The Novels (Masterplots II: British and Commonwealth Fiction Series)
The life of the legendary Attican hero Theseus spanned a period of approximately fifty years. In The King Must Die, Mary Renault delineates the course of his life up to the age of eighteen, when he assumes the kingship of Athens; in The Bull from the Sea, she recounts the vicissitudes of Theseus’ subsequent career to his death on the Aegean isle of Skyros. The opening section of Renault’s earlier novel is set in the Peloponnesian city of Troizen, where Theseus’ maternal grandfather, Pittheus, is king. It is here that King Aigeus of Athens once stopped over for the purpose of boarding a ship that would take him across the Saronic Gulf back to Attica. Aigeus was returning from a visit to the Delphic Oracle, whose advice he had sought on the matter of how best to put an end to his childless state. Unfortunately, the response of the priestess was too obscure to be of any help. While Aigeus is still in Troizen, Pittheus receives an oracle of his own from a local priestess directing him to sacrifice the maidenhead of his daughter, Aithra, to appease the wrath of the Earth Mother. He therefore arranges a sexual union between Aithra and his Athenian guest. Before Aigeus resumes his journey, he buries a sword and a pair of sandals under a huge rock and instructs Aithra to send any male offspring from their union to Athens when the child comes of age, provided that he is able to move the rock and retrieve the buried objects. A boy is born in due course...
(The entire section is 1740 words.)
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