Quoting Theoi,

In one, Ariadne, the daughter of King Minos of Krete, assisted Theseus in his quest to slay the Minotaur, and then fled with him aboard his ship. However, when they landed on the island of Naxos, Theseus abandoned her as she was sleeping.

Well, you don't just abandon a person who saved your life on an island these days.

Why? Is it just a characteristic of a selfish man? Was he going anywhere?


2 Answers 2


The answer depends on which account you read. As per Theoi:

One (less popular) account claims that Ariadne was killed by Artemis:

...but when they arrived in the island of Dia (Naxos), she was killed there by Artemis. (Hom. Od. xi. 324.) The words added in the Odyssey, Dionusou marturiêisin, are difficult to understand, unless we interpret them with Pherecydes by "on the denunciation of Dionysus," because he was indignant at the profanation of his grotto by the love of Theseus and Ariadne. In this case Ariadne was probably killed by Artemis at the moment she gave birth to her twin children, for she is said to have had two sons by Theseus, Oenopion and Staphylus.

Another account claims that she was abandoned by Theseus, either because Theseus was unfaithful and deceiving, or because Theseus was ordered to abandon her by Dionysus, who wanted to marry Ariadne himself.

The more common tradition, however, was, that Theseus left Ariadne in Naxos alive; but here the statements again differ, for some relate that he was forced by Dionysus to leave her (Diod. iv. 61, v. 51; Paus. i. 20. § 2, ix. 40. § 2, x. 29. § 2), and that in his grief he forgot to take down the black sail, which occasioned the death of his father. According to others, Theseus faithlessly forsook her in the island, and different motives are given for this act of faithlessness. (Plut. Thes. 20; Ov. Met. viii. 175, Heroid. 10 ; Hygin. Fab. 43.) According to this tradition, Ariadne put an end to her own life in despair, or was saved by Dionysus, who in amazement at her beauty made her his wife, raised her among the immortals, and placed the crown which he gave her at his marriage with her, among the stars. (Hesiod. Theog. 949; Ov. Met. l. c. ; Hygin. Poet. Astr. ii. 5.)


Mary Renault proposes another option - that Ariadne took part in the chthonic goddess rites of Naxos that still involved human sacrifice, and when Theseus saw this he was repulsed and realized that she would be what Medea was to his father Aegeus.

For reference check out The King Must Die and the Bull from the Sea.

  • 6
    Those are novels, though. She's just making that stuff up.
    – cmw
    Feb 13, 2016 at 3:43
  • she is actually pondering the same question that OP posted and that is her take on it. same as to what the actual minotaur might have been etc.
    – Tom Barker
    Feb 13, 2016 at 7:17
  • @C.M.Weimer: So Plutarch and Hesiod are factual? What is important is whether a retelling is convincing and in the true spirit, not the date of it. Feb 13, 2016 at 11:07
  • 2
    @TomBarker - Theseus and Ariadne were not real people. There was no minotaur to wonder what it might have actually been. I've no problem with speculation, but at that part it belongs in the Science Fiction and Fantasy SE.
    – cmw
    Feb 13, 2016 at 16:08
  • 8
    @TimLymington No, what's important is whether the retelling is authentic to the ancient Greeks. If Herodotus relates a tale of Theseus, he is giving an account of the beliefs of his contemporaries. Mary Renault is instead giving a modern fictional account of the myths. It's interesting, but it's hardly what OP was asking for.
    – cmw
    Feb 13, 2016 at 16:08

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