THESEUS & ARIADNE

  

King Minos of Crete had waged war with the Athenians after his son Androgeous, one of his sons by Pasiphe his wife, was killed by Aegeus the king. Aegeus was outraged after Androgeous had won every event in the Panathenaic games. Minos was successful and demanded that, at seven-year intervals, seven Athenian boys and seven Athenian girls were to be sent to Crete to be devoured by the Minotaur a half-man, half-bull monster that lived in the Labyrinth built by Daedalus.

 

On the third occasion that the sacrifice was due. Theseus, the son of King Aegeus of Athens, promised to end the slaughter, volunteering to slay the monster. He took the place of one of the youths and set off with a black sail, promising to his father, that if successful he would return with a white sail. Like the others, Theseus was stripped of his weapons when they sailed. On his arrival in Crete, he and the others were given a final meal and fed at a huge banquet that was given in honour of the young men and women to be sacrificed, at the banquet he sat next to King Minos's daughter Ariadne, they fell in love. Knowing his intensions she pledged to help him.  She consulted with Daedalus and he taught her that the only way to exit the labyrinth was by the exact same path by which he had entered.  So she came up with the idea called Ariadne's Thread. A ball of tread so that Theseus could unravel it on his way into the Labyrinth then if successful in his intentions to slay the beast, would be able to find his way out of the maze with ease. That night, Ariadne escorted Theseus to the Labyrinth, and Theseus promised that if he returned he would take Ariadne away with him. 

  

As soon as Theseus entered the Labyrinth, he tied one end of the ball of thread to the door post and brandished a sword which he had kept hidden from the guards inside his tunic. Theseus followed Daedalus' instructions given to Ariadne to go forwards, always down and never turn left or right. When Theseus reached the heart of the Labyrinth he saw the sleeping Minotaur. He dropped his sword in fright, the beast was terrifying, half man and half bull, huge and strong. The Minotaur began to attack Theseus, but Theseus managed to grasp his sword and plunge it into the Minotaur and slit the beast's throat.

 

Theseus and Ariadne boarded the ship back to Athens, on the journey home Theseus had a dream where the God Dionysus visited him, he requested that Theseus should not marry Ariadne as he had already chosen her as his bride and that he must leave her on the island of Naxos for Dionysus to collect her which he did and carried her back to Mount Olympus. Theseus does leave Ariadne on the island but he is so full of sorrow on the way home that he forgets to change the black sails on the ship to white, his father King Aegeus is watching for the safe return from a cliff and he sees the ship with the black sails and assumes that his beloved son is dead. Aegeus jumps into the sea. This stretch of water is still called the Aegean today after him.

 

Theseus became King and was the great hero of Athens, he is connected as the founder of Athens democracy and a King who helped the poor. Though later in his life, he was not quite as much the hero - it is said that Athens grew tired of his foolish adventures and he never produced an heir to his throne. Theseus died in exile away from Athens but soldiers away from home at war often saw his ghost, and brought his bones back to be placed in a sacred tomb where he could rest in peace.

 

Back on Crete, Minos imprisoned Daedalus in his own Labyrinth, furious at his part in the death of the Minotaur. Locked up with Daedalus was his son Icarus. More info on Daedalus and Icarus

 
 

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