Myths of Greece and Rome Narrated with Special Reference to Literature and Art

Page: 117

Ariadne forsaken.

The returning vessel, favored by wind and tide, made but one port, Naxos; and here youths and maidens landed to view the beautiful island. Ariadne strayed apart, and threw herself down upon the ground to rest, where, before she was aware of it, sleep overtook her. Now, although very brave, Theseus was not very constant. He had already grown weary of Ariadne’s love; and, when he saw her thus asleep, he basely summoned his companions, embarked with them, and set sail, leaving her alone upon the island, where Bacchus soon came to console her for the loss of her faithless lover (p. 181).


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Theseus’ punishment.

[259] Theseus, having committed a deed heinous in the eyes of gods and men, was doomed to suffer just punishment. In his preoccupation he entirely forgot his promise to change the black sails for white; and Ægeus, from Attica’s rocky shore, seeing the sable sails when the vessel was yet far from land, immediately concluded that his son was dead, and in his grief cast himself into the sea since known as the Ægean, where he perished.

“As from a mountain’s snowy top are driv’n
The rolling clouds, by the rude blasts of heav’n;
So from the mem’ry of lost Theseus fled
Those dictates, which before his reason sway’d:
But now his father from the ramparts’ height,
All bath’d in tears, directs his eager sight;
O’er the wide sea, distended by the gale,
He spies, with dread amaze, the lurid sail.”
Theseus’ reign and marriage.

Theseus, on entering the city, heard of his father’s death; and when he realized that it had been caused by his carelessness, he was overwhelmed with grief and remorse. All the cares of royalty and the wise measures he introduced for the happiness of his people could not divert his mind from this terrible catastrophe: so he finally resolved to resign his authority and set out again in search of adventures, which might help him forget his woes. He therefore made an excursion into the land of the Amazons, where Hercules had preceded him, and whence he brought back Hippolyte, whom he married. Theseus was now very happy indeed, and soon all his hopes were crowned by the birth of a son, whom he called Hippolytus. Shortly after this joyful event, the Amazons invaded his country under pretext of rescuing their kidnapped queen, and in the battle which ensued Hippolyte was accidentally wounded by an arrow, and breathed her last in Theseus’ arms.

Theseus next set out with an Athenian army to fight Pirithous, king of the Lapithæ, who had dared to declare war; but when [260] the armies were face to face, the two chiefs, seized with a sudden liking for each other, simultaneously cast down their weapons, and, falling on each other’s necks, embraced, and swore an eternal friendship.