Born to Aegeus, the king of Athens, and the Princess Aethra, Theseus learned at age 16 that he was heir to the throne of Athens. Theseus wished to prove his character before claiming his birthright, so he set off on a dangerous adventure. He was tested by thieves, monsters, and murderous brigands, but survived every trial, and returned to Athens unrecognized by his father, the king.
Theseus' stepmother Medea recognized him, though, and saw that he posed a threat to her own son's ascension to the throne. She tried to poison Theseus, but at the last second, the king recognized his son's sword, and dashed the poisoned cup from his hands. The stepmother fled, and Theseus became his father's successor.
At the time, the city of Athens lived under a dread decree. Every year for nine years, King Minos of the powerful island of Crete had forced Athens to send seven youths and seven maidens as a tribute. Minos then sacrificed the fourteen to the Minotaur-a monster that was half man, half bull-by releasing them into the intricate labyrinth where the Minotaur lived. Every year, the young Athenians would lose their way, tire, and the monster would hunt them down and devour them.
Theseus insisted that he be sent to Crete on the next tribute ship so he could do battle with the Minotaur and free his city from the awful fate. Posing as one of the youths to be sacrificed, he entered the labyrinth, with his sword and a spool of thread smuggled to him by King Minos's daughter, Ariadne. Theseus unwound the thread as he made his way into the maze, knowing he could use it to find his way out again. He fought the Minotaur, defeated it, and followed the thread back to safety.
Athens thrived under the wise and benign rule of Theseus, and though misfortune plagued the end of his days, he was remembered for generations for his courage and wisdom.
For people who want to be good thinkers, Theseus is a good model. His clear thinking helped him overcome the Minotaur and get out of the maze. Our Theseus software can help you make sense of a labyrinth of ideas.