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2006-02-28 00:00


  Just as Heracles was the chief hero of Peloponnesus,so Theseus was the most famous half god of Attlca.His father was king Aegeus of Athens and his mother a princess of Troezen.When he was still an infant his father left him in the care of his mother  and went back to his own kingdom.Before he left,Aegeus buried his sword and sandals under a huge stone,and told his mother to direct him to Athens as soon as he was big enough to lift the rock and take the hidden gifts with him. At the age of sixteen he became a strong young man,intelligent and with lots of nerve.Taking the sword from under the rock,he joyfully set out to look for his father.It was a journey of adventures.But he cleared the roads of various monsters he met and appeared harmless in his father's palace at Athens.Little did he suspect that here would be an attempt on his life there.

  King Aegeus had recently married Medea,a bad woman.She was anxious to have the Athenian throne  for her own child. She had persuaded the king to poison the newcomer at a feast.As the feast was in progress,King Aegeus saw Theseus' sword and recognized his son in the young man . Quickly pushing the poisoned cup aside,he took his son in his arms and declared him his successor.Thus troubled by her own evil designs,Mede fled in her dragon drawn carriage,never to return.for a time Theseus stayed with his father at Athens.When the Cretan bull escaped into the area of Marathon he set out alone to fight with the beast and offered it up as a sacrifice to the gods.

  At this time the city of Athens was bothered by the respect it had promised to pay to King Minos of Crete . The Cretans had come to attack Athens,and the gods had ordered that the Athenians would have to meet the demand of the Cretan king that seven boys and seven girls be sent to Crete every year to feed the half man,half bull Minotaur.Determined to kill the Minotaur and save his people from further grief,Theseus decided to go as one of the fourteen chosen victims.Before he left he promised his father that if he succeeded in his work he would change the black sails of his ships to white ones.He went,and with the help of princess Ariadne of Crete,he killed the Minotaur and carried the Princess with him on his way back.At Naxos he left the girl in her own care.For when he neared Athens he forgot to put up the promised white sails,and his anxious father,standing on a hill-top,saw the black sails,threw himself down into the sea in despair.So stricken with grief was Theseus that he never recovered from regret.He succeeded his father as king,and introduced many good measures to improve the life of his people.To rid his kingdom of the threat by the Amazons,he led an expedition into the woman country and took its queen prisoner.The queen,Antiope by name,ws in fact so passionately in love with him that she agreed to marry him.At a later date the Amazons came to lay attack on Athens on the excuse of recovering their queen.In the battle that followed,the queen was wounded by a chance arrow and died,leaving Theseus a sad widower.

  Theseus' friendship with Pirithous,king of the Lapithae,grew from a dramatic beginning.Pirithous was invading Attica and Theseus was marching his men out to meet him. In the first personal encounter between the two heroes each was so filled with admiration for the other that they both laid down their weapons and became faithful friends.

  At the wedding of Pirithous,to which Theseus and Heracleswere invited,a number of horsemen present were angry with the shining beauty of the bride,so that they attempted to take her by force.Both Theseus and Heracles were enraged at their wild behaviour .In what was known as the coldblooded fight between the horsemen and the Lapithae they beat the horsemen and saved the bride.But she did not have long to live.

  Both Theseus and Pirithous were full of the ambition of marrying a lady of holy birth.At one time they got Helen by force,she was the beautiful daughter of Zeus,but as she was not yet of marriageable age,Theseus left her with his mother.Later she was rescued by her brothers,Castor and Pollux.So proud were the two friends that they were now planning to invade the lower world and carry Persephone up by force,for Pirithous was eager for her beauty.They went,but they found it impossible to get out again. One of them,Pirithous,was bound to a turning wheel while Theseus himself was chained to a rock.If it had not been for Heracles,who came in for Cerberus,Theseus would never have been able to return to the upper air again.

  When he returned to Athens he was quite old and unhappy with life.As king he acted like a tyrant  and went successfully away from his people. He was sent away to the island of Scyros,where he fell into sea from a cliff. Nothing more was heard of him until the battle of Marathon centuries later.When the Athenians saw a mighty soldier leading them in their ruthless attack against the invading Persians,they recognized him as Theseus and after the war they devoted a grand temple to his memory and offered sacrifice at his altar.









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