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Notebook

Notebook, 1993-

ANCIENT GREEK CULTURE

[From: Kyriazis, Constantine D. Eternal Greece. Translated by Harry T. Hionides. A Chat Publication.]

Demigods and Heros - Achilles - Aegisthus - Agamemnon - Ajax the Locrian - Ajax the Telamonian - Alcestis - Amphiaraos - Amphitrite - Antigone - Atalanta - Belerophon - Cadmus - Clytemnestra - Daedalus - Danae - Dioscuri - Electra - Europa - Eurydice - Ganymede - Hector - Hecuba - Helen - Heracles - Hippolytus - Icarus - Io - Iphigenia - Jason - Leda - Menelaus - Minos - Nestor - Niobe - Odysseus - Oedipus - Orestes - Medea - Orpheus - Paris - Pasiphae - Pelops - Penelope - Perseus - Phaedra - Phaethon - Phrixus - Priam - Telemachus - Theseus - Triptolemus

Theseus

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The foremost hero of Attica, his reputation for a time even outshined that of Heracles. The son of Aegeus, king of Megara and Athens, and of the daughter of Pittheus, king of Troezene, by name Aethra according to one tradition, but according to another the son of Aegeus, son of Poseidon, and Aethra, for the sake of giving him a divine ancestry. Theseus grew up in the palace of Pittheus without knowing the identity of his father since his mother had not been wed to Aegeus. When he grew to manhood, his mother revealed to him the identity of is father and gave him the weapons that he had hidden for his son. Actually, when Aegeus left Aethra at Troezene, he placed his sword and sandals under a great rock, and bade Aethra, when the son whom she should bear was strong enough to move the rock, to send him to Athens with those tokens. Theseus in due course lifted the rock, took the tokens, and set out for Athens by way of the more dangerous land route instead of by sea, and on the road first slew the robber Periphetes whose club he took and henceforth carried with him. Then he destroyed the thieves Sciron, Sinis, Procrustes, Cercyon, and the wild sow Phaea who was a frightful monster, the mother according to one legend of the Erymanthian boar and the boar of Calydon. When he arrived in Athens his father welcomed him hospitably without knowing who he was, but Medea, wife of Aegeus, knew his identity and planned to poison him. But Theseus was recognized at the crucial moment by his father who expelled Medea and kept Theseus near him. Theseus then fought the enemies of his father, especially Pallas and his fifty gigantic sons who were all slain by the young hero. After this, he seized the bull of Marathon, then went to Crete with the other seven youths and seven maidens whom the Athenians sent as tribute to the Minotaur in punishment for the death of Minos's son Androgeios who was murdered on his way to Thebes in accordance to one version of the story, or slain by the bull of Marathon in another variation, which was less common. When he arrived in Crete, Ariadne, daughter of Minos, became enamoured of him and helped him with the spool of thread to penetrate the labyrinth, slay the Minotaur, and emerge safely through the maze of its endless corridors. Theseus then abducted Ariadne and carried her off but on the route to Athens he abandoned [p. 77] her on Naxos and returned to Athens. But he had forgotten to change the sails of the ship from black to white as the signal that he had survived the Minotaur. Upon seeing the black sails from afar, Aegeus believed that his son had perished, and threw himself from the top of the rock into the sea that has taken his name. As soon as he became king, Theseus united the communities of Athens, made just laws for the inhabitants, established the festival of the Panathenaea and was attributed with the institution of the Isthmian Games. He afterwards took part in the expedition of the Argonauts with Pirithous, in the hunt for the Calydonian boar, and helped Adrastus to recover the dead in the battle of the Seven against Thebes. He received as guest Oedipus in Athens, he fought against the Amazons who laid siege to Athens, defeated them, and took as wife the Amazon queen Antiope with whom he had one son Hippolytus. After the death of Antiope he married Phaedra who gave him two sons, Acamas and Demophoon. Later, together with Pirithous he abducted the beautiful Helen of Sparta. Still later he descended in company with Pirithous to Hades to abduct Persephone on behalf of Pirithous who was enamoured of her. But in the lower world Hades bound them to a certain seat from which they could not release themselves. Subsequently, he was rescued by Heracles. In the meantime, the Dioscuri who were searching for their sister Helen marched against Athens, defeated the supporters of Theseus and freed Helen who was staying with Aethra and put Menestheus, son of Peteos, on the throne. When Theseus was freed by Heracles, he returned to the upper world and arrived back at Athens. But so unsettled was the situation in the city, and so disillusioned was he, that he went into self-exile to Scyros where he was treacherously slain by the king of the island Lycomedes. Theseus is one of the heroes in the Euripidean tragedy of Hippolytus. In accordance with the views of the French authority on Greek mythology, Theseus was a "combination of Solon, of Peisistratus, Themistocles, and a bit of Alcibiades, for Theseus was Athens itself. In the story of Theseus flows the breath of youth, beauty, intelligence, even moral levity, and good fortune within which the soul of the city thrives". Theseus was made the foremost hero of Athens and was worshipped as a god by his compatriots who set aside festivals in his honour known as the Theseia and the Epitaphia. In art, Theseus is usually depicted performing his numerous heroic deeds, and vase-painters Euphronius and Douros have portrayed countless scenes taken from his life. [pp. 77, 79]

[Kyriazis, Constantine D. Eternal Greece. Translated by Harry T. Hionides. A Chat Publication.]




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