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Theseus

athens, attica, athenians, amazons and father

THESEUS, the'sfis or thd'se-fis, in Greek legend, a king of Athens and national hero of Attica, son of /Egeus by .1Ethra, the daughter of Pittheus of Trcezen, in Peloponnesus. He was educated at Trcezen, at the house of Pittheus, and passed for the son of Poseidon (Neptune). When he came to years of maturity he was sent by his mother to his father, and a sword and sandals were given him by which he might make himself known to lEgeus (q.v.) in a private manner. On arriving at Athens he narrowly escaped being poisoned by Medea, the sorceress, but his father recognized the sword, and re ceived Theseus as his successor on the throne. He next caught alive the wild Marathonian bull; but a much more important service was the slaying of the Minotaur and the freeing of Athens from the tribute of seven youths and seven maidens annually sent to Crete to be de voured by that monster. (See MINOTAUR). Fear ing his son had perished while in Crete tEgeus destroyed himself ; hence Theseus on his return succeeded his father as ruler of Athens. The Athenians were governed with mildness, and Theseus made new regulations and enacted new laws. The number of the inhabitants of Athens was increased: a court was instituted, which had the care of all civil affairs; and Theseus made the government democratic, while he reserved for himself only the com mand of the armies. To him also the Athenians ascribed the union of the towns of Attica into a single state, with Athens at the head, and the division of the people into the three classes of Eupatrida, Geomori and Demiurgi (nobles, hus bandmen and mechanics). Perhaps the most

celebrated of the events in the career of Theseus after the slaying of the Minotaur was his war with the Amazons. He is said to have invaded their territory and carried off their queen, Antiope (according to another account, that with which the readers of Chaucer and Shakespeare are familiar, Hippolyta). The Amazons in their turn invaded Attica, and a battle was fought in the city of Athens itself. Theseus was victorious, and the Amazons driven out of Attica. He was absent from Athens on various expeditions, and when he returned the Athenians had forgotten his serv ices. He retired to the court of Lycomedes, of Scyros, who threw him down a deep precipice. In 469 ac. his bones, as supposed, were found by Cimon in Scyros, and brought to Athens, where they received a magnificent burial. Statues and a temple (the Theseum, q.v.) were raised; and festivals and games were publicly instituted to commemorate his actions. A portion of the temple still remains standing. What shreds of history, if any, there may be in the accounts of Theseus cannot be ascer tained. Consult Harrison, J. E., I Mythology and Monuments of Ancient Athens) (London 1890) ; Liibker, F., (Reallexikon des Klassischen Altertums) (Leipzig 1914) ; Schultz, A., These& (Breslau 1874).