P. 276

Chapter 9, Theseus’ Later Exploits

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Plutarch, Theseus 22.1

It is said, moreover, that as they drew nigh the coast of Attica, Theseus himself forgot, and his pilot forgot, such was their joy and exultation, to hoist the sail which was to have been the token of their safety to Aegeus, who therefore, in despair, threw himself down from the rock and was dashed in pieces.  Greek Text

Simonides 550 PMG Poetae Melici Graeci, p. 287, ed. D. L. Page. Oxford 1962.

♠ Plutarch, Theseus 17.5

Simonides, however, says that the sail given by Aegeus was not white, but ‘a scarlet sail dyed with the tender flower of luxuriant holm-oak,’ and that he made this a token of their safety. Moreover, the pilot of the ship was Phereclus, son of Amarsyas, as Simonides says.  Greek Text

Diodoros Siculus, Library of History 4.61.4

Now Theseus was one of those who were to set forth, and Aegeus made the agreement with the captain of the vessel that, if Theseus should overcome the Minotaur, they should sail back with their sails white, but if he died, they should be black, just as they had been accustomed to do on the previous occasion.  Greek Text

Diodoros Siculus, Library of History 4.61.6-7

But Theseus, they say, being vexed exceedingly because the maiden had been taken from him, and forgetting because of his grief the command of Aegeus, came to port in Attica with the black sails. [7] And Aegeus, we are told, witnessing the return of the sip and thinking that his son was dead, performed an act which was at the same time heroic and a calamity; for he ascended the acropolis and then, because he was disgusted with life by reason of his excessive grief, cast himself down the height.  Greek Text

Pausanias, Description of Greece 1.22.4

There is but one entry to the Acropolis… On the right of the gateway is a temple of Wingless Victory. From this point the sea is visible, and here it was that, according to legend, Aegeus threw him self down to his death.  Greek Text

Plutarch, Theseus 22.1

Aegeus, who therefore, in despair, threw himself down from the rock and was dashed in pieces.  Greek Text

Apollodoros, Epitome 1.10

In his grief on account of Ariadne, Theseus forgot to spread white sails on his ship when he stood for port; and Aegeus, seeing from the acropolis the ship with a black sail, supposed that Theseus had perished; so he cast himself down and died. Greek Text

Hyginus, Fabulae 43

When Theseus left [the island of Dia], he forgot to change the black sails, and so his father Aegeus judged that he had been devoured by the Minotaur. He threw himself into the sea, which was called Aegean from this.  Latin Text

Hyginus, Fabulae 242

Aegeus, son of Neptune, threw himself into the sea, and the Aegean Sea is called from this.  Latin Text

♠ Servius, Scholia at Vergil, Aeneid 3.74 – Servii Grammatici qui feruntur in Vergilii Carmina commentarii: Aeneis, 1 pt. 1, pp. 352-53, ed. G. Thilo and H. Hagen, 2 vols. Leipzig 1881.

DORIS – mother of the Nereids, mother of 40 nymphs, wife of Nereus.

AEGEAN NEPTUNE – because this island is situated in the Aegean sea. Indeed the whole stretch of sea between the Hellespont and the Adriatic is called the Aegean, and it takes its name from Aegeus, father of Theseus.  For when the Minotaur was shut up in the Labyrinth, and every year seven boys and girls from the Athenian nobility were sent as fodder for the Minotaur, finally distress at this overcame Theseus.  And so he set out to destroy the Minotaur, and it was agreed between him and his father, that, if he should conquer the monster, he would fit white sails on his ships, but if he were to be destroyed by the Minotaur, the ship would return with black sails.  But when he had killed the Minotaur, he forgetfully set out on his return journey – not with white sails but with black sails – and gave the grim signal of his death to his father who was stationed on a watchtower.  And he, believing his son to be dead, cast himself into the sea, whence the Aegean sea takes its name.  (Transl. Mary Emerson)  Latin Text

Strabo, Geography 8.7.4

It is better to take him [Homer] as meaning the Aegae in Euboea, from which it is probable that also the Aegean Sea got its nameGreek Text

Euripides, Hippolytos 34-36

But since Theseus has left the land of Cecrops, [35] fleeing the blood-guilt he incurred for the murder of the Pallantidae, and sailed with his wife to this land Greek Text

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Edited by Frances Van Keuren, Prof. Emerita, Lamar Dodd School of Art, Univ. of Georgia, July 2016. Updated by Elena Bianchelli, Retired Senior Lecturer of Classical Languages and Culture, Univ. of Georgia, April 2023.

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