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Heroes of Ancient Greece - Theseus

By Yona Williams    1/26/09

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When it comes to bravery and putting others before himself, Theseus deserves a reward for his glowing qualities. This Athenian hero is best known as the individual who volunteered his life so that he could become one of the victims of the Minotaur. However, this hero of ancient Greece was able to defeat the Minotaur with a little help from the Minotaur's own half sister.

Theseus was successful in finding his way out of the Minoan labyrinth, where the ferocious Minotaur was kept. His tale is the stuff of legends and the Athenians couldn’t have enjoyed a better king at the time.

After his adventures with the Minotaur, Theseus was responsible for reorganizing the country of Attica, as well as founded Ionia. His mortal father and sons are also recognized as heroes that made up two of the tribes established in Athens. It is written that Theseus was also the son of a well-known god – Poseidon. Regardless of his divine parentage, Theseus is most known for the legend surrounding the Minotaur. If you are unfamiliar with this horrid creature, just imagine something that takes the traits of both a man and a bull. This creature ate men and women who were sacrificed to him, as the people paid homage to Athens.

Knossos was the site where Theseus would meet up with the Minotaur named Minos. It was here that a labyrinth was constructed for the creature with the help of Daedalus. Theseus arrived at the labyrinth to be sacrificed to Minos. It was his plan to defeat the Minotaur and he probably would have been unsuccessful if it wasn’t for Ariadne, who gave Theseus a string that he was to use to find his way around the maze. Once he encountered Minos, he was to kill the beast and flee with his savior.

Theseus wasn’t an entirely perfect hero. He had flaws like many before him. For instance, despite besting the Minotaur with the assistance of Ariadne, he actually abandoned her after his quest was accomplished. He was also the indirect cause of his father's death. Before he had ventured to kill the Minotaur, he had promised to signal his safe return to Attica by manipulating the sails, but he forgot his promise and upon seeing the sail that highlighted his defeat, his father actually leapt to his death. 

When it comes to Theseus, there are many different versions of his existence. For example, according to Plutarch, there are varying stories about him in regards to the Amazons. Some say that he may have joined in on the journey with Hercules when he went to retrieve the belt of Hippolyte. Others believe that he had gone later. In the following years, the Amazons are documented as invading Attica. Theseus would have relations with an Amazon by the name of Antiope, who bore a son named Hippolytus.

 

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