This work explores what Theseus, the greatest Athenian hero, meant to the Athenians at the height of their city-state in the fifth century BC. Assembling material that has been scattered throughout the literature, the author examines the evidence for the development of the myth and cult of Theseus; explores the contradiction between the archaic, primitive Theseus and his refurbished image as a patron of democracy; and analyses his ambiguous nature as an outsider through his representations in the work of Bacchylides, Euripides, and Sophocles. The book brings to life a literary character whose virtues, flaws. and contradictions belong in no less a degree to his creators, the people of Athens.

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