The Abduction of Helen (page 289)

Chapter 9: Theseus’ Later Exploits

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Hellanikos 4F168a FGrH Die Fragmente der griechischen Historiker 1p. 146, ed. F. Jacoby. 2d ed. Leiden 1957.

Greek Text

Il 3.143-44 – Homer, Iliad

…not alone. Two attendants also followed her: Aithre, the daughter of Pitheus, and ox-eyed Klymene.  (Transl. Aaron J. Ivey).  Greek Text

Paus 1.41.4-5 – Pausanias, Description of Greece

Such is the account of the Megarians; but although I wish my account to agree with theirs, yet I cannot accept everything they say. I am ready to believe that a lion was killed by Alcathous on Cithaeron, but what historian has re corded that Timalcus the son of Megareus came with the Dioscuri to Aphidna? And supposing he had gone there, how could one hold that he had been killed by Theseus, when Alcman wrote a poem on the Dioscuri1, in which he says that they captured Athens and carried into captivity the mother of Theseus, but Theseus himself was absent?

[5] Pindar in his poems agrees with this account, saying that Theseus, wishing to be related to the Dioscuri, carried off Helen and kept her until he departed to carry out with Peirithous the marriage that they tell of.  Greek Text

Alkman fr 21 PMG – Poetae Melici Graeci, p. 39 ed. D. L. Page. Oxford 1962.

See Pausanias 1.41.4-5 above and A scholion at Homer, Iliad 3.242 below

ΣA Il 3.242– Scholia A to Homer, Iliad – Scholia Graeca in Homeri Iliadem I, p. 153, ed. W. Dindorf and E. Maass. Oxford 1875.

Greek Text

Stesichoros fr 191 PMG – Poetae Melici Graeci, p. 103, ed. D. L. Page. Oxford 1962.

See Pausanias below

Paus 2.22.6-7 – Pausanias, Description of Greece

Near the Lords is a sanctuary of Eilethyia, dedicated by Helen when, Theseus having gone away with Peirithous to Thesprotia, Aphidna had been captured by the Dioscuri and Helen was being brought to Lacedaemon. For it is said that she was with child, was delivered In Argos, and founded there the sanctuary of Eilethyia, giving the daughter she bore to Clytaemnestra, who was already wedded to Agamemnon, while she herself subsequently married Menelaus. [7] And on this matter the poets Euphorion of Chalcis and Alexander of Pleuron, and even before them, Stesichorus of Himera, agree with the Argives in asserting that Iphigenia was the daughter of Theseus.  Greek Text

Pindar fr 258 SM – Pindarus 2, p. 142, ed. B. Snell and H. Maehler. Leipzig 1975.

Theseus  wanted to be the Dioskouri’s brother-in-law [he guarded Helen, who had been snatched away], for which reason he went away in order to cooperate with Peirithous in the talked-about wedding.  (Transl. Aaron J. Ivey)

Hellanikos 4F134 FGrHDie Fragmente der griechischen Historiker 1p. 139, ed. F. Jacoby. 2d ed. Leiden 1957.

Greek Text

Hellanikos 4F168b FGrHDie Fragmente der griechischen Historiker 1p. 146, ed. F. Jacoby. 2d ed. Leiden 1957.

Greek Text

Hdt 9.73.2 – Herodotos, Historiae

For in the past when the sons of Tyndarus were trying to recover Helen, after breaking into Attica with a great host, they turned the towns upside down because they did not know where Helen had been hidden, then (it is said) the Deceleans (and, as some say, Decelus himself, because he was angered by the pride of Theseus and feared for the whole land of Attica) revealed the whole matter to the sons of Tyndarus, and guided them to Aphidnae, which Titacus, one of the autochthonoi, handed over to to the Tyndaridae.   Greek Text

Helen 10 18-19 – Isokrates, Speeches

[18] In the first place Theseus, reputedly the son of Aegeus, but in reality the progeny of Poseidon, seeing Helen not as yet in the full bloom of her beauty, but already surpassing other maidens, was so captivated by her loveliness that he, accustomed as he was to subdue others, and although the possessor of a fatherland most great and a kingdom most secure, thought life was not worth living amid the blessings he already had unless he could enjoy intimacy with her. [19] And when he was unable to obtain her from her guardians—for they were awaiting her maturity and the fulfilment of the oracle which the Pythian priestess had given—scorning the royal power of Tyndareus, disdaining the might of Castor and Pollux, and belittling all the hazards in Lacedaemon, he seized her by force and established her at Aphidna in Attica.  Greek Text

