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In Greek mythology, Theseus can truely be thought of as the greatest
Athenian hero. He was the son of Aegeus, king of Athens, and Aethra, princess
of Troezen, and daughter of Pittheus, king of Troezen.
Before Theseus was born his father Aegeus left Aethra in Troezen of
Argolis and returned to Athens before he was born. But before he left king
Aegeus put his sword and his pair of sandals under a large rock and said to
Aethra that when Theseus was old enough to lift the heavy rock that Theseus
should take the sword and sandals and come to see him in Athens.
At the age of 16 after being brought up in Troezen, Theseus was finally
able to lift the heavy rock. Theseus with his long blond hair then took the
sword and the sandals and began his journey to Athens to claim Aegeus as his
father. The young Theseus made his hazardous journey by the coast road along
the Isthmus, clearing the road of six villains, murderers, and monsters which
inhabited the road. Theseus killed these villains by the same method by which
they had murdered their own victims. Among the villains that Theseus killed,
were Sciron, Sinis, Procrustes and Phaea.
Theseus arrived in Athens wearing a sword and a pair of sandals that
Aegeus had left for him in Troezen. He was then greeted by his father Aegeus
and his stepmother Medea who was a sorceress. But she was jealous of his
influence over Aegeus so Medea tried to kill him by sending him to kill a wild
bull. But Theseus succeeded and sacrificed the bull to Apollo. He then returned
to Athens and was almost poisoned by Medea, but as soon as Aegeus got wind of
her plot, he proclaimed Theseus his son and heir to the thrown and banished
Medea from Athens and she escaped to what is now Asia.
According to legend, the people of Athens had to send seven youths and
seven Maidens every year as a tribute to Minos, the king of Create, to be eaten
by the Minitor, who was a terrible monster, half man and half bull.
Theseus decided to go as one of the youths and try to kill the minitor.
When he reached Create, Ariadne, the beautiful daughter of Minos fell in love
will him and helped him kill the Minitor by giving him a sword which he killed
the Minitor with and a ball of thread to help him find his way out of the
labyrinth in which the Minitor lived. Theseus then left Create with Ariadne
but dumped her on the way back to Athens.
On his return from Create to Athens, however, in his hurry to get home,
he forgot to hoist a white sail signaling his success against the Minotaur. So
when Aegeus saw a black sail, he believed that his son was dead and was so sad
that he threw himself from a high rocky cliff into the sea, which has ever
since been known as the Aegean Sea in his honor.
Theseus then became the King of Athens. And as king of Athens, Theseus
was wise and generous, and united the many small communitties of the Attic
plain into a strong and powerful nation and brought prosperity and civilization
to the people.
But he kept his love of danger and adventure and during a war with the
Amazon Women he abducted the Amazon Hippolyta, who bore him a son who was named
Hippolytus. He took part in the Calydonian boar hunt and in the quest of the
Argonauts for the Golden Fleece. He was a devoted friend of Pirithous, king of
the Lapithae, whom he accompanied to the underworld to rescue the goddess
Persephone. Both men were imprisoned by the god Hades for their rash deed, but
Theseus was subsequently rescued by Hercules. Returning to Athens, Theseus found
his kingdom in disarray, torn by rebellion and corruption. Unable to reestablish
authority, he sent his children away and sailed to the island of Skyros, where
Lycomedes, king of Skyros, murdered him by throwing him from a cliff into the
sea. Later the Delphic oracle commanded the Athenians to gather Theseus\'s bones
and bring them back to Athens. The Athenians then paid him great honor by
building him a tomb dedicated to the poor and helpless whom he had befriended.
View Full Essay
Theseus, Operas, Argonauts, Aegeus, Troezen, Pittheus, Aethra, Minotaur, the Wild Beast of Crete, Sciron, Ariadne, Minotaur, Hippolyta
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