CLAS 104 Lecture 21: 21-Theseus and Myths of Athens

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Early Kings of Athens
NB. Autochthony: Common theme, Greek word meaning born from the ground. Greeks saw
themselves as uniquely sprung from ground of Athens.
A) Cecrops – King of Athens, more symbolic than active. Judge between Poseidon and Athena on
deciding who top Deity would be. Decided on Athena. Also portrayed as a culture hero; taught how
to build cities, bury the dead, how to write. Founded Athens, called it Cecropia. Said he had sprung
from the earth and was serpant shaped in the lower half of his body.
B) Erichthonius: Hephaestus <3 Athena – Athena went to Hephaestus one day for weapons,
he was impressed by her and conceived lust for her. Ejaculated on her leg, she wiped it off and
threw it on ground  out sprang Erichthonius. Athena put him into chest and gave it to 3 daughters
of Cecrops, told them not to look inside. They looked inside, saw Erichthonius, went mad, threw
themselves off a cliff and died. Erichtonius was then raised by Athena and became king of Athens.
Set out wooden statue of Athena. Another culture hero, particularly for Athens.
C) Erechtheus: War with Eleusis, sacrifice of daughters, Emolpus (Poseidon’s son)
Erechtheus was grandson and successor of Erichthonius, went to war with Elusinian lead by
Thoracian king Emolpus. Eleusis attacked Athens, Erechteus protected Athens. Erechteus asked
Apollo what could be done to protect city; Apollo told him he had to sacrifice daughter(s), he
did. Erectheus killed Emolpus, angering Posidon b/c he was his son. Poseidon killed Erectheus
with trident, drove him into ground.
D) Ion: Creusa and Xuthus, the Ionions  Creusa was the one surviving daughter of Erechtheus, she
was loved by Apollo, he had his way with her she bore a son named Ion. Creusa exposed child, for
fear of what her father would do. Apollo sent Hermes to rescue him and bring him to Delphi. Ion
became a servant of Apollo at Delphi. Creusa was given as wife to Xuthus, couldn’t have children.
Asked Delphi why, and Apollo told them to greet the first person outside as their son. Ion was the
person they saw. Creusa, in jealousy was about to kill Ion but then realized it was her son. Ion is
accepted by Creusa. Ion is important in etiology as Athenians, in historical times, saw themselves
related to Ionians, who were spread amongst Aegean area. Athenians made a big deal of it because
their empire mainly consisted of Ionian Greeks who lived on the coast.
a) Birth
1) Oracle to Aegeus  Aegeus was of Athenian royal family, great grandson of
Erechtheus. Had a problem as king, brother Pallus wanted to be king. Pallus had something
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Aegeus did not; a family. Aegeus had no sons, Pallus had 50. Felt threat of brother. Aegeus
went to Delphi, oracle told him” [do] not open wineskins mouth until you return home”
2) Pittheus of Troezen, Aethra  Went to Pittehus of Troezen to ask about it, prophecy
was for him not to have sex until he returned home. Pittheus knew but did not tell Aegeus,
made him sleep with Aethra (his daughter), who became pregnant. It is said that Aethra prayed
on island, Poseidon then raped her. Theseus is said to be both sons of Aegeus and Poseidon.
(txb say Aegeus is another form of Poeseidon)
b) Six Labours  When Aegeus left, he told Aethra that if the child was a boy, he has to go to lift
sword out of heavy rock. The boy, Theseus, was able to lift the great rock and took sandals/sword
left there for him so Aegeus can recognize son and went off to Athens. Theseus took the long
difficult way on land.
1. Periphetes/Corynetes (name means “Clubber”) – Encounters Periphetes (aka
Corynetes), he was a robber who would club people to death. Theseus snatched Clubbers’ club
and kills him with club.
2. Sinis (the pine-bender) -- Sinis would (in one account), tie people to pine trees, bends it,
and catapults them to death. Another account  forces them to bend pines till they die of
exhaustion. Theseus kills Sinis the same way in which Sinus usually killed others.
3. Sow of Crommyon – Huge sow named after old women who fed it (some type of witch).
Theseus killed sow.
4. Sciron (and the giant turtle)  lived in Territory of Megira, occupied narrow pass and
wouldn’t let people pass until they washed his feet. They would wash his feet; he would kick
them over the cliff, a giant turtle would eat the people. Theseus kicks Sciron off cliff, eaten by
5. Cercyon –king of Eleusis (the wrestler)  told him that if he beat him at wrestling, he
could become king. Killed wrestler by wrestling. Athenians used Theseus as the figure to explain
how so many cities were united until territory of Athens.
6. Procrustes (name means “Stretcher”)  Procrustes uses 3 things often: bed, hammer,
saw. Would force people to lay on bed, if they were too short, he would hammer them and
flatten them out, if they became longer he would saw them off. Theseus did the exact thing to
Theseus made countryside safe and civilized.
Significance of 6 Labours
a) Justice and Order  very disciplined hero killing murderers in same fashion that they
killed. Worked to civilize countryside.
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