Theseus - Hero and King of the Athenians

Theseus as depicted in the movie "The Immortals"
Theseus as depicted in the movie "The Immortals".

Here is a quick look at Theseus, famed hero of Greece - and of many, many Greek-themed movies in recent years.

Theseus's Appearance: Theseus is a handsome, vigorous young man armed with a sword.

Symbol or Attributes of Theseus: His sword and sandals.

Theseus's Strengths: Brave, strong, clever, good with disguise.

Theseus's Weaknesses: May have been a bit deceptive with Ariadne. Forgetful.

Theseus's Parents: King Aegeus of Athens and Princess Aethra; however, on their wedding night, Princess Aethra wandered over to a nearby island and lay with Poseidon. Theseus was thought to have characteristics of both of his potential "fathers".

Theseus's Spouse: Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons. Later, possibly Ariadne before he abandoned her; later her sister Phaedra

Some Major Sites Associated with Theseus: Knossos, the Labyrinth of Crete, Athens

Theseus's Story

Theseus was the son of King Aegeus of Athens. Theseus grew up separately from his father, who had taken up with the magical Medea. Theseus, after many adventures at different gates of the Underworld and slaying a monstrous Cretan bull, giving him handy career experience for later, eventually ended up in Athens and was recognized by his father as his heir when he showed him his sword and sandals, retrieved from under a rock where Aegeus had hidden them when he left Aethra.

At that time, the Athenians put on a competition somewhat like the Olympian Games, and one of the sons of the powerful King Minos of Crete came to participate. Unfortunately, he won the Games, which the Athenians found to be in bad taste, so they killed him. King Minos wreaked revenge on Athens and ultimately demanded that seven youths and seven maidens would be sent periodically to Crete to be fed to the Minotaur, a half-man, half-bull beast who lived in the prison-like labyrinth. Theseus chose to put himself in the doomed group and went to Crete, where he formed an alliance with Princess Ariadne, entered the labyrinth with the help of a magical cord given him by Ariadne, fought and slew the Minotaur, and then fled with the princess. Something went wrong at that point - a storm? a change of heart? - and Ariadne was left on an island where she ended up being found by and married to the god Dionysos, an odd echo of Theseus' own odd parentage.

Theseus returned home to Greece but forgot that he had told his father that his boat would return with white sails if he were alive or black sails raised by his crew if he died in Crete. King Aegeus saw the ship returning, noted the black sails, and flung himself into the sea in sorrow - which is why the sea is called "The Aegean". Theseus went on to rule over Athens.

Interesting Facts About Theseus

Theseus is featured in the 2011 movie "The Immortals" which takes some liberties with the ancient myths.

Theseus is said to have built at least one temple to Aphrodite, so he did pay some heed to the Goddess of Love.

While the theme of abandoning the princess Ariadne is the most common in the ancient sources, one account says that Theseus kills her brothers and installs her as Queen Ariadne, leaving her to rule. Whatever actually happened, he eventually married her sister, Phaedra, with tragic results.

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Regula, deTraci. "Theseus - Hero and King of the Athenians." ThoughtCo, Dec. 6, 2021, Regula, deTraci. (2021, December 6). Theseus - Hero and King of the Athenians. Retrieved from Regula, deTraci. "Theseus - Hero and King of the Athenians." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 30, 2023).