Study Guide

Theseus: Birth and Early Adventures Setting

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From Troezen to Athens: Movin' On Up

Theseus begins his life with his mother, Aethra, in the sleepy seaside city of Troezen, which is ruled by his grandfather King Pittheous. We're guessing the hero-to-be spent a pretty easy childhood making sandcastles and boogie boarding, or whatever it is that Greek princes from beach towns did back in the day. Troezen seems like a great place for a kid who's the son of the sea god Poseidon to grow up. We're pretty sure he had major bragging rights with all the girls on the beach. He probably said things like, "Hey, you like that ocean? Well, my dad, he owns it."

When his mother reveals to him that he's also the son of King Aegeus of Athens, Theseus's whole world changes. Athens is a way more happening place than Troezen, and Theseus is hell-bent on going there to claim his birthright. Theseus knows that if he becomes the King of Athens, his life is sure to be full of way more fame and fortune. Even though Athens was still far from reaching its peak of power at this point in history, it was already a force to be reckoned with in the Mediterranean. Compared to Troezen, Athens was the big time.

Heroic Age

The myths of Theseus all take place a super long time ago. Even to the old guys who first wrote down Theseus's story, he was a legendary hero from the distant past. Sometimes the era that Theseus and his fellow heroes lived in is called the Heroic Age. Back in these days, the heroes were the sons of gods and the world was crammed with villains and nasty beasts that really needed slaying.

It's important to think about the fact that even to ancient Greeks, Theseus was an ancient figure. It's pretty likely that the fact that heroes in the stories lived so long ago added to the highly fantastical and exaggerated nature of the tales. If a rumor gets passed around school long enough, it gets totally blown out of proportion, right? Well, it's the same way with myths. Someone tells another person about a cool thing somebody did, then after a thousand years of people retelling the story, it gets totally off the hook.

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