In Crete, long long ago, there lived a kind named Minos. This king was married to a daughter of the Sun (Helios) named Pasiphae. Together they had many children, four sons and four daughters, but it was his daughters who's lives were remembered. One in particular is often sung of, and that was the fair Ariadne.
Among sweet Ariadne's family there was included a fearsome beast, the Minotaur, who was sent as a punishment upon the family. Pasiphae had coupled with a bull to have this son (the mischief of the Gods was at fault), but when he was born, the he was a monster. Pasiphae couldn't kill her son, but the beast ate human flesh, so they imprisoned it in an inescapable Labyrinth (built by Daedalus). Every year, sacrifices were required to the Minotaur, and the young men and women were locked into the Labyrinth to await their fate.
Theseus arrived in Crete as just that kind of tribute, for he had been selected as the victim in Athens - handpicked by Minos himself. But Theseus had a different fate in store for him - he was a hero. The beautiful Ariadne saw the shining brightness of the hero within, and fell in love with him. She found Daedalus, the master inventor and builder and begged his aid. The aging genius had a soft spot in his heart for the girl and agreed to help her. He gave her a ball of thread and instructions for its use. In turn, Ariadne went to Theseus with the yarn, and bade him fasten the end to the door of the Labyrinth so that once the Minotaur was dead, he could find his way back again.
Theseus entered the Labyrinth and killed the brute with his bare fists - saving all the other youths who were destiny was dinner - then followed Ariadne's commands and found his way back to her.
With no time to spare, the lovers and the freed youths ran to the port of Crete and boarded the ship that had brought them there. They fled to Naxos, where they stopped to rest and replenish their supplies - besides, Naxos was beautiful at that time of year. But unfortunately for Theseus, things started to go downhill from there. Ariadne wandered off on the island and was spied by the God of Wine, Dionysus, who fancied her and came to her, offering his magical wine to make her forget her lover and her destination. Dionysus carried Ariadne away to Lemnos, and there they had four sons.
Poor Theseus was distraught. He had lost his love, and his mind was black. But before we continue with the narrative, I must inform you of what happened before Theseus left Athens. As it happens, Theseus was a prince. The son of King Aegeus. And when he left on his journey, the crew and Theseus made a pact. If Theseus returned with the ship, alive and well, then the ship would fly sails of white - but if Theseus had perished, the sails would remain the black cloth that they flew leacing Athens' harbor. Now, Theseus, as I have said, was grieving deeply for his lost love, and in his sorrow he forgot the pact with his father and left the sails black.
Poor King Aegeus was at the edge of the cliff near a little temple to the Wingless Victory, looking out to sea every day waiting for the ship's return. He had only just found his son - though that's another story - and he was loathe to lose him again so quickly. The day Theseus and the ship reached Athens, King Aegeus looked out and saw the black sails flying. His heart was crushed - to have lost the son he loved so dearly, so quickly after finding him again - and Aegeus fell from the cliff onto the rocks and the sea below. Since his fall, the sea has been called the Aegean Sea.
Poor Theseus returned to find his father dead, his love was lost. It was a tragedy in the highest.
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Last Updated January 18, 2008