The meaning of Hippolytus' name is ironically ambiguous. ? translates to "horse", and the element - (from "loosen, destroy") suggests the adjective , -?, - "which may be undone, destroyed." His name thereby takes on the prophetic meaning "destroyed by horses".
The most common legend regarding Hippolytus states that he was killed after rejecting the advances of Phaedra, his stepmother, the second wife of Theseus. Spurned, Phaedra deceived Theseus saying that his son had raped her. Theseus, furious, used one of the three wishes given to him by Poseidon to curse Hippolytus. Poseidon sent a sea-monster--or, alternatively, Dionysus sent a wild bull--to terrorize Hippolytus's horses, who dragged their rider to his death.
Euripides' version has Phaedra's nurse tell Hippolytus of Phaedra's love. Hippolytus swore that he would not reveal the nurse as a source of information - even after Phaedra killed herself and falsely accused him of raping her in a suicide note, which Theseus read.
According to some sources, Hippolytus had scorned Aphrodite in order to become a devotee of Artemis, devoting himself to a chaste life in pursuit of hunting. In retaliation, Aphrodite made Phaedra fall in love with him. Hippolytus' rejection of Phaedra led to his death in a fall from a chariot.
He was brought to Latium, Italy, where he reigned under the name of Virbius or Virbio. After his resurrection, he married Aricia. According to another tradition, he lived in the sacred forests near Aricia in Latium. Girls who were about to be married offered locks of their hair to him as a sign of their virginity.