You should never believe everything you're told.

In ancient Greece it was quite common for children to be born the sons of gods, rivers, even the wind! If you think about it it's quite logical; an unmarried maiden falls pregnant so someone must have impregnated her, and if she happened to take a swim in the sea on the fateful day then it's quite reasonable to assume that Poseidon, the god of the sea, had his evil way with her whilst she was not looking, if instead she took a walk up on a breezy headland it could well have been the north wind that did it, and if it just happened overnight it was probably the god Zeus, in the form of a serpent, who was the guilty party.

There is an obvious parallel with the Christian religion, but I will pass that over diplomatically.

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Anyhow, Theseus, a one-time king of Athens was either a son of Poseidon or an Athenian king, a guy called Aegeus, who just happened to sleep with his mother Aethra just before she went for a paddle in the sea, only to be so cruelly impregnated by the wily aquatic god. That is what they say anyhow, and who am I to contradict them. Like many sons of Greek gods he grew up to be a bit of a lad, very fond of murder and the seduction of young maidens, and had many adventures involving spreading his seed and doing away with evildoers, but what is his most famous stunt was the killing of the Minotaur. It happened like this:

Theseus' father (or stepfather, whichever version you prefer) Aegius had a brother called Minos who was another king (they had lots of kings in those days) in Crete. Minos' wife copulated with a bull (it's a very complex story, please don't ask) and the product was the Minotaur, which was half man half bull. Minos and Aegius had a slight family disagreement over the murder of Minos' son and the gods were not greatly pleased about this so they sent a great plague, and commanded that the only way that the plague would be lifted would be if the Athenians sent seven young men and seven maidens every nine years to Crete so that the Minotaur could do as it would with them. Theseus was one of the chosen few and so off he sailed to Crete to do battle.

It's very difficult to forget old habits so he seduced another man's wife, called Ariadne who risked everything for him and hatched a plot with him to kill the Minotaur. This unhappy beast lived in a labyrinth which was pretty near impossible to navigate without getting lost so she gave him a ball of string, he tied one end of it to the entrance of the labyrinth, and fed it out as he wandered around, so once he had dispatched the poor half bull with his sword he was able to find his way out, and grabbing the besotted Ariadne he set sail for home! Their wanderings led them first to the holy island of Delos and then to Naxos but by now the joys of playing with another man's wife was starting to bore Theseus, who had a very low boredom threshold, so he dumped her there and sailed off, leaving her to a despairing suicide by throwing herself off a high rock into the sea.

The moral of the story is; never give a ball of string to a Greek Lothario. He'll only tangle you up in it.

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