Classical Mythology, Day 12

In this class we return to individual heroes, Bellerophon and Theseus. These narratives return us to a more traditional heroic narrative with important developments. Bellerophon in particular invites us to think about the “hero’s fall” while Theseus offers the model of hero as law-maker and civilizing force. Both heroes also ask us to reflect more on the engagement between heroes and women. Bellerophon goes into exile because of one woman (introducing the particularly misogynistic ‘Potiphar’s Wife’ motif) while Theseus, despite his ‘civilizing’ character appears to encounter only trouble with women through his stories, especially in the cases of Ariadne and Phaidra.


Ancient Authors Discussed

Homer, Archaic Age

Hesiod, Archaic Age

Pindar, Early Classical Period

Aeschylus, Classical Period

Euripides, Classical Period

Ovid, Roman Imperial Period

Apollodorus, Roman Imperial Period?

Plutarch, Roman Imperial Period

Pausanias, Roman Imperial Period


Some Suggested Course Texts

Hesiod, Theogony 319-325

Homer, Iliad 6.116-240

Apollodorus on Bellerophon

Apollodorus on Theseus

Plutarch on Theseus

Ovid, Heroides 10: Ariadne to Theseus

Links to Blogposts

Fragments about Bellerophon

Pausanias on the death of Theseus

The Origin of the Minotaur

Tales of Ariadne


Modern Authors Mentioned


Other Articles for Additional Reading

Nylah Burton. “Stop Using This Biblical Story to Discredit Survivors of Sexual Assault.” Alma

Claude Calame. “Creation of Gender and Heroic Identity between Legend and Cult: The Political Creation of Theseus by Bacchylides.”


Similar Myths

Potiphar’s Wife Motif: Genesis 39-40

Romulus as a Lawmaker


Student Links

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Dionysus and Ariadne (before 79 CE), fresco in Casa dei Capitelli Colorati, Pompeii, Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, Naples. By Sailko, via Wikimedia Commons.

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