Theseus

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For other uses, see Theseus (disambiguation)

Theseus (Greek: Θησεύς) was the mythical[1] founder-king of Athens, son of Aethra, and fathered by Aegeus and Poseidon, both of whom Aethra lay with in one night. Theseus was a founder-hero, like Perseus, Cadmus, or Heracles, all of whom battled and overcame foes that were identified with an archaic religious and social order.[2] As Heracles was the Dorian hero, Theseus was the Ionian founding hero, considered by Athenians as their own great reformer: his name comes from the same root as θεσμός ("thesmos"), Greek for institution. He was responsible for the synoikismos ("dwelling together")—the political unification of Attica under Athens, represented emblematically in his journey of labours, subduing highly localized ogres and monstrous beasts. Because he was the unifying king, Theseus built and occupied a palace on the fortress of the Acropolis that may have been similar to the palace that was excavated in Mycenae. Pausanias reports that after the synoikismos, Theseus established a cult of Aphrodite Pandemos ("Aphrodite of all the People") and Peitho on the southern slope of the Acropolis.

In The Frogs, Aristophanes credited him with inventing many everyday Athenian traditions. If the theory of a Minoan hegemony[3] is correct, he may have been based on Athens' liberation from this political order rather than on an historical individual.

Plutarch's vita of Theseus makes use of varying accounts of the death of the Minotaur, Theseus' escape and the love of Ariadne for Theseus, in order to construct a literalistic biography, a vita.[4] Plutarch's sources, not all of whose texts have survived independently, included Pherecydes (mid-sixth century), Demon (ca 300), Philochorus and Cleidemus (both fourth century).[5]

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