Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Greece

Greek Heroes » Theseus

Theseus, the King and Founding Hero of Athens, Greece


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 person who applied certain rules to the game of wrestling and elevated it into an art.

Family of Theseus

Theseus was the son of Aegeus, the king of Athens, and his wife Aethra. Aegeus, concerned that he had reached a certain age without having descendants, went to Delphi to consult the Delphic oracle, but he received a prophecy he could not understand. So, on his way back home, he decided to stop by at the city of Troezen and ask its King Pittheus for advice.
However, Instead of supporting him, Pittheus rather tricked Aegeus to lie with his daughter Aethra, in the hope that Aethra would conceive a child. But in the same night, Aethra had been previously seduced by the Greek god Poseidon. This way, Theseus was considered to have had two divine origins.

Childhood of Theseus

Before heading off to Athens, Aegeus left a sword and sandals under a rock and told Aethra that when his son was strong enough to lift the rock, she should send him to Athens. Knowing who the father of Theseus actually was, Aethra agreed.

Theseus grew up in the palace of Pittheus and indeed became an extraordinarily strong man. At the age of 16, he already was capable to lift the rock and leave for Athens. Although Theseus was advised to travel by sea, he prefered to take the land route from Troezen to Athens; this way, he had to go through numerous adventures and obstacles, also known as the "Labors of Theseus".

The Adventures in Athens

When Theseus reached Athens, he did not reveal his identity at first. Aegeus' new wife Medea, who already had a child with Aegeus and possessed the gift of prophecy, saw a threat in Theseus and told Aegeus that Theseus was conspiring against him. So Aegeus sent Theseus away 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.

When he returned to Athens, Medea again tried to harm Theseus by poisoning him. But at that point, Aegeus recognized his son from his sandals and his sword and knocked the cup from his hands. From that moment on, father and son were reunited and Medea was exiled with her son to Asia. Theseus became the king and founding hero of Athens and always occupied a special place in the hearts of the Athenians.


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Myths about Theseus