Theseus’ Death (page 298)

Chapter 9: Theseus’ Later Exploits

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Thes 35 – Plutarch, Theseus

Now while Heracles was the guest of Aidoneus the Molossian, the king incidentally spoke of the adventure of Theseus and Peirithous, telling what they had come there to do, and what they had suffered when they were found out. Heracles was greatly distressed by the inglorious death of the one, and by the impending death of the other. As for Peirithous, he thought it useless to complain, but he begged for the release of Theseus, and demanded that this favour be granted him. [2] Aidoneus yielded to his prayers, Theseus was set free, and returned to Athens, where his friends were not yet altogether overwhelmed. All the sacred precincts which the city had previously set apart for himself, he now dedicated to Heracles, and called them Heracleia instead of Theseia, four only excepted, as Philochorus writes. But when he desired to rule again as before, and to direct the state, he became involved in factions and disturbances; he found that those who hated him when he went away, had now added to their hatred contempt, and he saw that a large part of the people were corrupted, and wished to be cajoled into service instead of doing silently what they were told to do. [3] Attempting, then, to force his wishes upon them, he was overpowered by demagogues and factions, and finally, despairing of his cause, he sent his children away privately into Euboea, to Elephenor, the son of Chalcodon, while he himself, after invoking curses upon the Athenians at Gargettus, where there is to this day the place called Araterion, sailed away to the island of Scyros, where the people were friendly to him, as he thought, and where he had ancestral estates. Now Lycomedes was at that time king of Scyros. [4]  To him therefore Theseus applied with the request that his lands should be restored to him, since he was going to dwell there, though some say that he asked his aid against the Athenians. But Lycomedes, either because he feared a man of such fame, or as a favour to Menestheus, led him up to the high places of the land, on pretence of showing him from thence his lands, threw him down the cliffs, and killed him. Some, however, say that he slipped and fell down of himself while walking there after supper, as was his custom.[5] At the time no one made any account of his death, but Menestheus reigned as king at Athens, while the sons of Theseus, as men of private station, accompanied Elephenor on the expedition to Ilium; but after Menestheus died there, they came hack by themselves and recovered their kingdom. In after times, however, the Athenians were moved to honor Theseus as a demigod, especially by the fact that many of those who fought at Marathon against the Medes thought they saw an apparition of Theseus in arms rushing on in front of them against the Barbarians.  Greek Text

Paus 1.17.6 – Pausanias, Description of Greece

Now Menestheus took no account of the children of Theseus, who had secretly withdrawn to Elephenor in Euboea, but he was aware that Theseus, if ever he returned from Thesprotia, would be a doughty antagonist, and so curried favour with his subjects that Theseus on recovering afterwards his liberty was expelled. So Theseus set out to Deucalion in Crete. Being carried out of his course by winds to the island of Scyros he was treated with marked honor by the inhabitants, both for the fame of his family and for the reputation of his own achievements. Accordingly Lycomedes contrived his death. His close was built at Athens after the Persians landed at Marathon, when Cimon, son of Miltiades, ravaged Scyros, thus avenging Theseus’ death, and carried his bones to Athens.  Greek Text

ApE 1.24 – Apollodoros, Epitome

Pirithous, therefore, remained bound for ever, but Hercules brought Theseus up and sent him to Athens. Thence he was driven by Menestheus and went to Lycomedes, who threw him down an abyss and killed him.  Greek Text

Il 5.552 – Homer, Iliad

Menestheus, the son of Peteos, led them.  (Transl. Aaron J. Ivey)  Greek Text

Hesiod, Ehoiai (Catalogue of Women) fr 200 MW – Fragmenta Hesiodea, p. 98, ed. R. Merkelbach and M. L. West. Oxford 1967.

and especially came…to be the husband of the fair-haired Argive Helen. Of the Athenians, Menestheus, the son of Peteos, wooed [her] and gave many wedding gifts. For he had acquired a great many valuables: gold, cauldrons, and tripods. Good things, and the house of lord Peteos hid them inside. With these things his spirit compelled him to marry, furnishing the most things since he hoped that no one would be better among all the heroes in possessions and gifts…the houses…mighty…for the sake of fair-haired Helen… (Transl. Aaron J. Ivey)

DS 1.28.6-7 – Diodoros Siculus, Bibliotheca Historica

Moreover, certain of the rulers of Athens were originally Egyptians, they say. Petes, for instance, the father of that Menestheus who took part in the expedition against Troy, having clearly been an Egyptian, later obtained citizenship at Athens and the kingship. [7] He was of double form, and yet the Athenians are unable from their own point of view to give the true explanation of this nature of his, although it is patent to all that it was because of his double citizenship, Greek and barbarian, that he was held to be of double form, that is, part animal and part man.  Greek Text

Paus 2.25.6 – Pausanias, Description of Greece

The name is derived from Orneus, the son of Erechtheus. This Orneus begat Peteos, and Peteos begat Menestheus, who, with a body of Athenians, helped Agamemnon to destroy the kingdom of Priam. From him then did Omeae get its name, and afterwards the Argives removed all its citizens, who thereupon came to live at Argos. At Orneae are a sanctuary and an upright wooden image of Artemis; there is besides a temple devoted to all the gods in common. On the further side of Orneae are Sicyonia and Phliasia.  Greek Text

Thes 32.1 – Plutarch, Theseus

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.  Greek Text

♠ Leskhes, Ilias Mikra (Little Iliad) fr 20 PEG – Poetae Epici Graeci 1, p. 80, ed. A. Bernabé. Leipzig 1987.

Pausanias 10.25.8:  Lescheos says of Aethra that, when Troy was taken, she came stealthily to the Greek camp. She was recognized by the sons of Theseus, and Demophon asked for her from Agamemnon.  Greek Text

♠ Iliou Persis (Ilii Excidium), Argumentum PEG– Poetae Epici Graeci 1, p. 89, ed. A. Bernabé. Leipzig 1987.

Demophon and Akamas, having found Aithra, take her with them.  (Transl. E. Bianchelli)

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

Updated by Elena Bianchelli, Retired Senior Lecturer of Classical Languages and Culture, Univ. of Georgia, May 2023.

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