Being Theseus' eldest son, it was expected that Hippolytus would marry and bear a son to continue his line. Hippolytus, however, had no interest in sex and instead became a devotee of Artemis, choosing a life of hunting and virginity while scorning the love goddess Aphrodite. Angered, Aphrodite sought to punish Hippolytus for his offense, and so she had his stepmother, Phaedra, fall in love with him. Phaedra was ashamed of her feelings and after she confined in her nurse about her secret, the latter, unbeknownst to Phaedra, approached Hippolytus and informed him of Phaedra's love for him. Hippolytus rejected his stepmother, and, fearing that he would tell Theseus, Phaedra hanged herself, leaving a note which accused Hippolytus of having raped her.
Theseus was enraged upon reading the note and although Hippolytus insisted that he was innocent, Theseus refused to listen and banished his son. He then called down a curse upon Hippolytus, one of the three curses that his father, Poseidon, had given to him. As Hippolytus was riding along the coast of Troezon in his chariot, the sea god caused a bull to come out of the sea, frightening his horses. The chariot's wheels dashed against a stone and after Hippolytus became entangled in the reins, his horses dragged him to his death.
Some versions of the myth state that Artemis took him to Asclepius and had him bring Hippolytus back to life, after which she took him to her temple in Italy where he would spend the rest of his days serving as one of her priests. Hippolytus was later identified with the Roman god Virbius, and it was believed that he lived near the town of Aricia, in a forest that was sacred to the goddess Diana.
- Hippolytus' name is derived from the words ἱππος ("horse") and λύω ("loosen, destroy") and possibly translates to "destroyed by horses".
- Hippolytus' father, Theseus, was a son of Poseidon and his mother, Hippolyta, was a daughter of Ares. Hippolytus was therefore a legacy of both Poseidon and Ares.