What makes Theseus a heroic character?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Theseus is present in many different Greek myths and stories based upon those myths. He is important particularly because of his role as an early hero of Athens.

Perhaps the best known story concerning Theseus is the one of Theseus and the Minotaur. In this story, Athens was obliged to pay a annual tribute of seven young men and women to King Minos to serve as food for the Minotaur. Theseus, with the aid of Ariadne, the daughter of King Minos, kills the Minotaur and leaves Crete, abandoning Ariadne on Naxos, and returning to Athens. Especially since the discovery of bull dancing iconography in Minoan frescoes, attempts have been made to read this story as encapsulating historical themes, but the case for historical interpretation is mainly speculative.

Theseus also appears in Sophocles' "Oedipus at Colonus" as a wise king who gives sanctuary to Oedipus. He is rewarded for his generosity by Oedipus using a boon granted to him by the gods concerning the place of his death to make Colonus as sacred place and bring the favor of gods on Athens. This story represents the foundation myth of the temple at Colonus where Sophocles himself was a priest.

The account of Theseus in Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream`is derived from Plutarch`s `Life of Theseus.`