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Last Update: 24 Mar 2021


Theseus, the King and Founding Hero of Athens, Greece

Theseus ,the most important king of Athens

Theseus was a very important Greek hero who combined strength, power and wisdom. He was the mythical founder of Athens, Greece. According to Pausanias, Theseus was also the first to apply certain rules to the game of wrestling and elevate it to an art.

Family of Theseus

Theseus was the son of Aegeus, king of Athens, and his wife Aethra. Aegeus was concerned that he had reached a certain age without having any descendants and went to Delphi to consult the Oracle of Delphi, but he received a prophecy that he could not understand. So he decided to stop at the city of Troezen on his way home and ask its King Pittheus advice. But instead of helping him, Pittheus got Aegeus to sleep with his daughter Aethra, hoping that Aethra would father a child. However, Aethra had been seduced by the Greek god Poseidon earlier that same night.

In this way, two divine origins were attributed to Theseus.

Childhood of Theseus

Before leaving for Athens, Aegeus left a sword and sandals under a rock and told Aethra to send him to Athens if his son was strong enough to lift the rock. Since Aethra knew who Theseus' father actually was, she agreed.

Theseus grew up in the palace of Pittheus and indeed became an exceptionally strong man. At the age of 16, he was already able to lift the rock and go to Athens. Although Theseus was advised to travel by sea, he preferred to take the overland route from Troezen to Athens; along the way he had to face numerous adventures and obstacles, also known as the "Labors of Theseus".

The Adventures in Athens

When Theseus reached Athens, he did not at first reveal his identity. Aegeus' new wife Medea, who already had a child with Aegeus and possessed the gift of prophecy, saw Theseus as a threat and told Aegeus that Theseus was plotting against him. So Aegeus sent Theseus to Marathon to tame the Cretan Bull. Theseus was able to accomplish the task and, back in Athens, he sacrificed the bull to Apollo Delphinius.

While in Athens, Medea again tried to harm Theseus by poisoning him. But then Aegeus recognized his son by his sandals and his sword, and knocked the cup out of his hand. From that moment on, father and son were reunited and Medea was banished to Asia with her son. Theseus became the king and founding hero of Athens and always had a special place in the hearts of the Athenians.

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