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Chapter Fifteen, Lecture Two
The Begetting of Theseus
The Begetting of Theseus
• Aegeus, a king of Athens, had no sons
• Delphi: do not open the wine skins until
you return home
• At Troezen, Pittheus understands the
• Sends his daughter Aethra
• Poseidon also gets involved
The Begetting of Theseus
• The sword and the sandal
The Labors of Theseus
Periphetes, the Clubber
Sinis, the Pinebender
Cormmyonian sow
Arrival at Athens
• Under a spell cast by Medea, Aegeus
doesn’t realize that this is his son
• Aegeus sends him out to kill a bull on the
plains of Marathon
• Then she tries to poison him, but Aegeus
recognizes his own sword in time – Medea
Theseus and Antiopê
Theseus and Antiopê
• On his way back from his adventure in
Crete with the Minotaur (Chapter 16),
Theseus forgets to change the ship’s flag
to white
• Aegeus drowns himself in the sea
(Aegean Sea)
Theseus and Antiopê
• Athens is “founded” again with Theseus’s
wise reforms
– Synoicism
– Festival: Panathenaia
– social reforms: classes
– assembly
Theseus and Antiopê
• Goes off in search of more adventure
– Abducts the Queen of the Amazons: Hippolyta
or Antiopê
• Leads to an Amazonomachy in Athens
– The Areopagus
The Amazons
The Amazons
• Mythic homeland is north of the Black Sea
(southern modern-day Russia)
– a mazos ?
– constructed the temple to Artemis at
• A purely myth invention
– the world turned upside down
The Amazons
• Contrary to the ideal for the Athenian
– Always defeated by Greek heroes
• Given political significance after the Battle
of Marathon
– The Amazonomachy identified with the
Athenian victory over the Persians
Theseus and Hippolytus
Theseus and Hippolytus
• Remarries to Phaedra, a daughter of
• Their son is Hippolytus
• Story told by Euripides in his Hippolytus
• Hippolytus worships only Artemis and
neglects Aphrodite
• Aphrodite makes Phaedra, his mother-inlaw, lust after him
Theseus and Hippolytus
• The slave intermediary
• Hippolytus curses women, but vows not to
tell anyone
• Phaedra kills herself, but leaves behind a
note for Theseus
• Theseus orders Poseidon to kill Hippolytus
The Folktale of “Potiphar’s
Folktale of “Potiphar’s Wife
• Story of the Two Brothers
– Anubis (not the god)
– Bata
• Joseph and Potiphar’s wife
• Bellerophon and the wife of King Proteus
Exploits of Theseus and
Exploits of Theseus and Pirithoüs
• The Battle of the Centaurs and the Lapiths
(at Perithoüs’s wedding to a Hippodamia)
• Caeneus (formerly Caenis)
• The two now seek appropriate wives
Exploits of Theseus and Pirithoüs
• Theseus tries for Helen, but she is too
young and is sent away for safekeeping
• The two visit the underworld for Pirithoüs’s
choice: Persephonê
• They are trapped but Theseus is
eventually rescued by Heracles
Death of Theseus
Death of Theseus
• Lost favor of the people of Athens and
expelled by Menestheus of Athens
• Fled to Scyros, King Lycomedes
• Killed by the king
Myth and Propaganda
Myth and Propaganda
• Theseus originally a minor figure
• Becomes more important with the rise of
Athens beginning in the 6th century
– Theseïs
• Expansion and popularization begins with
– Uses Theseus to glorify his own
accomplishments for the city
Myth and Propaganda
• After the Pisistratid dynasty fell from
popularity, Theseus remade again
– To a hero of democracy and the defender of
• Cimon (son of Miltiades)
– Modeled some of his career leading the
Athenian rise to empire after Theseus
– The “bones” of Theseus; new festivals to
Theseus; leader of Ionian Greeks against