17. MYTH, POLITICS AND PROPAGANDA

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Theseus and Athenian politics

  • Parallels with Pisistratus (546-528 B.C.) and son Hippias (528-510 B.C.)
    • coinage: T. said to have invented coinage, minted coins with ox
      • P. minted coins with ox
    • synoikism--T. said to have united towns of Attica, centralized government
      • P. built senate chamber and building to house senators
    • Panathenian games--T. said to have founded them
      • P. elaborated that festival, added new elements
    • T. defeated ancestral family of Pallene
      • P. beat opponents at Pallene; dedicated their weapons in shrine of Theseus
    • Pisistratus also, according to some scholars:
      • added a line about Theseus to Odyssey
      • removed a line damaging to Theseus from Hesiod
        • it said love for another woman made him abandon Ariadne
      • had an epic composed about Theseus
  • Theseus under Kimon (c. 500 B.C.), who revived democracy
    • cycle of youthful labors first appears on vases now (or a little earlier?)
    • Ariadne's part in story suppressed; Theseus had to return to Athens for duty
    • some say story of Theseus uniting Attica invented now
      • new senate buildings constructed now
    • Theseus renounced kingship in favor of democracy--story starts now
  • Theseus in 5th century
    • Athenian treasury at Delphi, built soon after Battle of Marathon (490 B.C.)
      • shows Theseus with Athena for first time (like Herakles)
      • shows labors of both heroes; and both fighting together against Amazons
    • Hephaisteion (450 B.C.)
      • Theseus shown fighting centaurs with friend Peirithoos
        • in pose of tyrant-slayers, who tried to assassinate Hippias in 514 B.C., and of whom there was a famous sculpture
    • Nike Temple (520 B.C.)
      • Athenians shown fighting Persians at Marathon (490 B.C.)
        • Theseus and friend are there, in same poses as in Hephaisteion
      • Athenians shown fighting Corinthians (430 B.C.)
        • message: they'll win the Peloponnesian War just as they beat the Persians


Last updated: 11/3/07

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