King Aegeus – The tragic father of Theseus leapt to his death off the cliff in Sounion

Τhe story begins when Androgeus, a son of King Minos of Crete, was murdered in Athens. When King Minos heard what had befallen his son, he ordered the Cretan fleet to set sail for Athens. Minos asked Aegeus, the king of Athens, for his son’s assassins, and if they were to be handed to him, the town would be spared.

King Minos demanded that, at nine-year intervals, seven Athenian boys and seven Athenian girls were to be sent to Crete to be devoured by the Minotaur, a half-man, half-bull monster that lived in the Labyrinth.

Theseus, the son of King Aegeus, took the place of one of the youths and set off with a black sail, promising to his father, that if successful he would return with a white sail.

Cape Sounio and the ruins of the temple of Poseidon. According to Greek mythology, the spot where Aegeus, king of Athens, leapt to his death off the cliff, thus giving his name to the Aegean Sea / Image source

On his arrival in Crete, Ariadne, King Minos’ daughter, fell in love with Theseus and, on the advice of Daedalus, gave him a ball of thread (a clew), so he could find his way out of the Labyrinth. As soon as Theseus entered the Labyrinth, he tied one end of the ball of string to the doorpost and brandished his sword which he had kept hidden from the guards inside his tunic. Theseus came to the heart of the Labyrinth and also upon the sleeping Minotaur. The beast awoke and a tremendous fight then occurred. Theseus overpowered the Minotaur with his strength and stabbed the beast in the throat with his sword.

After decapitating the beast, Theseus used the string to escape the Labyrinth and managed to escape with all of the young Athenians and Ariadne.

Theseus, returning from Crete, forgot to put up the white sails instead of the black ones, so his father, the king, believing he was dead, committed suicide, throwing himself off a cliff of Sounion and into the sea, thus causing this body of water to be named the Aegean Sea.

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