Theseus: The chief hero of Attica

The chief hero of Attica in ancient Greek legend; son of Aegeus, and the center of innumerable exploits. He was brought up by his mother Aethra, but when he became strong enough to lift the stone under which his father's sword was hidden, he was sent to the court of Athens, where, in spite of the efforts of his father's wife Medea, he was recognized as heir to the throne. Among his deeds were the slaying of Procrustes, the capture of the Marathonian bull, the slaying of the Minotaur with the aid of Ariadne whom he subsequently deserted in Naxos, his war against the Amazons, his part in the Argonautic expedition, and the Calydonian hunt.

There are numerous versions of his war against the Amazons. He married the Amazonian queen who opposed him, known as either Antiope or Hippolyta (according to some accounts there were two sisters of these names) and took her home with him. After the death of this queen, he married Phaedra whose ill-fated infatuation with her stepson Hippolytus has formed the subject of many tragedies in which Theseus plays a part. In his old age he became unpopular with his people and was foully murdered by Lycomedes in Scyros where he had taken refuge.

According to medieval legend, Theseus' title was Duke of Athens and his Duchess was Hippolyta. Under this title he plays a part in Chaucer Knight's Tale and Shakespeare Midsummer Night's Dream. In the Knight's Tale, he marries Hippolyta, and as he returns home with his bride and Emily, her sister, he is accosted by a crowd of female suppliants who complain of Creon, King of Thebes. The Duke forthwith sets out for Thebes, slays Creon, and takes the city by assault. Many captives fall into his hands, among them the two knights Palamon and Arcite.

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