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In Greek mythology, Aegeus (Greek: Αἰγεύς), also Aigeus, Aegeas or Aigeas (Αιγέας), was an archaic figure in the founding myth of Athens. The "goat-man" who gave his name to the Aegean Sea was, next to Poseidon, the father of Theseus, the founder of Athenian institutions and one of the kings of Athens.


The myth

His reign

Upon the death of the king his father, Pandion II, Aegeus and his three brothers, Pallas, Nisos, and Lykos, took control of Athens from Metion, who had seized the throne from Pandion. They divided the government in four but Aegeas became king.

Aegeus' first wife was Meta[1] and the second was Chalciope. Still without a male heir, Aegeus asked the Oracle at Delphi for advice. Her cryptic words were "Do not loosen the bulging mouth of the wineskin until you have reached the height of Athens, lest you die of grief."[2] Aegeus did not understand the prophecy and was disappointed.

This puzzling oracle, forced Aegeus to visit Pittheus, king of Troezen, who was famed for his wisdom and skill at expounding oracles. Pittheus understood the prophecy and introduced Aegeus to his daughter, Aethra, when he was drunk.[3] They slept with each other and then, in some versions, Aethra waded out to the sea to the island of Sphairia (aka Calauria), and bedded also with Poseidon. When she fell pregnant, Aegeus decided to go back to Athens. Before leaving, he covered his sandals, shield and sword under a huge rock and told her that when their son grew up, he should move the rock and bring the weapons back, by which sign his father would acknowledge him. Upon his return to Athens, Aegeus married Medea who had fled from Corinth and the wrath of Jason. Aegeus and Medea had one son together named Medus.

Conflict with Crete

While visiting in Athens, King Minos' son, Androgeus "breeder of men", managed to defeat Aegeus in every contest during the Panathenaic Games. Out of jealousy, Aegeus sent him to conquer the Marathonian Bull, which killed him.[4] Minos was angry and declared war on Athens. He offered the Athenians peace, however, under the condition that Athens would send seven young men and seven young women every nine years to Crete to be fed to the Minotaur, a vicious monster. This continued until Theseus killed the Minotaur with the help of Ariadne, Minos' daughter.

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