Great Greek Myths: S1:E5: Theseus

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October 11, 2023- by Steven E. Greer

Theseus’ fathers were both the mortal King Aegeus and the god Poseidon. Theseus was the heir to the throne of Athens.

Before Theseus was born, the elderly King Aegeus had no male heir yet. Believing the gods were to blame, he traveled from Athens to Delphi to ask the an oracle when he would be receiving a son. He was given a riddle that made no apparent sense, and left disgruntled.

On the way back to Athens by sea, he stopped at Troezen. The king welcomed him. Learning that Aegeus wanted a son, he used trickery to place his daughter, Aethra (also called Pittheis), in his bed and they had sex, conceiving Theseus.

However, Athens was unsafe at the time because people were trying to steal the throne. It was thought that they would murder Theseus. So, they raised Theseus in Troezen in secret until he was 16.

Anticipating the future, at his birth, Aegeus buried tokens of a sword and sandals under a boulder in Troezen. 16 years later, the strong Theseus move the stone and retrieved the tokens.

Before Theseus left Troezen to see his father, his mother Aethra told him a secret. Before she slept with a Aegeus, Poseidon raped her, and might also be his father.

Aegeus and Poseidon were both the father. This gave Theseus superhuman powers, as well as political legitimacy.

When Theseus went to Athens, he chose the unsafe road wrong along the Corinthian peninsula where he met numerous evil monsters. After defeating all of the evil monsters, he was famous by the time he reached Athens. While defeating them, he used the law of Talion, which is “an eye for an eye”.

With King Aegeus and Theseus united, they confronted the threat by Crete and its King Minos. Crete had the largest navy and took over Athens.

King Minos demanded that seven boys and seven girls from Athens each year be sent to Crete to be eaten by a monster, the Minotaur. The Minotaur had the head of a bull in the body of a man.

The Minotaur was the product of  King Minos’ wife having sex with a bull monster created by gods in some elaborate Greek plot. To hide the embarrassing Minotaur, King Minos put it behind an elaborate labyrinth or maze created by Daedalus.

Theseus volunteered to be one of the seven men taken to Crete to be eaten by the Minotaur.

King Aegeus begged him to not go. He made him agree that he would leave with a black sail on his ship, and if he returned alive, he would come in a white sail.


Once in Crete, the daughter of Minos, Ariadne, fell in love with Theseus. Theseus told her about his plan to betray Minos and kill the Minotaur. Ariadne betrayed her father by going to the architect of the labyrinth, Daedalus, to ask him how to get out. Daedalus said there was only one way, and that was to leave a trail. He gave a ball of thread for Theseus to unravel.

Theseus killed the Minotaur, and got out by rewinding the ball of thread. Ariadne and Theseus fled Crete on their way home to Athens. They stopped at an island on the way.

Poseidon, the father of the Minotaur, was upset and launched a storm causing Theseus to urgently leave the island. Athena intervened and told him to leave Ariadne behind, breaking his promise to her.

Theseus was in such a rush that he committed oversight and forgot to hoist the white sale. King Aegeus saw the black sail and, in despair, jumped into the sea, which is now named after him.

Athena lost its king but regained Theseus as the new king. Theseus became wiser and started democracy.

Theseus symbolizes a young man who prevails with brute force, but suffers from oversight and forgets promises.

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