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Birth of Theseus

Theseus came from good stock. He was the son of either a king (Aegeus) or a god (Poseidon).

King Aegeus of Athens was childless although he was married twice. He long wanted a child and finally decided to consult the oracle at Dephi. He received a cryptic instruction: Do not unloose the foot (i.e. the spout) of your wine-skin until you return to Athens. He was puzzled and did not understand that it is a sexual metaphor.

He headed to the small town of Troezen in Argolis to consult King Pittheus who was reputably wise. Pittheus understood the riddle immediately but did not share it with Aegeus. That night, Pittheus made Aegeus drunk and led him to his daughter Aethra 's bed. Later that same night, Poseidon lay with Aethra too.

The next morning, Aegeus buried his sword and sandals under a big rock. He told Aethra if she gave birth to his son and the boy grew strong enough to push aside the stone, she should send him to Athens. In this way, Aegeus would recognize his son.

Aethra did give birth to a son and named him Theseus. When he reached the age of 16, he moved the stone and put on this father's sandals and sword and set off to Athens.

Monsters on the Way

Theseus chose the hazardous land route to Athens despite his mother's advice. On the road he dispose of six monsters/highwayman. He forced each to suffer the same fate they had meted out to their victims:
  1. Periphetes , son of Hephaestus, had the unpleasant habit of smashing his iron club over the head of strangers. Theseus, using his agility, killed him with the club and took it as a trophy and weapon.
  2. Sinis , a notorious highwayman, will rob his victims and tie them to two strong trees he bended. He would then let go of the trees, killing them. Theseus overpowered Sinis and strapped him to the bent trees and let them fly.
  3. Phaea , a ferocious wild pig. Theseus used both sword and spear to gore the beast killing it easily.
  4. Sciron kills his victims by tricking them. He would stop any travellers and request them to "pay" him by washing his feet. When they bent down, he would suddenly kick them off the cliff. Theseus bent down and hurled the foot bath at the murderer's head. Grabbing Sciron by the ankles, he hurled him off the cliff.
  5. Cercyon , was a monster who challenged all wayfarers to wrestle with him. All his victims died from the wrestling. Theseus was a skilled wrestler. He defeated the monster, lifted it off the ground and smashed him to the ground, killing him instantly.
  6. Procrustes would make all his guests fit into his bed after they fell asleep. If their legs were too long, he would chop them off, otherwise he would attach weights to stretch them to size. Theseus used the torturer's own method to slay him.

Evil Stepmother

Theseus reached Athens and was welcomed by his father, King Aegeus, who was unaware that the stranger was his son. His stepmother,soceress Medea , recognised him through her socery. Fearing him as a threat to the future reign of his own son, she persuaded Aegeus to send Theseus to kill the Marathonian bull .

Theseus went to Marathon, and succeeded in bringing the bull back live. Aegeus was amazed. Medea then talked her husband to offer Theseus a posioned drink. But as he reach for the cup, Aegeus suddenly recognise the sword and sandals and dashed the cup from his lips. He then embraced him as his son.

The Minotaur

The happy reunion did not last long. The time has come for the city to send seven boys and seven virginal girls to be offered to the savage Minotaur. The Minotaur was the son of Minos 's (King Crete) wife Pasiphae and a handsome bull. It was imprisoned in a mazed like labyrinth designed by Daedalus .

Theseus volunteered for the sacrifice. He planned to kill the beast and end the tribute forever. Concerned of his son, Aegeus made him promise to change the black sail to white if he returns successfully.

On his voyage to Crete, Minos became enamoured with Theseus's cousin. Rushing to her aid, he provoked an argument of Minos. The Cretan king threw his ring into the sea and challenged Theseus to retreive it. Theseus got it back since he was the son of Poseidon.

When the ship arrived at Crete, Ariadne , a daughter of Minos, fell in love with the hero. She resolved to help him escape. She gave him a spool of thread and a sword. When Theseus entered the Labyrinth, he attached one end of the thread to the entrance. He unraveled the ball as he explore the maze. Finally, he found the Minotaur at the centre of the maze and killed him with the sword. He wound the thread back onto the ball and found his way out.


Theseus, Ariadne and the other 13 Athenians escaped on their ships. On their way back, Theseus stopped on the island of Naxos. Ariadne was lost or abandoned on the island. (Some storytellers say that the wine god Dionysus (known as Bacchus in Roman mythology) stole Ariadne away from Theseus and made her his bride). She cursed Theseus and called the gods to punish him for neglecting her. The gods made him forget his promise to his father too.

Indeed, when Theseus arrive at Athens, he forgot to change the sails of his ships. Aegeus thought his son was dead and leaped from the cliffs to his death. The sea that claimed his body was named Aegean Sea in his honor.

King Theseus

With the death of his father, Theseus assumed the throne of Athens. He organised the surrounding townships into an organised commonwealth, and expanded the bordons of the all the way to Corinth.

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