Sep 30, 2022

Hippolytus, the Gay Charioteer of Greek Myth

In Greek myths, Hippolytus, a chariot devotee (similar to today's auto racers), was the son of Theseus (who killed the Minotaur).  After he rejected the advances of his stepmother Phaedra, she told Theseus that he raped her, whereupon Theseus asked the god Poseidon called up a sea monster to terrorize Hippolytus'  horses and drag him to his death.

In the Euripides play Hippolytus (428 BC), we learn why Phaedra was so interested in the lad.  He rejected Aphrodite, the emblem of heterosexual love, for Artemis, the "chaste" goddess of the hunt.  Angry at the slight -- how dare there be any non-heterosexuals in the world! -- Aphrodite caused Phaedra to fall in love with him, thus leading to his death (this is a scene from a performance at the National Theater of Athens).

Jean Racine's Phèdre (1677) gives Hippolytus a girlfriend, Aricia.  This ballet version stars Slovenian dancer Tadej Brdik (left)

The 1962 film version, directed by Jules Dassin, stars gay actor Anthony Perkins as the son of a shipping magnate (Raf Vallone) who has a consensual -- but doomed -- romance with his stepmother (Melina Mercouri).

Several artists have depicted the death of Hippolytus, so they can show straining muscles and minimal clothing.  Peter-Paul Rubens (1577-1640) shows us a beefy specimen, part of his cloak transformed into a faux phallus.

Pierre Subleyras (1699-1749) depicts several guys thrown from the chariot.  Hippolytus must have been riding with a coterie of boyfriends.

I don't know why his wrists are tied.

(Photo has been removed at the request of a reader.)

Joseph Désiré Court (1797-1865) goes about as far as he can go.  I think it's hidden by a stirrup.


  1. 'I don't know why his wrists are tied
    The full title of the work is "The Martyrdom of St. Hippolytus." Hippolytus was a Roman soldier who was executed at the command of Emperor Decius for the crime of being a secret disciple of St. Lawrence and burying Lawrence's corpse after his execution. After Hippolytus's faithful nurse Concordia was whipped to death and all of his servants beheaded, Hippolytus's feet were tied to a horse and he was dragged to his death. 2 of his servant's bodies lay on the right (close examination shows the one of the corpse's head is clearly not attached to his neck). On the right side of the painting ,(which is cut off in the picture on your site) is Concordia's body (lower) and 2 angels in the upper corner.
    Same name-- different people.

    1. This post is from several years ago, so I don't remember my reasoning, but probably I was just looking for beefcake art of the figure from Greek mythology. I didn't know that the photo was of a Christian saint. I'll remove it.


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