DS 4.63.1-3 – Diodoros Siculus, Bibliotheca Historica

[1] Since we have duly set forth the story of Theseus, we shall discuss in turn the rape of Helen and the wooing of Persephonê by Peirithoüs; for these deeds are interwoven with the affairs of Theseus. Peirithoüs, we are told, the son of Ixion, when his wife Hippodameia died leaving behind her a son Polypoetes, came to visit Theseus at Athens. [2] And finding on his arrival that Phaedra, the wife of Theseus was dead, he persuaded him to seize and carry off Helen, the daughter of Leda and Zeus, who was only ten years of age, but excelled all women in beauty. When they arrived in Lacedaemon with a number of companions and had found a favourable occasion, they assisted each other in seizing Helen and carrying her off to Athens. [3] Thereupon they agreed among themselves to cast lots, and the one who had drawn the lot was to marry Helen and aid the other in getting another woman as wife, and in so doing to endure any danger. When they had exchanged oaths to this effect they cast lots, and it turned out that by the lot Theseus won her. Theseus, then, got the maiden for his own in the manner we have described; but since the Athenians were displeased at what had taken place, Theseus in fear of them got Helen off safely to Aphidna, one of the cities of Attica. With her he stationed his mother Aethra and the bravest men among his friends to serve as guardians of the maiden.  GreekText

Thes 31-34 – Plutarch, Theseus

Theseus was already fifty years old, according to Hellanicus, when he took part in the rape of Helen, who was not of marriageable age. Wherefore some writers, thinking to correct this heaviest accusation against him, say that he did not carry off Helen himself, but that when Idas and Lynceus had carried her off he received her in charge and watched over her and would not surrender her to the Dioscuri when they demanded her; or, if you will believe it, that her own father, Tyndareus, entrusted her to Theseus, for fear of Enarsphorus, the son of Hippocoon, who sought to take Helen by force while she was yet a child. But the most probable account, and that which has the most witnesses in its favour, is as follows. [2Theseus and Peirithous went to Sparta in company, seized the girl as she was dancing in the temple of Artemis Orthia, and fled away with her. Their pursuers followed them no farther than Tegea, and so the two friends, when they had passed through Peloponnesus and were out of danger, made a compact with one another that the one on whom the lot fell should have Helen to wife, but should assist the other in getting another wife. [3] With this mutual understanding they cast lots, and Theseus won, and taking the maiden, who was not yet ripe for marriage, conveyed her to Aphidnae. Here he made his mother a companion of the girl, and committed both to Aphidnus, a friend of his, with strict orders to guard them in complete secrecy. [4] Then he himself, to return the service of Peirithous,journeyed with him to Epirus, in quest of the daughter of Aidoneus the king of the Molossians. This man called his wife Phersephone, his daughter Cora, and his dog Cerberus, with which beast he ordered that all suitors of his daughter should fight, promising her to him that should overcome it. However, when he learned that Peirithous and his friend were come not to woo, but to steal away his daughter, he seized them both. Peirithous he put out of the way at once by means of the dog, but Theseus he kept in close confinement.


Meanwhile Menestheus, the son of Peteos, grandson of Orneus, and great-grandson of Erechtheus, the first of men, as they say, to affect popularity and ingratiate himself with the multitude, stirred up and embittered the chief men in Athens. These had long been hostile to Theseus, and thought that he had robbed each one of the country nobles of his royal office, and then shut them all up in a single city, where he treated them as subjects and slaves. The common people also he threw into commotion by his reproaches. They thought they had a vision of liberty, he said, but in reality they had been robbed of their native homes and religions in order that, in the place of many good kings of their own blood, they might look obediently to one master who was an immigrant and an alien. [2] While he was thus busying himself, the Tyndaridae came up against the city, and the war greatly furthered his seditious schemes; indeed, some writers say outright that he persuaded the invaders to come.

At first, then, they did no harm, but simply demanded back their sister. When, however, the people of the city replied that they neither had the girl nor knew where she had been left, they resorted to war. [3] But Academus, who had learned in some way or other of her concealment at Aphidnae, told them about it. For this reason he was honored during his life by the Tyndaridae, and often afterwards when the Lacedaemonians invaded Attica and laid waste all the country round about, they spared the Academy, for the sake of Academus. [4] But Dicaearchus says that Echedemus and Marathus of Arcadia were in the army of the Tyndaridae at that time, from the first of whom the present Academy was named Echedemia, and from the other, the township of Marathon, since in accordance with some oracle he voluntarily gave himself to be sacrificed in front of the line of battle.

To Aphidnae, then, they came, won a pitched battle, and stormed the town. [5] Here they say that among others Alycus, the son of Sciron, who was at that time in the army of the Dioscuri, was slain, and that from him a place in Megara where he was buried is called Alycus. But Hereas writes that Alycus was slain at Aphidnae by Theseus himself, and cites in proof these verses about Alycus:—

whom once in the plain of Aphidnae,
Where he was fighting, Theseus, ravisher of fair-haired Helen,

However, it is not likely that Theseus himself was present when both his mother and Aphidnae were captured.  Continue Reading  Greek Text

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Edited by Aaron J. Ivey, Graduate Teaching Assistant, Department of Classics, University of Georgia, June 2016.

Updated by Elena Bianchelli, Retired Senior Lecturer of Classical Languages and Culture, Univ. of Georgia, April 2021

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