a serious fighter, although in the case of Hippolyta there's ambiguity - are we talking about a warrior's loin - protection or a woman's girdle?  We could perhaps imagine that, whilst most women fought from a distance if they could, there would be a select band of particularly strong and well-trained fighters who were able to fight hand-to-hand where necessary.

As defined by Euripedes, the girdle is "the belt of the Warrior Queen, the golden clasp of the mantle-vest"
(Madness, IX 413-14).

D. Sobol

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