Aethra and Theseus

Aethra and Theseus

In Greek mythology, Aethra was the mother of the hero Theseus

Aethra first comes to the fore when Aegeus was the king of Athens.

Aegeus came to Troezen to seek the counsel of Pittheus, after Aegeus received a confusing statement from the Oracle of Delphi.

“The bulging mouth of the wineskin, O best of men, Loose not until thou hast reached the height of Athens.”

Believing he understood the words of the Oracle, Pittheus had Aethra sleep with a drunken Aegeus that same night.

Some also tell of how on the same night that Aethra slept with Aegeus, she had a dream which instructed her to go to the nearby island of Sphaeria, and there offer up a sacrifice to Sphaerus, the charioteer of Pelops.

Aethra did as she had been instructed but as she was offering up the sacrifice, Poseidon emerged from the sea and forced himself upon her.

Whether Aegeus or Poseidon is the father of Theseus is never determined.

Aegeus would return to Athens, but he instructed Aethra, that if she were pregnant with a boy, to raise him well, but not reveal who his father was (Aegeus was unaware that Aethra had also slept with Poseidon).

Aethra was told though that when of age the boy, must move a large rock from its resting place, for beneath it, Aegeus had placed his sword and sandals, so that the boy might be recognised in future.

Aethra did give birth to a boy, a boy that was named Theseus, and as he grew up, the son of Aethra was taught by his grandfather, Pittheus. It is also occasionally said that the wise centaur Chiron also aided in the training of the young Theseus.

When of age, Aethra took her son to the rock under which Aegeus had hidden his possessions, and Theseus retrieved them, and made his way to Athens.

Theseus Discovering the Sword of his Father

17th.century follower of Jean Lemarie

French 1598-1659


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