Hippodamia (IPA: /ˌhɪpoʊdəˈmaɪə/  or
/ˌhɪpɒdəˈmaɪə/; also Hippodamea and Hippodameia; Greek:
Ἱπποδάμεια "she who masters horses" derived from
ἵππος hippos "horse" and δαμάζειν damazein "to tame")
was a Greek mythological figure. She was the queen of Pisa as the wife
3 Artistic and anthropological perspectives
4 See also
Hippodamia was the daughter of King
Oenomaus of Pisa and either
Evarete of Argos, the daughter of Acrisius and Eurydice, or Eurythoe,
daughter of Danaus. She married Pelops, and their daughters were
Astydameia, Nicippe, Lysidice, Mytilene, and Eurydice, and their sons
were Atreus, Thyestes, Pittheus, Alcathous, Troezen, Hippalcimus,
Copreus, Dias, and Hippasus. Aelius, Cleonymus, Sciron, Argeius,
Corinthius, Dysponteus, and Pleisthenes are also listed as her sons.
Hippodamia's father, King
Oenomaus of Pisa, was fearful of a prophecy
that claimed he would be killed by his son-in-law. So when suitors
arrived, he told them they could marry his daughter only if they
defeated him in a chariot race, and if they lost, they would be
executed. Eighteen suitors of
Hippodamia had perished in this way, and
Oenamaus had affixed their heads to the wooden columns of his palace.
Pausanias was shown what was purported to be the last standing column
in the late second century CE; the same author mentions that Pelops
erected a monument in honor of all the suitors before himself, and
enlists their names, which are as follows:
Alcathous, son of Porthaon
Acrias of Lacedaemon, founder of Acriae
Tricolonus (descendant of another Tricolonus, who was a son of Lycaon)
Erythras, son of Leucon
Eioneus, son of Magnes
Pelops, son of King Tantalus of Lydia, came to ask for Hippodamia's
hand in marriage and prepared to race Oenomaus. Worried about losing,
Pelops went to the seaside and invoked Poseidon, his former lover.
Reminding Poseidon of their love ("Aphrodite's sweet gifts"), he asked
Poseidon for help. Smiling, Poseidon caused a chariot drawn by winged
horses to appear.
In an episode that was added to the simple heroic chariot race,
Pelops, still unsure of himself (or alternatively, Hippodamia
herself), convinced Oenomaus's charioteer, Myrtilus, a son of Hermes,
to help him win.
Myrtilus was convinced by
Pelops or Hippodamia
promising him half of Oenomaus' kingdom and the first night in bed
with Hippodamia. The night before the race, while
Myrtilus was putting
Oenomaus's chariot together, he replaced the bronze linchpins
attaching the wheels to the chariot axle with fake ones made of
beeswax. The race began, and went on for a long time but just as
Oenomaus was catching up to
Pelops and readying to kill him, the
wheels flew off and the chariot broke apart.
Myrtilus survived, but
Oenomaus was dragged to death by his horses.
Myrtilus tried to claim his reward and have sex with Hippodamia,
Myrtilus by throwing him off a cliff into the sea. If
Hippodamia was the one who asked
Myrtilus for help and did not tell
Pelops may have assumed that
Myrtilus was trying to rape
Myrtilus died, he cursed Pelops. This was the source of the curse
Hippodamia and Pelops' children
well as their descendents Agamemnon, Aegisthus,
Menelaus and Orestes.
Artistic and anthropological perspectives
Walter Burkert notes that though the story of the contest for
Hippodamia's hand figures in the Hesiodic
Megalai Ehoiai and on the
Cypselus (ca. 570 BCE) that was conserved at Olympia, and
though preparations for the chariot-race figured in the east pediment
of the great temple of Zeus at Olympia, the myth of the chariot race
only became important at Olympia with the introduction of chariot
racing in the twenty-fifth Olympiad (680 BCE). Georges Devereux
connected the "courtship" of
Hippodamia with animal husbandry taboos
of Elis, and the influence of Elis at Olympia that grew in the
^ "Glossary Index" in Ovid's Metamorphoses: A New Verse Translation by
David Raeburn (2004), Penguin, ISBN 978-0-140-44789-7,
^ Walker, John (1830). A Key to the Classical Pronunciation of Greek,
Latin, and Scripture Proper Names: To which are Added, Terminational
Vocabularies of Hebrew, Greek, and Latin Proper Names: with
Observations on the Greek and Latin Accent and Quantity. J.F. Dove.
pp. 9, 13, 66.
^ Pausanias, Description of Greece, 6. 21. 9–11, with a reference to
Megalai Ehoiai fr. 259(a).
^ Pindar, First Olympian Ode. 71.
^ Cicero, Tusculanae Disputationes 2.27.67 (noted in Kerenyi 1959:64).
^ Burkert, Homo Necans 1983, p 95f.;
Megalai Ehoiai fr. 259.
^ G. Devereux, "The abduction of Hippodameia as 'Aition' of a Greek
animal husbandry rite" SMSR 36 (1965), pp 3-25. Burkert, in following
Devereux's thesis, attests Herodotus iv.30, Plutarch's Greek Questions
303b and Paus