Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome

Page: 133

After death he was honoured in Corinth as a hero, and an altar was erected to him in the grove of Poseidon.


Aegeus, king of Athens, being twice married, and having no children, was so desirous of an heir to his throne that he made a pilgrimage to Delphi in order to consult the oracle. But the response being ambiguous, he repaired to Troezen to consult his wise friend Pittheus, who reigned over that city, by whose advice he contracted a secret marriage with his friend's daughter Aethra.

After passing some time with his bride, Aegeus prepared to take his departure for his own dominions; but before doing so he led Aethra to the sea-shore, where, after depositing his sword and sandals under a huge rock, he thus addressed her: "Should the gods bless our union with a son, do not reveal to him the name and rank of his father until he is old enough to possess the strength requisite for moving this stone. Then send him to my palace at Athens bearing these tokens of his identity."

A son was born to Aethra, whom she called Theseus, and who was carefully trained and educated by his grandfather Pittheus. When he had developed into a strong and manly youth his mother conducted him to the spot where the rock had been placed by Aegeus, and at her command he rolled away the stone, and took possession of the sword and sandals which had lain there for sixteen years, and which she now desired him to convey to his father Aegeus, king of Athens.

His mother and grandfather were anxious that the youth should travel by the safe sea route, the road between Troezen and Athens being at this time infested [260]with robbers of great ferocity and enormous strength. But feeling within himself the spirit of a hero, Theseus resolved to emulate the deeds of Heracles, with whose fame all Greece resounded, and therefore chose the more dangerous journey by land, as calculated to afford him an opportunity of distinguishing himself by feats of valour.

His first adventure occurred at Epidaurus, where he met Periphetes, a son of Hephæstus, who was armed with an iron club, with which he killed all travellers. Having received from his grandfather a full description of this savage, Theseus at once recognized him, and rushing upon him with his sword, succeeded after a desperate encounter in killing him. He appropriated the club as a trophy of his victory, and proceeded on his journey without hinderance until he arrived at the Isthmus of Corinth.

Here the people warned him to beware of Sinnis the robber, who forced all travellers to bend with him one of the branches of a tall pine-tree. Having dragged it to the ground, the cruel Sinnis suddenly released his hold, whereupon the bough rebounding high up into the air, the unfortunate victim was dashed to the ground and killed. When Theseus beheld Sinnis advancing towards him he steadily awaited his approach; then seizing his powerful club, he killed the inhuman wretch with one blow.