Ariadne: Resources for Athenaze


Ariadne's Family Album

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Ariadne's family has a long history with bulls and illicit passion. Her father, King Minos of the island Crete, was born from the union of Europa and Zeus disguised as a bull. Later, when Minos was involved in a dispute over who should rule Crete, he asked Poseidon for a sign that he was the rightful ruler. Poseidon sent a magnificent white bull from the sea as proof that he was the rightful king.
Pasiphae, Minos' wife, was the daughter of the Sun-god Helios and sister of Circe. When Minos refused to sacrifice the bull sent by Poseidon, Poseidon became so angry that he caused Pasiphae to fall in love with the bull. With the help of Daedalus, she made love with the bull in a wooden cow built by Daedalus.
From the union of Pasiphae and the bull was born the Minotaur, half bull and half human. He lives in the labyrinth, a maze of corridors and rooms where it is easy to lose one's way. According to the myth, Androgeos, the son of Minos and Pasiphae, was murdered at the hands of the Athenians. In retaliation, Minos demanded that the Athenians send him a tribute of seven young girls and seven young men.
Theseus travels with seven young women and seven young men to try to save them from the Minotaur. Through Ariadne's help, he receives a thread to help him find his way through the labyrinth and a sword with which to kill the Minotaur. He succeeds and promises to take Ariadne with him to Athens.
To the right of the Minotaur in this vase is a woman dressed with a decorated peplos and a diadem on her head. She may be identified as Ariadne.
Behind Theseus to the left we see a young man and a woman holding a wreath. To the right we see possibly Ariadne and two more youths. The wreaths may be gifts for Theseus or symbols of his victory over the Minotaur. The young woman and the young men are representatives of the fourteen who are offered as tribute to King Minos.

Read the story of Minos and Pasiphae and the birth of the Minotaur (Encuclopedia Mythica). Explore Ariadne's family tree.


Photo credits: Attic black figure belly amphora, Würzburg L 248: Side A.
Photograph by Maria Daniels, courtesy of the Martin von Wagner Museum, Würzburg