I am wondering whether there is a classical source for this version of what happens when Theseus abandons Ariadne at Naxos:


Theseus and Ariadne fall asleep on the island, but Dionysos shows himself to Theseus (in flesh or in a dream) and tells him that Ariadne is condemned, because she assisted in the murder of her brother, the Minotaur. The only way she can be saved is by marrying him, Dionysos, thus becoming immortal. But Theseus will have to abandon her for that to happen. Theseus leaves the sleeping Ariadne and deports with the ship. She awakes, thinks she has been left alone, encounters Dionysos, and accepts his hand in marrige.


This was the way the story was told in a children's book I read when I was 9. I have reread them and the author is very dependable and does not roam too far from the classical sources, but I cannot find this particular explanation anywhere else. In the old texts, the explanations seem to be either that he abandoned her because he wanted to marry someone else, that Dionysos appeared to him in a dream and told him to leave her alone, or that Dionysos killed her because she was condemned by the gods. The particular line of reasoning - that the god had to marry her in order to save her from death and condemnation - is not something I have been able to find. Does that mean the author of the children's book made this up, or are there other sources I should be aware of that tells the story in a similar way?

Thank you in advance.

1 Answer 1


There are two textual sources for this, there is no mention for Dionysos' motivation:

Pausanias, Description of Greece, Chapter 20:

The oldest sanctuary of Dionysus is near the theater. Within the precincts are two temples and two statues of Dionysus, the Eleuthereus (Deliverer) and the one Alcamenes made of ivory and gold. There are paintings here—Dionysus bringing Hephaestus up to heaven. One of the Greek legends is that Hephaestus, when he was born, was thrown down by Hera. In revenge he sent as a gift a golden chair with invisible fetters. When Hera sat down she was held fast, and Hephaestus refused to listen to any other of the gods save Dionysus—in him he reposed the fullest trust—and after making him drunk Dionysus brought him to heaven. Besides this picture there are also represented Pentheus and Lycurgus paying the penalty of their insolence to Dionysus, Ariadne asleep, Theseus putting out to sea, and Dionysus on his arrival to carry off Ariadne.

Pausanias, Description of Greece, Chapter 29:

Ariadne was taken away from Theseus by Dionysus, who sailed against him with superior forces, and either fell in with Ariadne by chance or else set an ambush to catch her. This Dionysus was, in my opinion, none other than he who was the first to invade India, and the first to bridge the river Euphrates. Zeugma (Bridge) was the name given to that part of the country where the Euphrates was bridged, and at the present day the cable is still preserved with which he spanned the river; it is plaited with branches of the vine and ivy.

  • There doesn't appear to be a mention of marriage.
    – Spencer
    Commented Jul 5, 2020 at 12:40
  • In many Greek tales, "carry off" implies marriage or at least sexual relations. For example, Homer describes King Priam of Troy giving permission for Helen to be "carried off" by his son Paris, as a reprisal for Menelaos doing the same with Priam's sister, Hesione (an important detail not in the movie Troy).
    – Codosaur
    Commented Jul 6, 2020 at 11:44
  • 1
    That definitely should be edited into the answer, then.
    – Spencer
    Commented Jul 6, 2020 at 11:49

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