Among the many myths that have been handed down to us from ancient Greece, the myth of Ariadne is one of the most fascinating. Closely related to the figure of the Minotaur, the myth is intimately linked to the “story” of other mythological figures who populated Greek literature. Among them: Daedalus and his son Icarus, Minos, Theseus, the god Poseidon. Let’s read below what the legend says.
Minos and the Minotaur
It all began when the king of Crete, Minos, asked the god of the sea, Poseidon, for a bull that he would sacrifice in his honor.
Poseidon accepted and brought out of the sea a splendid specimen of white bull, so beautiful that the king, instead of sacrificing it, decided to keep it as a riding bull for his herd.
Poseidon, to punish Minos for his disobedience, made his wife Pasifae fall in love with the bull.
The woman, in fact, lost her mind because of this beautiful animal and wanted nothing more than to mate with him.
From their union was born Asterio, a creature half man and half bull: the Minotaur.
The labyrinth and the murder of Androgeo
The Minotaur being very ferocious and frightening to anyone who saw him, Minos had him locked up in the labyrinth of Knossos, built by Daedalus, so complex with its corridors, doors, false entrances, that once inside, nobody could get out.
The ferocious Minotaur fed only on human flesh.
The son of Minos, Androgeo, famous for his excellent athletic abilities, went to Athens to participate in the gymnastic games and was killed by the young Athenians.
Ariadne and Theseus
Tired of this atrocious arrogance, the young and intrepid Theseus, son of Aegeus, king of Athens, decided to go himself to the palace of Knossos to kill the Minotaur.
His fleet sets sail for Crete, hoisting black flags, in keeping with the seriousness of the action the young man is about to perform, but he promises his old father that on his return, if he wins, he will hoist the white sails, as a sign of triumph.
At the court of Minos, where Theseus is received, he meets the young Ariadne, daughter of the king of Crete Minos and Pasifae.
The beautiful girl fell in love with Theseus at first sight, so much so that, for love, she betrayed her half-brother Minotaur, gave Theseus a ball of wool that he, at the entrance to the labyrinth, began to unravel until, through tunnels, halls, corridors, she met the fierce Minotaur.
After a fierce struggle, she managed to kill him by breaking his neck.
At this point, by gradually rewinding the thread that had attached him to Ariadne, he was able to easily find the exit of the labyrinth.
The two young men embark on their ships for Athens.
The abandonment of Ariadne
During the journey, the two lovers consummated their love and from their union was born Demophon, future king of Athens.
According to a version of the myth of Ariadne, when he arrived on the island of Naxos, also called Dia, Theseus had a dream in which Dionysus ordered him to leave Ariadne because he wanted her for himself. Theseus, when he woke up, felt obliged to fulfill the god’s wish and, although reluctantly, left with his fleet, leaving Ariadne still asleep on the island. Dionysus took the girl to Mount Drios the same night.
Another version tells that Ariadne, when she arrived in Athens, was sure to get married, but Theseus had no intention of taking a wife, so she landed in Naxos under the pretext of stocking up on food, and while the girl was sleeping, she left with her fleet and abandoned her on the island.
When she woke up, Ariadne, not finding her beloved, cried desperately until her cries were heard by Dionysus who, to console her, took her in marriage.
As a wedding gift, he gave her a diadem forged by the fire god, Hephaestus. It is said that from the golden diadem, thrown into the sky, was born the constellation of the boreal crown.
From the passion between Dionysus and Ariadne were born the sons Toante, Stafilo, Enopione.
The return of Theseus
In the meantime, Theseus, tried by all the events he lived, forgot to change the sails on his way back. When his father, the king of the Aegean, saw the black sails from afar, he thought his son had been killed.
So, in desperation, he preferred death, letting himself fall into the sea. Since then, the sea area is called the Aegean Sea.
The myth of Ariadne
Mythology presents the figure of Ariadne as an intelligent and cunning woman. She proposes and suggests to Theseus the ruse to get out of the labyrinth, the proverbial “Ariadne’s thread”. She is a courageous and determined woman who, for love, does not hesitate to abandon her family and her country. On the contrary, she is willing to go and live in Athens, the enemy city of Crete. And yet, despite her courage and determination, she fell victim to Theseus’ betrayal.
However, fate was generous with her: saved by the god Dionysus, who took her as his wife, the god gave her a diadem that, transformed into a constellation, will shine forever in the sky.
The figure of Ariadne has inspired many artists, painters, poets, famous musicians, who with their works wanted to value this woman.