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Theseus, a Prince from Athens

Theseus arrived in Athens wearing a sword and a pair of sandals that Aegeus had left for his son in Troezen. Medea, Aegeus's wife, attempted to poison Theseus, but as soon as Aegeus recognized the heirlooms, he proclaimed Theseus his son and heir and banished Medea.

His early adventures included his encounter with the Minotaur, a monster half human, half bull, who was confined in a labyrinth under the palace of Minos, king of Crete. With the help of Ariadne, Minos's daughter, Theseus killed the Minotaur and escaped from the maze. On his return to Athens, however, he forgot to hoist a white sail signaling his success against the Minotaur. Aegeus, seeing a black sail, believed his son dead and threw himself from a rocky height into the sea, which has since been known as the Aegean Sea.

As king of Athens, Theseus was wise and generous, but he retained his love of danger and adventure. He abducted the Amazon Hippolyta, who bore him a son, Hippolytus. He took part in the Calydonian boar hunt and in the quest of the Argonauts for the Golden Fleece. He was a devoted friend of Pirithous, king of the Lapithae, whom he accompanied to the underworld to rescue the goddess Persephone. Both men were imprisoned by the god Hades for their rash deed, but Theseus was subsequently rescued by Hercules.

Returning to Athens, Theseus found his kingdom in disarray, torn by rebellion and corruption. Unable to reestablish authority, he sent his children away and sailed to the island of Skyros, where Lycomedes, king of Skyros, murdered him by throwing him from a cliff into the sea.

Later the Delphic oracle commanded the Athenians to gather Theseus's bones and bring them back to Athens. The Athenians then paid him great honor by building him a tomb dedicated to the poor and helpless whom he had befriended.


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