THESEUS VISITS THE LABYRINTH
ON coming back from the quest for the Golden Fleece,
the heroes returned to their own homes, where they
continued their efforts to make their people happy.
Theseus, one of the heroes, returned to Athens and
founded a yearly festival in honor of the goddess
Athene. This festival was called Panathenæa, which
means "all the worshipers of Athene." It proved a great
success, and was a bond of union among the people, who
thus learned each other's customs and manners, and grew
more friendly than if they had always stayed at home.
Theseus is one of the best-known among all the Greek
heroes. Besides going with Jason in the "Argo," he rid
his country of many robbers, and sailed to Crete. There
he visited Minos, the king, who, having some time
before conquered the Athenians, forced them to
 send him
every year a shipload of youth and maidens, to feed to
a monster which he kept in the Labyrinth.
To free his country from this tribute, Theseus, of his
own free will, went on board the ship. When he reached
Crete, he first went into the Labyrinth, and killed the
monster with his sword. Then he found his way out of
the maze by means of a long thread which the king's
daughter had given him. One end of it he carried with
him as he entered, while the other end was fastened to
His old father, Ægeus, who had allowed him to go only
after much persuasion, had told him to change the black
sails of his vessel for white if he were lucky enough
to escape. Theseus promised to do so, but he entirely
forgot it in the joy of his return.
Ægeus, watching for the vessel day after day, saw it
coming back at last; and when the sunlight fell upon
the black sails, he felt sure that his son was dead.
His grief was so great at this loss, that he fell from
the rock where he was standing down into the sea, and
was drowned. In memory of him, the body of water near
the rock is still known as the Ægean Sea.
When Theseus reached Athens, and heard of his father's
grief and sudden death, his heart was filled with
sorrow and remorse, and he loudly bewailed the
carelessness which had cost his father's life.
Theseus now became King of Athens, and ruled his people
very wisely for many years. He took part in many
adventures and battles, lost two wives and a beloved
son, and in his grief and old age became so cross and
harsh that his people ceased to love him.
 They finally grew so tired of his cruelty, that they
all rose up against him, drove him out of the city, and
forced him to take his abode on the Island of Scyros. Then, fearing that he might return unexpectedly, they
told the king of the island to watch him night and day,
and to seize the first good opportunity to get rid of
him. In obedience to these orders, the king escorted
Theseus wherever he went; and one day, when they were
both walking along the edge of a tall cliff, he
suddenly pushed Theseus over it. Unable to defend or
save himself, Theseus fell on some sharp rocks far
below, and was instantly killed.
The Athenians rejoiced greatly when they heard of his
death; but they soon forgot his harshness, and
remembered only his bravery and all the good he had
done them in his youth, and regretted their
ingratitude. Long after, as you will see, his body was
carried to Athens, and buried not far from the
Acropolis, which was a fortified hill or citadel in
the midst of the city. Here the Athenians built a
temple over his remains, and worshiped him as a god.
While Theseus was thus first fighting for his subjects,
and then quarreling with them, one of his companions,
the hero Hercules (or Heracles) went back to the
Peloponnesus, where he had been born. There his
descendants, the Heraclidæ, soon began fighting
with the Pelopidæ for the possession of the land.
After much warfare, the Heraclidæ were driven away,
and banished to Thessaly, where they were allowed to
remain only upon condition that they would not attempt
to renew their quarrel with the Pelopidæ for a hundred