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Theseus(thē`syo͞os, –sēəs), in Greek mythology, hero of Athens; son of either King Aegeus or Poseidon. Before Aegeus left Troezen he placed his sword and sandals beneath a huge rock and told his wife Aethra that when their son, Theseus, could lift the rock he was to bring the gifts to his kingdom in Athens. At the age of 16 Theseus lifted the rock and began his journey, during which he freed the countryside of various monsters and villains (e.g., ProcrustesProcrustes
, in Greek mythology, cruel highwayman. He forced passersby to lie on a very long bed and then stretched them to fit it. Some said that he also had a very short bed; to make passersby fit this he sawed off their legs. Using Procrustes' own villainous methods, Theseus killed him.
..... Click the link for more information. ). When Theseus arrived at Athens, Medea, then wife of Aegeus, tried to kill him. Aegeus, however, recognized the sword and sandals, saved Theseus, and exiled Medea. Theseus subsequently had numerous adventures. His most famous exploit was against the Minotaur of King Minos of Crete. Theseus insisted on being one of the seven youths and seven maidens of Athens to be sacrificed to the monster as an annual tribute. He promised his father that if he were successful in killing the Minotaur he would on his return voyage replace his ship's black sails with white ones. Ariadne, daughter of King Minos, fell in love with Theseus and gave him a magic ball of thread to be dropped at the entrance of the labyrinthlabyrinth
, intricate building of chambers and passages, often constructed so as to perplex and confuse a person inside. In Egypt, Amenemhet III of the XII dynasty built himself a funeral temple in the form of a great labyrinth near Lake Moeris.
..... Click the link for more information. ; it led Theseus to the Minotaur, which he killed, and he then followed the unwound thread back to the entrance. He left Crete with Ariadne but abandoned her at Naxos. When Theseus reached home he forgot to raise white sails. Aegeus saw black sails, and, thinking his son dead, the grief-stricken father threw himself into the sea, thereafter called the Aegean. As king of Athens, Theseus instituted several reforms, most notably the federalization of the scattered Attic communities. He journeyed to the land of the Amazons, where he abducted Antiope, who bore him HippolytusHippolytus,
in Greek mythology, son of Theseus and Antiope (or Hippolyte). After the death of Antiope, Theseus married Phaedra, daughter of Minos. Because Hippolytus worshiped only Artemis, the jealous Aphrodite punished him by causing his stepmother to fall in love with him.
..... Click the link for more information. . A vengeful Amazon army invaded Athens, but Theseus defeated it. Some say Antiope died fighting beside him in the battle; others claim that Theseus killed her when she objected to his marriage to PhaedraPhaedra
, in Greek mythology, daughter of Minos and Pasiphaë. She was the wife of Theseus. When her stepson, Hippolytus, rejected her love, she accused him of raping her and hanged herself.
..... Click the link for more information. . For helping PirithoüsPirithoüs
, in Greek mythology, king of the Lapithae. He and Theseus swore an oath of eternal friendship. Together they went on the Calydonian hunt and invaded the land of the Amazons.
..... Click the link for more information. to carry off Persephone, Theseus was imprisoned in Hades until Hercules rescued him. Upon his return to Athens, he found his once great kingdom a turmoil of corruption and rebellion. He regretfully sailed away and came to rest at Skyros, where he was treacherously murdered by King Lycomedes. Although Theseus is generally thought of as legendary, the Athenians believed he had been one of their early kings.
See A. G. Ward et al., The Quest for Theseus (1970).
a legendary Athenian hero and king traditionally thought to have lived about the 13th century B.C. Legend attributes a number of exploits to Theseus. For example, he is said to have fought against the Amazons, to have taken part in the voyage of the Argonauts and the Calydonian hunt, and to have killed the bandit Procrustes and the bull of Marathon. Historical deeds attributed to him include the freeing of Athens from dependence on Crete, the synoecism, or unification, of Attica, the establishment of the festivals of the Panathenaea and the Synoikia, the introduction of the Isthmian Games, and the first social division of the citizens of Athens—into eupatridae, geomoroi, and demiourgoi. The monthly festival of Theseia was celebrated in Athens in honor of Theseus.
["Theseus - A Programming Language for Relational Databases", J.E. Shopiro, ACM Trans Database Sys 4(4):493-517, Mar 1979].