To tell the story of Hippolyta and the Amazons, it is best to begin with the story of her legendary mother, Otrera.
Otrera was a woman from a Greek city-state with a tall and athletic frame. She was quiet and reserved but always kept a dignified manner in everything she did. Otrera was also in an arranged marriage, and her husband was a cowardly and violent man. He mistreated her in nearly every way and beat her mercilessly at times. One day, when it became obvious that the situation was becoming worse, Otrera began to secretly train herself with a bow and spear.
She would sneak away for hours at a night, practicing techniques for endless repetitions and building strength by doing them in full armor. She also prayed to Artemis, the Goddess of the Hunt, and Ares, the God of War. This continued for months upon months, until she no longer felt fear.
The day came where Otrera was once again targeted; she did not shrink this time though. She steadfastly stared him down and challenged him to a duel in the town center. He was shocked and gave a mocking laugh. She insisted, pointing a small blade at him and yelling her challenge as loudly as possible.
“C’mon coward! I’ll only use this tiny blade, and you use whatever you want. Do you not have enough honor and courage even to at least accept that challenge…?”
This was too much for him to bear and his face became red with rage. She had left the door open, and neighbors who heard the commotion, had heard everything outside. His enraged eyes locked onto her confident gaze. She held eye contact until he looked away to grab his chest plate and spear. Otrera led him to the acropolis and waited. She then began to taunt him, telling all the town of his shameful secrets.
He rushed her in fierce intensity. She easily side-stepped and continued her mocking of him. This time though, his spear was poised to kill, and he rushed more intently. When he came near, she again parried the attack and disarmed him, after holding her blade to his neck. It was over.
She simply walked away, yelling to all the now-gathered townspeople that other women in her situation should follow her and be free. Otrera said “they” could make it on their own. They would defend their own borders of a woman-only kingdom and Otrera, as Queen, would train them all to be empowered and independent.
As she walked through the town, word spread quickly, and many women followed her, grabbing their husband’s weapons as they left. They continued north and repeated their call-to-arms to the women in all the towns that they passed. There were thousands of them and all of them followed Hippolyta like their matriarch wolf.
When they arrived at the Black Sea, they built their temples to Artemis and Ares and started their kingdom. They lived very much like the Spartans, perpetually training in warfare, and plundering and pillaging. They became respected warriors throughout the ancient world.
Their city had honored their patron Gods, so much so, that Ares came to visit. This visit became extended and eventually Otrera and Ares had two children – both demigods – Hippolyta, and her sister Penthesilea. After Penthesilea was killed in the Trojan War by mighty Achilles, Hippolyta became the sole leader of the mighty Amazons. She was as fierce and dedicated as her mother, but also harnessed the divine strength of her father.