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Monday, November 9, 2009

The Story of Theseus and the Minotaur

Monday, November 9, 2009
Prince Theseus was the son of King Aegeus of Athens, not too long before the Trojan War (so maybe around 1300 BC). At this time the Minoans, who lived on the island of Crete, had a very strong navy. The Minoan king, King Minos, used to send his navy to attack Greek cities, including Athens [View map] . Everyone was afraid of him and his soldiers.

King Aegeus had an agreement with King Minos that if Minos would leave Athens alone, Aegeus would send seven Athenian boys and seven Athenian girls to Crete every nine years, to be eaten by a monster that lived on Crete, the Minotaur. They had been doing this for a long time, but of course the boys and girls who had to go be eaten and their moms and dads hated it!

One day it was once again time to send the children to Crete. Everyone was crying. Prince Theseus said that he was going to go with them and kill the Minotaur, to save these children and all the ones who might be sent in the future. His dad, King Aegeus, begged him not to go. Aegeus was afraid that the Minotaur would get Theseus too! But Theseus said he was, too, going to go, and he got on the boat. The boat had a black sail, to show how sad everyone was. King Aegeus made Theseus promise to change to a white sail if he lived to come home, to announce that he had won, and Theseus promised.

When they got to Crete, King Minos and his daughter Princess Ariadne (arr-ee-AD-nee) came out of their palace to see Theseus and the other Athenian children. King Minos just said to throw them in to the Minotaur the next day, but Ariadne fell in love with Theseus (yes, just like that!) and she wanted to help him.

So late that night Ariadne gave Theseus a sword and a ball of string. She told him to tie the string to the door of the Labyrinth where the Minotaur lived (a big maze) and unroll it behind him as he went so he could find his way back out, and to use the sword to kill the Minotaur. Theseus thanked Ariadne very much and promised to marry her if he escaped without being eaten by the Minotaur.

The next morning all the Athenians went into the Labyrinth. The others were afraid, but Prince Theseus tied the string to the door and went to find the Minotaur. Finally he did find the Minotaur and there was a big fight, but then Theseus killed the Minotaur with his sword and followed the string back to the door. The other Athenians were very happy to see him and to hear that he had killed the Minotaur!

Princess Ariadne opened the door and let them out, and they all ran away to their ship and sailed away: Theseus, Ariadne, and all the other Athenians.

But when Theseus and Ariadne got to the island of Delos, halfway home from Crete, they stopped to rest. Ariadne fell asleep, and Theseus left her there on the island and sailed away to Athens without her. Different Greek stories give different reasons why he did this: maybe he just didn't like her very much, or maybe he thought the Athenians wouldn't like her because she was Cretan. Or maybe he was afraid King Minos would be angry. Some stories say it was because Dionysos fell in love with her. But all the stories agree that he left her there on the island.

When Theseus got as far as Sounion, he was close enough for the ship to be seen from Athens. But he had forgotten to change the sail from black to white! His father, King Aegeus, was looking out for Theseus' ship. When he saw the black sail he thought Theseus was dead, and he was so sad that he jumped off the cliff and killed himself.

When Theseus reached Athens, he was very sorry to hear that his father was dead, and it was his own fault. But then he became king, and he was a very good king who ruled for a long time.

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