What does the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur indicate about the society and culture from which it came?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

First of all, to summarize the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur: Theseus was the son of Aegeus and Aethra, and therefore the heir to the throne of Athens. In order to protect him, Theseus's father left him to be raised by his grandfather. Once he was old enough, though, and proved his strength, Theseus went to Athens, to be greeted lovingly by his parents only to learn that all was not well. Each year, the people of Athens were obliged to send a tribute to Crete of 7 young men and 7 young women to be given to the Minotaur, a creature that was half man, half bull. When Theseus learned of this situation, he offered to go as one of the tributes, despite his father's objections, believing he could slay the Minotaur.

After arriving in Crete, King Minos greeted them and sent them to the labyrinth the Minotaur inhabited to be sacrificed to him, but before they went, Ariadne, the daughter of Minos, took pity on Theseus and gave him a ball of string and a sword. After Theseus and the other tributes entered the maze and the Minotaur came for them, he succeeded in slaying the creature, leading the way out using the trail of string and escaping the island before Minos learned of what happened.

From this myth, we can certainly learn a lot about society and culture of Ancient Greece. We know that different cities and regions were ruled by kings and queens. Also, we can infer that human sacrifice was a part of life, at least to some extent, based on the fact that Athens was required to sacrifice 14 of its citizens every year. We can also infer that, while men were typically the fighters and leaders, women were still viewed as having importance and intelligence, as Theseus would never have succeeded if it hadn't been for Ariadne. We can infer that strength and cleverness were both valued. We also learn that people traveled by boat, and there was not always peace between regions.

Check out the link below for more info on Greek Mythology!

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial