The Origins of the Goddess Ariadne

II. The Variants of the Myth

The variant accounts of the abduction by Theseus of Ariadne, daughter of the Cretan king·Minos, at first appear to be not only numerous but confusing as well. The oral tradition has been in this case most prolific. Indeed, Plutarch was prompted to write:

Πολλοὶ δὲ λόγοι καὶ περὶ τούτων ἔτι λέγονται καὶ περὶ τῆς Ἀριάδνης, οὐδὲν ὁμολογούμενον ἔχοντες.

There are many other stories about these matters, and also about Ariadne, but they do not agree at all.

(Plutarch, Theseus XX.1) [1]

Yet amid this confusion, amid this mass of snarled and tangled attestations, localizations, and descriptions, we may find the threads to the origins of the goddess Ariadne. The attested material must be carefully examined in a comparative perspective.

The variant versions of the Ariadne-Theseus tale are most conveniently divided on the basis of locale. This criterion accommodates 1) epichoric history, 2) cult practice, and 3) verifiable archaeological evidence. Accordingly, the variants can be localized in five specific regions: Crete, Dia/Naxos, Cyprus, Delos, and Argos. {2|3}

It should be observed before the Cretan variants are discussed that virtually all of the accounts of Ariadne’s abduction begin from the same starting point, the familiar myth of the heroine’s love for Theseus and of her providing the famous thread by which he was to escape the Labyrinth.

Ἐπεὶ δὲ κατέπλευσεν εἰς Κρήτην, ὡς μὲν οἱ πολλοὶ γράφουσι καὶ ᾄδουσι, παρὰ τῆς Ἀριάδνης ἐρασθείσης τὸ λίνον λαβών, καὶ διδαχθεὶς ὡς ἔστι τοῦ λαβυρίνθου τοὺς ἑλιγμοὺς διεξελθεῖν, ἀπέκτεινε τὸν Μινώταυρον καὶ ἀπέπλευσε τὴν Ἀριάδνην ἀναλαβὼν καὶ τοὺς ἠϊθέους. Φερεκύδης δὲ καὶ τὰ ἐδάφη τῶν Κρητικῶν νεῶν φησιν ἐκκόψαι τὸν Θησέα, τὴν δίωξιν ἀφαιρούμενον. Δήμων δὲ καὶ τὸν Ταῦρον ἀναιρεθῆναί φησι τὸν τοῦ Μίνω στρατηγόν, ἐν τῷ λιμένι διαναυμαχοῦντα τοῦ Θησέως ἐκπλέοντος.

When he reached Crete on his voyage, most historians and poets tell us that he got from Ariadne, who had fallen in love with him, the famous thread, and that having been instructed by her how to make his way through the intricacies of the Labyrinth, he slew the Minotaur and sailed off with Ariadne and the youths. And Pherecydes says that Theseus also staved in the bottoms of the Cretan ships, thus depriving them of the power to pursue. And Demon says also that Taurus, the general of Minos, was killed in a naval battle in the harbour as Theseus was sailing out.

Among the alternate versions of this portion of the tale, that of Philochorus may be dismissed almost immediately, as it is obviously nothing more than a humanization of the better-known variant:

ὡς δὲ Φιλόχορος ἱστόρηκε, τὸν ἀγῶνα, τοῦ Μίνω συντελοῦντος, ἐπίδοξος ὢν ἅπαντας πάλιν νικήσειν, ὁ Ταῦρος ἐφθονεῖτο. καὶ γὰρ ἡ δύναμις αὐτοῦ διὰ τὸν τρόπον ἦν ἐπαχθής, καὶ διαβολὴν εἶχεν ὡς τῇ Πασιφάῃ πλησιάζων. διὸ καὶ τοῦ Θησέως ἀξιοῦντος ἀγωνίσασθαι συνεχώρησεν ὁ Μίνως. ἔθους δὲ ὄντος ἐν Κρήτῃ θεᾶσθαι καὶ τὰς γυναῖκας, Ἀριάδνη παροῦσα πρός τε τὴν ὄψιν ἐξεπλάγη τοῦ Θησέως καὶ τὴν ἄθλησιν ἐθαύμασε πάντων κρατήσαντος. ἡσθεὶς δὲ καὶ ὁ Μίνως μάλιστα τοῦ Ταύρου καταπαλαισθέντος καὶ προπηλακισθέντος, ἀπέδωκε τῷ Θησεῖ τοὺς παῖδας καὶ ἀνῆκε τῇ πόλει τὸν δασμόν.

But as Philochorus tells the story, Minos was holding the funeral games, and Taurus was expected to conquer all his competitors in them, as he had done before, and was begrudged his success. For his disposition made his power hateful, and he was accused of too great intimacy with Pasiphae. Therefore when Theseus asked the privilege of entering the lists, it was granted him by Minos. And since it was the custom in Crete for women to view the games, Ariadne was present, and was smitten with the appearance of Theseus, as well as filled with admiration for his athletic prowess, when he conquered all his opponents. Minos also was delighted with him, especially because he conquered Taurus in wrestling and disgraced him, and therefore gave back the youths to Theseus, besides remitting its tribute to the city.

The version of Cleidemus, which Plutarch terms “rather peculiar and ambitious,” is worthy of more extensive consideration:

Ἰδίως δέ πως καὶ περιττῶς ὁ Κλείδημος ἀπήγγειλε περὶ τούτων, ἄνωθέν ποθεν ἀρξάμενος, ὅτι δόγμα κοινὸν ἦν Ἑλλήνων μηδεμίαν ἐκπλεῖν τριήρη μηδαμόθεν ἀνδρῶν πέντε πλείονας δεχομένην· τὸν δὲ ἄρχοντα τῆς Ἀργοῦς Ἰάσονα μόνον περιπλεῖν ἐξείργοντα τῆς θαλάττης τὰ λῃστήρια. Δαιδάλου δὲ πλοίῳ φυγόντος εἰς Ἀθήνας, Μίνως παρὰ τὰ δόγματα μακραῖς ναυσὶ διώκων ὑπὸ χειμῶνος εἰς Σικελίαν ἀπηνέχθη κἀκεῖ κατέστρεψε τὸν βίον. ἐπεὶ δὲ Δευκαλίων ὁ υἱὸς αὐτοῦ πολεμικῶς ἔχων πρὸς τοὺς Ἀθηναίους ἔπεμψεν, ἐκδιδόναι Δαίδαλον αὑτῷ κελεύων ἢ τοὺς παῖδας ἀποκτενεῖν ἀπειλῶν οὓς ἔλαβεν ὁμήρους ὁ Μίνως, τούτῳ μὲν ἀπεκρίνατο πρᾴως ὁ Θησεύς, παραιτούμενος ἀνεψιὸν ὄντα Δαίδαλον κἀκείνῳ κατὰ γένος προσήκοντα, μητρὸς ὄντα Μερόπης τῆς Ἐρεχθέως, αὐτὸς δὲ ναυπηγίαν ἐπεβάλετο, τὴν μὲν ἐν Θυμαιταδῶν αὐτόθι μακρὰν τῆς ξενικῆς ὁδοῦ, τὴν δὲ διὰ Πιτθέως ἐν Τροιζῆνι, βουλόμενος λανθάνειν. γενομένων δὲ ἑτοίμων ἐξέπλευσε τόν τε Δαίδαλον ἔχων καὶ φυγάδας ἐκ Κρήτης καθηγεμόνας· οὐδενὸς δὲ προειδότος, ἀλλὰ ναῦς φιλίας οἰομένων τῶν Κρητῶν προσφέρεσθαι, τοῦ λιμένος κρατήσας καὶ ἀποβὰς ἔφθασεν εἰς τὴν Κνωσσὸν παρελθών· καὶ μάχην ἐν πύλαις τοῦ Λαβυρίνθου συνάψας ἀπέκτεινε τὸν Δευκαλίωνα καὶ τοὺς δορυφόρους. ἐν δὲ τοῖς πράγμασι τῆς Ἀριάδνης γενομένης, σπεισάμενος πρὸς αὐτὴν τούς τε ἠϊθέους ἀνέλαβε καὶ φιλίαν ἐποίησε τοῖς Ἀθηναίοις πρὸς τοὺς Κρῆτας, ὀμόσαντας μηδέποτε πολέμου κατάρξειν. {5|6}

Cleidemus, however, gives a rather peculiar and ambitious account of these matters, beginning a great way back. There was, he says, a general Hellenic decree that no trireme should sail from any port with a larger crew than five men, and the only exception was Jason, the commander of the Argo, who sailed about scouring the sea of pirates. Now when Daedalus fled from Crete in a merchant vessel to Athens, Minos, contrary to the decrees, pursued him with his ships of war, and was driven from his course by a tempest to Sicily, where he ended his life. And when Deucalion, his son, who was on hostile terms with the Athenians, sent to them a demand that they deliver up Daedalus to him, and threatened, if they refused, to put to death the youth whom Minos had received from them as hostages, Theseus made him a gentle reply, declining to surrender Daedalus, who was his kinsman and cousin, being the son of Merope, the daughter of Erechtheus. But privately he set himself to building a fleet, part of it at home in the township of Thymoetadae, far from the public road, and part of it under the direction of Pittheus in Troezen, wishing his purpose to remain concealed. When his ships were ready, he set sail, taking Daedalus and exiles from Crete as his guides, and since none of the Cretans knew of his design, but thought the approaching ships to be friendly, Theseus made himself master of the harbour, disembarked his men, and got to Knossos before his enemies were aware of his approach. Then joining battle with them at the gate of the Labyrinth, {6|7} he slew Deucalion and his bodyguard. And since Ariadne was now at the head of affairs, he made a truce with her, received back the youthful hostages, and established friendship between the Athenians and the Cretans, who took oath never to begin hostilities.

This account, however, with its beginnings in the distant past and its strangely political and anticlimactic ending, seems never to have gained real prominence, possibly because it effectively prevents the continuation and development of the tale. For with such a background, the flight of Ariadne with Theseus, her marriage to Dionysus on Naxos, and her death on Cyprus could never have come to pass.

At the close, then, of the second Cretan variant, Ariadne is firmly established on Naxos, and it is the other variants which center about this island which must now be taken into consideration. One important detail, however, should first be noted: Naxos was also known by the name Dia. Indeed, judging from Diodorus Siculus’ brief account of the history of the island, the name Dia appears to be the older of the two, assigned to the island by Otus and Ephialtes, whom Aloeus, their father, had dispatched in search of Iphimedeia, his wife, and Pancratis, his daughter, earlier taken captive by the Thracians and transported to the island. [13] Nonetheless, this particular name was prevalent throughout the Greek Mediterranean world, and Stephanus of Byzantium notes the existence of at least four islands which bore it: Naxos itself, one near Melos, one near Amorgos, and one off Knossos. [14] {10|11} Eustathius reaches the ultimate in compounded confusion with his statement:

νῆσος δὲ αὕτη πρὸ τῆς Κρήτης ἱερὰ Διονύσου ἡ καὶ Νάξος ἐκλήθη.

And the island itself, in front of Crete, is sacred to Dionysus and is also called Naxos.

Since the Dia situated just off the Cretan coast near Knossos was “rankly identified in her Ariadne-context with Naxos by Naxian mythographers,” [
16] we may, from the standpoint of structural analysis, equate the two islands. For it is obvious that the Naxians, for the sake of their own cultural and cultic prestige, expropriated all the local features of Dia for their motifs. The geographical situation suggests that a similar equation might be established between Naxos and the other Dia’s, as at least three of the four islands mentioned can be shown by independent evidence to have belonged to the Minoan Thalassocracy, and consequently to have been equally accessible to the Ariadne-Theseus tradition and equally susceptible to the thievery of the Naxians. [17]

The Naxians themselves, “in the manner of the Euhemeristic writers, who split up the gods into two {11|12} or more figures to suit their hypotheses,” [18] postulated two Ariadnes:

Καὶ Ναξίων δέ τινες ἰδίως ἱστοροῦσι δύο Μίνωας γενέσθαι καὶ δύο Ἀριάδνας, ὧν τὴν μὲν Διονύσῳ γαμηθῆναί φασιν ἐν Νάξῳ καὶ τοὺς περὶ Στάφυλον τεκεῖν, τὴν δὲ νεωτέραν ἁρπασθεῖσαν ὑπὸ τοῦ Θησέως καὶ ἀπολειφθεῖσαν εἰς Νάξον ἐλθεῖν, καὶ τροφὸν μετ᾿ αὐτῆς ὄνομα Κορκύνην, ἧς δείκνυσθαι τάφον. ἀποθανεῖν δὲ καὶ τὴν Ἀριάδνην αὐτόθι καὶ τιμὰς ἔχειν οὐχ ὁμοίας τῇ προτέρᾳ. τῇ μὲν γὰρ ἡδομένους καὶ παίζοντας ἑορτάζειν, τὰς δὲ ταύτῃ δρωμένας θυσίας εἶναι πένθει τινὶ καὶ στυγνότητι μεμιγμένας.

Some of the Naxians also have a story of their own, that there were two Minoses and two Ariadnes, one of whom, they say, was married to Dionysus in Naxos and bore him Staphylus and his brother, and the other, of a later time, having been carried off by Theseus and then abandoned by him, came to Naxos, accompanied by a nurse named Corcyne, whose tomb they show; and that this Ariadne also died there, and has honors paid her unlike those of the former, for the festival of the first Ariadne is celebrated with mirth and revels, but the sacrifices performed in honor of the second are attended with sorrow and mourning.

A number of the more fragmentary variants stand in close alignment with one or the other of these {12|13} prototypes. The Hesiodic tradition that golden­haired Dionysus took fair Ariadne as his wife, and that Zeus later made her both immortal and ageless, concurs with the first Naxian variant, although no specific localization is provided:

Χρυσοκόμης δὲ Διώνυσος ξανθὴν Ἀριάδνην,
κούρην Μίνωος, θαλερὴν ποιήσατ᾽ ἄκοιτιν,
τὴν δέ οἱ ἀθάνατον καὶ ἀγήρω θῆκε Κρονίων.

And golden-haired Dionysus made blond­haired Ariadne, the daughter of Minos, his buxom wife: and the son of Cronos made her deathless and unageing for him.

The account by Theocritus, with its brief mention of Theseus’ forgetting the maiden on Dia, builds upon the second version:

ἶυγξ, ἕλκε τὺ τῆνον ἐμὸν ποτὶ δῶμα τὸν ἄνδρα.
ἐς τρὶς ἀποσπένδω κἠς τρὶς τάδε, πότνια, φωνῶ·
εἴτε γυνὰ τήνῳ παρακέκλιται εἴτε καὶ ἀνήρ,
τόσσον ἔχοι λάθας, ὅσσον ποκὰ Θησέα φαντὶ
ἐν Δίᾳ λασθῆμεν ἐϋπλοκάμω Ἀριάδνας.

Wryneck, wryneck, draw him hither. Thrice this libation I pour, thrice, Lady, this prayer I say: be woman at this hour or man his love-mate, O be that mate forgotten even as old Theseus once forgat the fair-tressed damsel in Dia.

The same is true of Hyginus’ Fabula, in which Theseus is portrayed as leaving Ariadne on Dia while she is {13|14} asleep, from fear of incurring opprobrium upon arrival in his fatherland:

Theseus in insula Dia tempestate retentus cogitans si Ariadnen in patriam portasset sibi opprobrium futurum, itaque in insula Dia dormientem reliquit, quam Liber amans inde sibi in coniugium abduxit. Theseus autem cum navigaret oblitus est vela atra mutare: itaque Aegeus pater eius credens Theseum a Minotauro esse consumptum in mare se praecipitavit, ex quo Aegeum pelagus est dictum. Ariadnes autem sororem Phaedram Theseus duxit in coniugium.

Theseus, detained by a storm on the island of Dia, thought it would be a reproach to him if he brought Ariadne to Athens, and so he left her asleep on the island of Dia. Liber, falling in love with her, took her from there as his wife. However, when Theseus left, he forgot to change the black sails, and so his father Aegeus judged that he had been devoured by the Minotaur. He threw himself into the sea, which was called Aegean from this. But Theseus married Phaedra, Ariadne’s sister.

The more lengthy and detailed variants, however, contain in virtually every instance elements from each of the Naxian versions. This is not surprising, as the two Naxian examples are neither so fully expanded nor so thoroughly opposed in content that they would have to be regarded as mutually exclusive. {14|15} Indeed, a number of the variants combine with remarkable ease practically all of the elements of both versions. The two variants which Diodorus Siculus relates are the most outstanding in this regard. In one of his accounts, Theseus, having escaped from Crete under the cover of darkness together with Ariadne, arrives at Naxos only to have Dionysus commandeer the maiden from him:

ἀνακομιζόμενος δ᾿ εἰς τὴν πατρίδα καὶ κλέψας τὴν Ἀριάδνην ἔλαθεν ἐκπλεύσας νυκτός, καὶ κατῆρεν εἰς νῆσον τὴν τότε μὲν Δίαν, νῦν δὲ Νάξον προσαγορευομένην.

Καθ᾿ ὃν δὴ χρόνον μυθολογοῦσι Διόνυσον ἐπιφανέντα, καὶ διὰ τὸ κάλλος τῆς Ἀριάδνης ἀφελόμενον τοῦ Θησέως τὴν παρθένον, ἔχειν αὐτὴν ὡς γυναῖκα γαμετὴν ἀγαπωμένην διαφερόντως. μετὰ γοῦν τὴν τελευτὴν αὐτῆς διὰ τὴν φιλοστοργίαν ἀθανάτων καταξιῶσαι τιμῶν, καταστερίσαντα τὸν ἐν οὐρανῷ στέφανον Ἀριάδνης.

In making his way back to his native land he carried off Ariadne and sailed out unobserved during the night, after which he put in at the island which at that time was called Dia, but is now called Naxos.

At this same time, the myths relate, Dionysus showed himself on the island, and because of the beauty of Ariadne he took the maiden away from Theseus and kept her as his lawful wife, loving her exceedingly. Indeed, {15|16} after her death he considered her worthy of immortal honors because of the affection he had for her, and placed among the stars of heaven the “Garland of Ariadne.”

In Diodorus’ other account, Theseus, while a guest of the Naxians, is warned by Dionysus in a dream to forsake his companion Ariadne in favor of the god, who then spirits her off and disappears:

ἐπὶ δὲ τούτου Θησεὺς ἐκ Κρήτης ἀναπλέων μετὰ τῆς Ἀριάδνης ἐπεξενώθη τοῖς ἐν τῇ νήσῳ· καὶ κατὰ τὸν ὕπνον ἰδὼν τὸν Διόνυσον ἀπειλοῦντα αὐτῷ, εἰ μὴ ἀπολείψει τὴν Ἀριάδνην αὑτῷ, φοβηθεὶς κατέλιπε καὶ ἐξέπλευσε. Διόνυσος δὲ νυκτὸς ἀπήγαγε τὴν Ἀριάδνην εἰς τὸ ὄρος τὸ καλούμενον Δρίος· καὶ ἐν ἀρχῇ μὲν ἠφανίσθη ὁ θεός, μετὰ δὲ ταῦτα καὶ ἡ Ἀριάδνη ἄφαντος ἐγενήθη.

And it was during the reign of Smerdius that Theseus, on his voyage back from Crete together with Ariadne, was entertained as a guest by the inhabitants of the island; and Theseus, seeing in a dream Dionysus threatening him if he would not forsake Ariadne in favor of the god, left her behind him there in his fear and sailed away. And Dionysus led Ariadne away by night to the mountain which is known as Drius; and first of all the god disappeared, and later Ariadne also was never seen again.

Some of Pausanias’ references to Ariadne, though more brief than those of Diodorus, also capture elements from both Naxian variants. In describing the ornamentation of the oldest sanctuary of Dionysus in Attica, he reports that, in addition to a number of other figures, the following are portrayed: Ariadne asleep, Theseus putting out to sea, and Dionysus on his arrival to carry off Ariadne:

ταῦτά τε δὴ γεγραμμένα εἰσὶ καὶ Πενθεὺς καὶ Λυκοῦργος ὧν ἐς Διόνυσον ὕβρισαν διδόντες δίκας, Ἀριάδνη δὲ καθεύδουσα καὶ Θησεὺς ἀναγόμενος καὶ Διόνυσος ἥκων ἐς τῆς Ἀριάδνης τὴν ἁρπαγήν.

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.

Referring to scenes in the paintings of Polygnotus which were exhibited in the Lesche of the Cnidians, Pausanias also notes that Ariadne had been taken away from Theseus by Dionysus, who sailed against him with superior forces: {17|18}

τὴν δὲ Ἀριάδνην ἢ κατά τινα ἐπιτυχὼν δαίμονα ἢ καὶ ἐπίτηδες αὐτὴν λοχήσας ἀφείλετο Θησέα ἐπιπλεύσας Διόνυσος στόλῳ μείζονι,

Ariadne was taken away from Theseus by Dionysus, who sailed against him with superior forces, and either happened upon Ariadne by chance or else caught her by way of ambush.

In the Homeric version of the happenings on Dia, we find an integral amalgamation of the two Naxian variants. There is, however, a slightly different turn from the others which have been considered, in that Ariadne dies at the hands of Artemis at the prompting of Dionysus:

“Φαίδρην τε Πρόκριν τε ἴδον καλήν τ᾿ Ἀριάδνην,
κούρην Μίνωος ὀλοόφρονος, ἥν ποτε Θησεὺς
ἐκ Κρήτης ἐς γουνὸν Ἀθηνάων ἱεράων
ἦγε μέν, οὐδ᾿ ἀπόνητο· πάρος δέ μιν Ἄρτεμις ἔκτα
Δίῃ ἐν ἀμφιρύτῃ Διονύσου μαρτυρίῃσιν.

And Phaedra and Procris I saw, and fair Ariadne, the daughter of Minos of baneful mind, whom once Theseus was fain to bear from Crete to the hill of sacred Athens; but he had no joy of her, for ere that, Artemis slew her in sea-girt Dia, and Dionysus was witness.

In light of these numerous variants, the splitting of Ariadne by Naxian mythographers might well be {18|19} regarded as an artificial attempt to reconcile a true structural split within the goddess-figure itself. An originally functional binarism within the figure of Ariadne is obvious. Her dual roles of joyous bride and mournful castoff are reflected in the antithetical character of the rites with which she is honored: in the revelry which surrounds the spouse of Dionysus and in the lamentation which accompanies the death of the abandoned. It seems secondary to create a pair of goddesses in order that each might bear a single set of attributes, especially when other divinities, such as Dionysus himself, Demeter, and Persephone, have borne, and borne most appropriately, these same two sets of attributes. Moreover, to attempt to validate such a renovational split by assigning the goddesses to different points in time, as the Naxian mythographers did, seems contrived. The character of the two prototypical variants proposed by the Naxians, with their loose and relatively undeveloped patterns, is painfully unauthentic, and the fact that the two variants could be, and actually were, successfully combined attests to this. The binarism of Ariadne is present from the very beginning, and the somewhat awkward attempt of the Naxian mythographers at making {19|20} it more acceptable is successful in nothing other than establishing it even more firmly.

In addition to the Cretan and Naxian variants mentioned above, Plutarch notes the existence of another account of these matters published by Paeon of Amathus. According to this account, “a wind-driven Ariadne landed on Cyprus and died of issueless birth-pangs; her tomb was in the grove of Ariadne Aphrodite at Amathus, and rituals in her honor included a male travesty of travail”: [28]

Ἃ δ᾿ ἐστὶν εὐφημότατα τῶν μυθολογουμένων, πάντες ὡς ἔπος εἰπεῖν διὰ στόματος ἔχουσιν. ἴδιον δέ τινα περὶ τούτων λόγον ἐκδέδωκε Παίων ὁ Ἀμαθούσιος. τὸν γὰρ Θησέα φησὶν ὑπὸ χειμῶνος εἰς Κύπρον ἐξενεχθέντα καὶ τὴν Ἀριάδνην ἔγκυον ἔχοντα, φαύλως δὲ διακειμένην ὑπὸ τοῦ σάλου καὶ δυσφοροῦσαν, ἐκβιβάσαι μόνην, αὐτὸν δὲ τῷ πλοίῳ βοηθοῦντα πάλιν εἰς τὸ πέλαγος ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς φέρεσθαι. τὰς οὖν ἐγχωρίους γυναῖκας τὴν Ἀριάδνην ἀναλαβεῖν καὶ περιέπειν ἀθυμοῦσαν ἐπὶ τῇ μονώσει, καὶ γράμματα πλαστὰ προσφέρειν, ὡς τοῦ Θησέως γράφοντος αὐτῇ, καὶ περὶ τὴν ὠδῖνα συμπονεῖν καὶ βοηθεῖν· ἀποθανοῦσαν δὲ θάψαι μὴ τεκοῦσαν. ἐπελθόντα δὲ τὸν Θησέα καὶ περίλυπον γενόμενον τοῖς μὲν ἐγχωρίοις ἀπολιπεῖν χρήματα, συντάξαντα θύειν τῇ Ἀριάδνῃ, δύο δὲ μικροὺς ἀνδριαντίσκους ἱδρύσασθαι, τὸν μὲν ἀργυροῦν, τὸν δὲ χαλκοῦν. ἐν δὲ τῇ θυσίᾳ τοῦ Γορπιαίου μηνὸς ἱσταμένου δευτέρᾳ {20|21} κατακλινόμενόν τινα τῶν νεανίσκων φθέγγεσθαι καὶ ποιεῖν ἅπερ ὠδίνουσαι γυναῖκες· καλεῖν δὲ τὸ ἄλσος Ἀμαθουσίους, ἐν ᾧ τὸν τάφον δεικνύουσιν, Ἀριάδνης Ἀφροδίτης.

Now the most auspicious of these legendary tales are in the mouths of all men, as I may say; but a very peculiar account of these matters is published by Paeon the Amathusian. He says that Theseus, driven out of his course by a storm to Cyprus, and having with him Ariadne, who was big with child and in sore sickness and distress from the tossing of the sea, set her on shore alone, but that he himself, while trying to succour the ship, was borne out to sea again. The women of the island, accordingly, took Ariadne into their care, and tried to comfort her in the discouragement caused by her loneliness, brought her forged letters purporting to have been written to her by Theseus, ministered to her aid during the pangs of travail, and gave her burial when she died before her child was born. Paeon says further that Theseus came back, and was greatly afflicted, and left a sum of money with the people of the island, enjoining them to sacrifice to Ariadne, and caused two little statuettes to be set up in her honor, one of silver, and one of bronze. He says also that at the sacrifice in her honor on the second day of the month Gorpiaeus, one of their young men lies down and imitates the cries and gestures of women in travail; and that they call the grove in which they show her tomb, the grove of Ariadne Aphrodite.

This variant alone finds Ariadne on Cyprus and, in its overriding tone of sadness, stands apart from the Naxian versions spoken of earlier, in which the sadness was always mixed with joy. Is the binarism of the goddess, then, not to be considered a universal attribute? Is it something restricted to a single geographical locus? Several seemingly small details within Paean’s account suggest the opposite. The two little statuettes which Theseus has struck in Ariadne’s honor, each of a different sort of metal, might in themselves seem an inconclusive bit of evidence in support of the duality of the goddess’s role. However, when considered in conjunction with the fact that the tomb of the goddess lies within the grove of Ariadne Aphrodite, a more substantial basis may be established for hypothesizing the universal quality of this female figure’s binary character. For the addition of the name Aphrodite to that of Ariadne can be construed as little else than an attempt at maintaining the ritual sorrowful/joyous polarity of the goddess, after, as is obviously the case here, the designation Ariadne itself has become specialized to the extent that it bears only sad connotations. Therefore, even in the midst of this heavily predominant {22|23} atmosphere of sadness and dejection, the goddess seems to retain, at least to some degree, her biformal nature.

Just as Aphrodite plays a major role in the context of the Cyprian version of the Ariadne-Theseus tale, so too does she enter into the Delian accounts. Pausanias, referring to the works of Daedalus, reports the existence on Delos of a small wooden image of Aphrodite and describes the circumstances of its dedication:

καὶ Δηλίοις Ἀφροδίτης ἐστὶν οὐ μέγα ξόανον, λελυμασμένον τὴν δεξιὰν χεῖρα ὑπὸ τοῦ χρόνου· κάτεισι δὲ ἀντὶ ποδῶν ἐς τετράγωνον σχῆμα. πείθομαι τοῦτο Ἀριάδνην λαβεῖν παρὰ Δαιδάλου, καὶ ἡνίκα ἠκολούθησε τῷ Θησεῖ, τὸ ἄγαλμα ἐπεκομίζετο οἴκοθεν· ἀφαιρεθέντα δὲ αὐτῆς τὸν Θησέα οὕτω φασὶν οἱ Δήλιοι τὸ ξόανον τῆς θεοῦ ἀναθεῖναι τῷ Ἀπόλλωνι τῷ Δηλίῳ, ἵνα μὴ οἴκαδε ἐπαγόμενος ἐς ἀνάμνησίν τε Ἀριάδνης ἐφέλκηται καὶ ἀεὶ νέας ἐπὶ τῷ ἔρωτι εὑρίσκηται τὰς συμφοράς.

At Delos, too, there is a small wooden image of Aphrodite, its right hand defaced by time, and with a square base instead of feet. I am of the opinion that Ariadne got this image from Daedalus, and when she followed Theseus, took it with her from home. Bereft of Ariadne, say the Delians, Theseus dedicated {23|24} the wooden image of the goddess to the Delian Apollo, lest by taking it home he should be dragged into remembering Ariadne, and so find the grief for his love ever renewed.

Plutarch, in discussing the same event, notes the location of the image of Aphrodite within the temple of Theseus and gives a detailed account of the dance accompanying the ceremony:

Ἐκ δὲ τῆς Κρήτης ἀποπλέων εἰς Δῆλον κατέσχε· καὶ τῷ θεῷ θύσας καὶ ἀναθεὶς τὸ ἀφροδίσιον ὃ παρὰ τῆς Ἀριάδνης ἔλαβεν, ἐχόρευσε μετὰ τῶν ἠϊθέων χορείαν ἣν ἔτι νῦν ἐπιτελεῖν Δηλίους λέγουσι, μίμημα τῶν ἐν τῷ Λαβυρίνθῳ περιόδων καὶ διεξόδων, ἔν τινι ῥυθμῷ παραλλάξεις καὶ ἀνελίξεις ἔχοντι γιγνομένην. καλεῖται δὲ τὸ γένος τοῦτο τῆς χορείας ὑπὸ Δηλίων γέρανος, ὡς ἱστορεῖ Δικαίαρχος. ἐχόρευσε δὲ περὶ τὸν Κερατῶνα βωμόν, ἐκ κεράτων συνηρμοσμένον εὐωνύμων ἁπάντων. ποιῆσαι δὲ καὶ ἀγῶνά φασιν αὐτὸν ἐν Δήλῳ, καὶ τοῖς νικῶσι τότε πρῶτον ὑπ᾿ ἐκείνου φοίνικα δοθῆναι.

On his voyage from Crete, Theseus put in at Delos, and having sacrificed to the god and dedicated in his temple the image of Aphrodite which he had received from Ariadne, he danced with his youths a dance which they say is still performed by the Delians, being an imitation of the circling {24|25} passages in the Labyrinth, and consisting of certain rhythmic involutions and evolutions. This kind of dance, as Dicaearchus tells us, is called by the Delians The Crane, and Theseus danced it round the altar called Keraton, which is constructed of horns (“kerata”) taken entirely from the left side of the head. They say that he also instituted athletic contests in Delos, and that the custom was then begun by him of giving a palm to the victors.

Callimachus, too, although he begins by relating the festival rites which later surrounded the figure, describes the dedication in a manner similar to, though less detailed than, that of Plutarch. He alone, however, makes mention of the θεωρία which the Athenians had vowed to send to Delos every year if Theseus returned home safely:

Whatever the status of Aphrodite’s image, the association between Ariadne and Aphrodite seen in the {26|27} Cyprian variant is further substantiated by the three Delian versions. The fact that Ariadne would carry along with her an image of the other goddess serves as strong confirmation of the bond between them. Indeed, the tragic character of the figure of Ariadne, although not stressed here to the same degree as elsewhere, is once again balanced by the joyous and delightful quality of Aphrodite’s nature, as indicated in the merry rites which accompany her worship. Yet might not there be something further suggested by this association? Perhaps the fact that Ariadne is remembered on Delos only in connection with the image of Aphrodite indicates a supersession of one figure by the other or a syncretization of the two. This possibility will be discussed later.

The final variants to be discussed are the Ariadne-Theseus tales from Argos, which bring together elements of the Naxian, the Cyprian, and the Delian accounts. This, it must be noted, does not necessarily imply derivation of the Argive variants from the several other versions, but rather is intended merely as an observation on the basis of the independent accounts dealing with each area. Pausanias, as part of his discussion of the structures of Corinth, notes the presence of the temple of the {27|28} Cretan Dionysus, in which the sarcophagus of Ariadne was said to have been discovered

τοῦτό τε οὖν τὸ οἰκοδόμημά ἐστι καὶ Κροτώπου μνῆμα καὶ Διονύσου ναὸς Κρησίου. Περσεῖ γὰρ πολεμήσαντα αὐτὸν καὶ αὖθις ἐλθόντα ἐς λύσιν τοῦ ἔχθους τά τε ἄλλα τιμηθῆναι μεγάλως λέγουσιν ὑπὸ Ἀργείων καὶ τέμενός οἱ δοθῆναι τοῦτο ἐξαίρετον· Κρησίου δὲ ὕστερον ὠνομάσθη, διότι Ἀριάδνην ἀποθανοῦσαν ἔθαψεν ἐνταῦθα. Λυκέας δὲ λέγει κατασκευαζομένου δεύτερον τοῦ ναοῦ κεραμέαν εὑρεθῆναι σορόν, εἶναι δὲ Ἀριάδνης αὐτήν· καὶ αὐτός τε καὶ ἄλλους Ἀργείων ἰδεῖν ἔφη τὴν σορόν. πλησίον δὲ τοῦ Διονύσου καὶ Ἀφροδίτης ναός ἐστιν Οὐρανίας.

Besides this building there is the tomb of Crotopus and a temple of Cretan Dionysus. For they say that the god, having made war on Perseus, afterwards laid aside his enmity, and received great honors at the hands of the Argives, including this precinct set specially apart for himself. It was afterwards called the precinct of the Cretan god, because, when Ariadne died, Dionysus buried her here. But Lyceas says that when the temple was being rebuilt an earthenware coffin was found, and that it was Ariadne’s. He also said that both he himself and other Argives had seen it. Near the temple of Dionysus is a temple of Heavenly Aphrodite.

Ariadne, then, has once again found her way into collocation with Dionysus, as also with Aphrodite.{28|29} Her relationship with Dionysus in life, so clearly, if somewhat simplistically, established within the Naxian variants is extended in Argos to one encompassing even death. Indeed, the sarcophagus of the goddess, like her tomb at Amathus and the grave of her nurse Corcyne on Naxos, is an important confirmation of the localization of the myth. Moreover, the relative closeness of the temple of Heavenly Aphrodite indicates once again the possibility of that divinity’s overshadowing of Ariadne.

The alternate Argive variant seems also to be related to the Naxian material, since there is incorporated in it a trace of the same vegetation festival which occurs on that island. The legend, which centers not around Theseus and Ariadne but rather around the death of Hesiod, is localized in a place called Oenoe in Opuntian Locris. It involves the “falsely alleged rape of a girl by the poet, his murder by her relatives, his body brought ashore during an Ariadne festival, the murderer’s flight to Crete, and the girl’s suicide through hanging”: [35] {29|30}

τοῦ δὲ ἀγῶνος διαλυθέντος διέπλευσεν ὁ Ἡσίοδος εἰς Δελφοὺς χρησόμενος καὶ τῆς νίκης ἀπαρχὰς τῷ θεῷ ἀναθήσων. προσερχομένου δὲ αὐτοῦ τῷ ναῷ ἔνθεον γενομένην τὴν προφῆτίν φασιν εἰπεῖν·

ὄλβιος οὗτος ἀνὴρ ὃς ἐμὸν δόμον ἀμφιπολεύει,
Ἡσίοδος Μούσῃσι τετιμένος ἀθανάτῃσιν·
τοῦ δ᾿ ἦτοι κλέος ἔσται, ὅσην τ᾿ ἐπικίδναται ἠώς.
ἀλλὰ Διὸς πεφύλαξο Νεμείου κάλλιμον ἄλσος·
κεῖθι δέ τοι θανάτοιο τέλος πεπρωμένον ἐστίν.

ὁ δὲ Ἡσίοδος ἀκούσας τοῦ χρήσμοῦ, τῆς Πελοποννήσου μὲν ἀνεχώρει, νομίσας τὴν ἐκεῖ Νεμέαν τὸν θεὸν λέγειν, εἰς δὲ Οἰνόην τῆς Λοκρίδος ἐλθὼν καταλύει παρ᾿ Ἀμφιφάνει καὶ Γανύκτορι, τοῖς Φηγέως παισίν, ἀγνοήσας τὸ μαντεῖον· ὁ γὰρ τόπος οὗτος ἅπας ἐκαλεῖτο Διὸς Νεμείου ἱερόν. διατριβῆς δὲ αὐτῷ πλείονος γενομένης ἐν τοῖς Οἰνοεῦσιν, ὑπονοήσαντες οἱ νεανίσκοι τὴν ἀδελφὴν αὐτῶν μοιχεύειν τὸν Ἡσίοδον, ἀποκτείναντες εἰς τὸ μεταξὺ τῆς Ἀχαΐας καὶ τῆς Λοκρίδος πέλαγος κατεπόντισαν. τοῦ δὲ νεκροῦ τριταίου πρὸς τὴν γῆν ὑπὸ δελφίνων προσενεχθέντος, ἑορτῆς τινος ἐπιχωρίου παρ᾿ αὐτοῖς οὔσης Ἁριαδνείας, πάντες ἐπὶ τὸν αἰγιαλὸν ἔδραμον καὶ τὸ σῶμα γνωρίσαντες, ἐκεῖνο μὲν πενθήσαντες ἔθαψαν, τοὺς δὲ φονεῖς ἀνεζήτουν. οἱ δέ φοβηθέντες τὴν τῶν πολιτῶν ὀργήν κατασπάσαντες ἁλιευτικὸν σκάφος διέπλευσαν εἰς Κρήτην· οὓς κατὰ μέσον τὸν πλοῦν ὁ Ζεὺς κεραυνώσας κατεπόντωσεν, ὥς φησιν Ἀλκιδάμας ἐν Μουσείῳ. Ἐρατοσθένης δέ φησιν ἐν Ἡσιόδῳ Κτίμενον καὶ Ἄντιφον τοὺς Γανύκτορος ἐπὶ τῇ προειρημένῃ αἰτίᾳ ἐναλόντας σφαγιασθῆναι θεοῖς τοῖς ξενίοις ὑπ᾿ Εὐρυκλέους τοῦ μάντεως· τὴν μέντοι παρθένον, τὴν ἀδελφὴν τῶν προειρημένων, μετὰ τὴν φθορὰν ἑαυτὴν ἀναρτῆσαι· φθαρῆναι δὲ ὑπό τινος ξένου συνόδου τοῦ Ἡσιόδου Δημώδους ὄνομα· ὃν καὶ αὐτὸν {30|31} ἀναιρεθῆναι ὑπὸ τῶν αὐτῶν φησιν. ὕστερον δὲ Ὀρχομένιοι κατὰ χρησμὸν μετενέγκαντες αὐτὸν παρ᾿ αὑτοῖς ἔθαψαν καὶ ἐπέγραψαν ἐπὶ τῷ τάφῳ·

Ἄσκρη μὲν πατρὶς πολυλήϊος, ἀλλὰ θανόντος
ὀστέα πληξίππων γῆ Μινυῶν κατέχει
Ἡσιόδου, τοῦ πλεῖστον ἐν ἀνθρώποις κλέος ἐστίν
ἀνδρῶν κρινομένων ἐν βασάνῳ σοφίης.

After the gathering was dispersed, Hesiod crossed to the mainland and went to Delphi to consult the oracle and to dedicate the first fruits of his victory to the god. They say that as he was approaching the temple, the prophetess became inspired and said:

“Blessed is this man who serves my house—Hesiod, who is honored by the deathless Muses: surely his renown shall be as wide as the light of dawn is spread. But beware of the pleasant grove of Nemean Zeus; for there death’s end is destined to befall you.”

When Hesiod heard this oracle, he kept away from the Peloponnesus, supposing that the god meant the Nemea there; and coming to Oenoe in Locris, he stayed with Amphiphanes and Ganyctor the sons of Phegeus, thus unconsciously fulfilling the oracle; for all that region was called the sacred place of Nemean Zeus. He continued to stay a somewhat long time at Oenoe, until the young men, suspecting Hesiod of seducing their sister, killed him and cast his body into the sea which separates Achaea and Locris. On the third day, however, his body was brought to land by dolphins while some local feast of Ariadne was being held. Thereupon, all the {31|32} people hurried to the shore, and recognizing the body, lamented over it and buried it, and then began to look for the assassins. But these, fearing the anger of their countrymen, launched a fishing boat, and put out to sea for Crete: they had finished half their voyage when Zeus sank them with a thunderbolt, as Alcidamas states in his Museum. Eratosthenes, however, says in his Hesiod that Ctimenus and Antiphus, sons of Ganyctor, killed him for the reasons already stated, and were sacrificially slaughtered by Eurycles the seer to the gods of hospitality. He adds that the girl, sister of the above-named, hanged herself after she had been seduced, and that she was seduced by some stranger, Demodes by name, who was travelling with Hesiod, and who was also killed by the brothers. At a later time the men of Orchomenus removed his body as they were directed by an oracle, and buried him in their own country where they placed this inscription on his tomb:

“Ascra with its many wheatfields was his native land; but in death the land of the horse-driving Minyans holds the bones of Hesiod, whose renown is greatest among men of all who are judged by the test of craftsmanship.”

Of all the variants discussed, the status of this particular one appears, at first glance, to be the most questionable. Nevertheless, the occurrence of vegetation rites, a flight to Crete, and a death by {32|33} hanging within this variant leaves little doubt about its relation in content to the other variants. Its inclusion, therefore, is most advisable. {33|34}


[ back ] 1. Bernadotte Perrin, trans. Plutarch’s Lives, The Loeb Classical Library (London, 1928), I, p. 41.

[ back ] 2. Perrin, p. 37.

[ back ] 3. Perrin, pp. 37–39.

[ back ] 4. Perrin, pp. 39–41.

[ back ] 5. Jaan Puhvel, “Eleuther and Oinoatis: Dionysiac Data from Mycenaean Greece,” Mycenaean Studies, ed. Emmett L. Bennett Jr. (Madison, 1964), p. 165.

[ back ] 6. Perrin, p. 41.

[ back ] 7. Martin P. Nilsson, The Minoan-Mycenaean Religion and its Survival in Greek Religion, 2nd ed. (Lund, 1950), p. 528. Also, cf. Pausanias III.19.10.

[ back ] 8. Eratosthenes, ap. schol., Iliad XXII 29; Hyginus, Fabula 130, Poetica Astronomica II.4; Apollodorus III 191–192; Ovid, Metamorphoses VI 125.

[ back ] 9. Nilsson, p. 531.

[ back ] 10. Euripides, Hippolytus; Seneca, Phaedra; Ovid, Metamorphoses XV 492ff., Heroides IV.

[ back ] 11. Perrin, p. 41.

[ back ] 12. Diodorus Siculus v.52.

[ back ] 13. Diodorus Siculus v.51.

[ back ] 14. Stephani Byzantii, Ethnicorum Quae Supersunt, ex Recensione Augusti Meinekii (Berlin, 1849), I, p. 229.

[ back ] 15. Translation my own.

[ back ] 16. Puhvel, p. 166.

[ back ] 17. Sterling Dow, “The Greeks in the Bronze Age,” The Language and Background of Homer, ed. G. S. Kirk (Cambridge, 1964), p. 150.

[ back ] 18. Nilsson, p. 525.

[ back ] 19. Perrin, pp. 43–35.

[ back ] 20. Hugh G. Evelyn-White, trans. Hesiod, The Homeric Hymns, and Homerica, The Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge and London, 1959), p. 149.

[ back ] 21. J. M. Edmonds, trans. The Greek Bucolic Poets, The Loeb Classical Library (London and New York, 1923), pp. 29–31.

[ back ] 22. Mary A. Grant, trans. The Myths of Hyginus (Lawrence, Kansas, 1960), p. 55.

[ back ] 23. C. H. Oldfather, trans. Diodorus Siculus, The Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge and London, 1952), III, pp. 11–13.

[ back ] 24. Oldfather, pp. 239–241.

[ back ] 25. W. H. S. Jones, trans. Description of Greece, by Pausanias, The Loeb Classical Library (London and New York, 1918), I, p. 99.

[ back ] 26. Jones, IV (1935), p. 535, modified.

[ back ] 27. A. T. Murray, trans. The Odyssey, by Homer, The Loeb Classical Library (London, 1953), I, p. 409, modified.

[ back ] 28. Puhvel, p. 166.

[ back ] 29. Perrin, p. 43.

[ back ] 30. Jones, IV, p. 357.

[ back ] 31. Perrin, p. 45.

[ back ] 32. Translation originally was that of A. W. and G. R. Mair, trans. Callimachus, Lycophron, and Aratus, The Loeb Classical Library (London and New York, 1921), pp. 109–111. It has been updated to that of S. Lombardo and D, Taylor, trans. Callimachus: Hymns, Epigrams, Select Fragments (Baltimore, 1988), p. 30.

[ back ] 33. Nilsson, p. 500.

[ back ] 34. Jones, I, p. 373.

[ back ] 35. Puhvel, p. 168.

[ back ] 36. Evelyn-White, pp. 587–589, modified.