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Greek Mythology: The Hero Theseus

Teacher Guide by Anna Warfield

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Student Activities for Greek Mythology: Theseus Include:

Theseus is one of the great heroes of Greek mythology. His exploits demonstrate his intelligence, sense of justice, and great physical skill. Theseus is thought to be the one who united Attica (region of Greece where Athens is), showing him to be a great king and politician. Civilization conquering barbarism and unnaturalness was an important theme for the city of Athens, so of course her greatest hero would bring justice, and order to the world. Theseus is truly the perfect hero for Athens, the center of ancient Greek culture and academics.

By the end of this lesson your students will create amazing storyboards like the ones below!




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Athens

The story goes that, sometime in the mythic past, Athena and Poseidon had a contest over who would be the patron god for the city. Poseidon struck his trident into the ground and created a saltwater spring. Athena gave the people of Athens something a little more useful: the olive tree. The people decided the olive tree - with the accompanying gifts of wood, olives, and olive oil - was the superior blessing. Athena won the contest and so the city was dedicated to her and named Athens.

Athena is the goddess of wisdom, architecture, and battle strategy, making her the perfect patron goddess for the city that later became the capital of Greece and location of great thinkers. Some of the important values of the people are echoed in the stories that persist through the ages. Athens has a history that makes very interesting connections. Many of the themes or the actions of heroic myths are reflective of what a society deem important. Theseus was the greatest hero of Athens and thus his stories are a good way to look at myths as a window into societal values or myths as social stories.

Persia was an enemy of the Greek peoples in the very beginning of the Classical Period. Persia, a country across the sea to the east and beyond the reaches of civilization, and its people were strange and unnatural to the Greeks. So, too, was Crete, the kingdom of Minos. In 480 BCE, history tells us that the Persians invaded and sacked the city of Athens. Under the lead of Athens, city-states formed the Delian League to repulse the Persian forces. In the myth of the Minotaur, Theseus, heir to the throne in Athens, is the one to defeat the strange and unnatural Minotaur, and to free the city from Minos.


Essential Questions for The Myths of Theseus

  1. How does Theseus compare to Hercules? To heroes in modern literature?
  2. What can myths and legends tell us about the values of a society?
  3. How are the Greek myths similar to stories of today?

Greek Mythology: Theseus Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

Themes of Theseus Myths

Themes, symbols, and motifs come alive when you use a storyboard. In this activity, students will identify themes and symbols from the novel, and support their choices with details from the text.


Theseus Myths Themes and Motifs

Bulls

The bull shows up repeatedly in the stories of Minos and Theseus. Europa is abducted by Zeus in the form of a bull, and gives birth to Minos. Pasiphae, Minos' wife, is forced to lust after a bull in punishment for Minos' dishonesty. The Marathon bull kills Minos' son [some stories say Androgeus was assassinated by jealous rivals], and the Minotaur in the labyrinth is part bull. Theseus also captured the Marathon Bull and sacrificed it to the gods.


Just Rewards

Theseus metes out justice to each of the six foes he faces on his way to Athens. Theseus makes the punishment fit the crime. Literally in some cases. The monster in the middle of the Labyrinth who has a taste for human flesh is slain, never to devour human flesh again.


Triumph of Civilization

Theseus triumphs over unjust and savage beings throughout his story. He defeats the bad guys at every turn, from his "Six Labors" on the road to Athens, to the wild Marathon Bull, the unnatural minotaur, and beyond. Theseus and the Athenian army defeats the invading "unnatural" Amazon force who objected to Theseus taking the Amazon Hippolyta. Theseus also helps the Lapiths fight the centaurs who disrupted a wedding in a most uncivilized way.


Theseus Bull Motif
Create your own at Storyboard That BULL MOTIF JUST REWARDS RISE OF CIVILIZATION The bull shows up repeatedly in the story of Minos and Theseus. Europa is abducted by Zeus in the form of a bull. Pasiphae is forced to lust after a bull. The Marathon bull kills Minos' son, and the Minotaur in the labyrinth is part bull. Theseus metes out justice to each of the six foes he faces on his way to Athens. Theseus makes the punishment fit the crime. Literally. Theseus triumphs over unjust and savage beings throughout his story. He defeats the bad guys at every turn, from his "Six Labors" on the road to Athens, to the wild Marathon Bull, the unnatural Minotaur, and beyond.

Example

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Theseus Hero Journey


Copy Assignment



Related to both plot diagram and types of literary conflict, the ”Hero’s Journey” is a recurring pattern of stages many heroes undergo over the course of their stories. Joseph Campbell, an American mythologist, writer, and lecturer, articulated this cycle after researching and reviewing numerous myths and stories from a variety of time periods and regions of the world. He found that they all share fundamental principles. This spawned the Hero’s Journey, also known as the Monomyth. The most basic version has 12 steps, while more detailed versions can have up to 17.

Theseus has a complex story, and the example Hero's Journey storyboard only looks at the story of Theseus and the Minotaur. Theseus' story also follows the Hero's Journey structure from leaving his childhood home to becoming the heir of Aegeus. Consider assigning one Hero's Journey to each half of the class, or do the first Hero's Journey together and the second independently.


Theseus and the Minotaur Hero's Journey

STAGE SUMMARY
Ordinary World Theseus is the son of Aegeus, king of Athens.
Call to Adventure Theseus learns that after a war with Crete, Athens must pay tribute to Minos in Crete by sending young Athenians to be devoured in the Labyrinth every nine years.
Refusal Theseus does not refuse the call. He volunteers to join the Athenian youths who are to go to Crete.
Mentor / Helper His father plays the role of a mentor who worries about Theseus. Aegeas makes Theseus promise he will show that his mission was successful by sailing home with white sails.
Crossing the Threshold Theseus leaves Athens and crosses the sea to the island of Crete.
Test / Allies / Enemies Ariadne falls in love with Theseus and decides to help him. At the suggestion of Daedalus, the creator of the Labyrinth, Ariadne provides Theseus with a sword and spool of thread to find his way back through the Labyrinth.
Approach Theseus enters the Labyrinth. He must travel through the complex maze devised by Daedalus.
Ordeal Theseus battles with and slays the Minotaur. He uses the thread to make his way out of the Labyrinth.
Reward Theseus rescues the young Athenians and takes Ariadne on the boat bound for Greece.
Road Back The ship makes a stop at the island of Naxos, and Ariadne is left behind.
Atonement Atonement doesn't fit well with Theseus' story. If anything, this is the opposite of atonement. Theseus forgets to change the sail from black to white to show he had survived. In grief, his father commits suicide.
Return Theseus returns to Athens to find that his father has died. He is now the new king of Athens.
Theseus Heroic Journey
Create your own at Storyboard That ORDINARY WORLD CALL TO ADVENTURE REFUSAL MENTOR / HELPER CROSSING THE THRESHOLD TESTS / ALLIES / ENEMIES APPROACH ORDEAL REWARD ROAD BACK ATONEMENT RETURN Theseus is the son of Aegeus, king of Athens. Theseus learns that after a war with Crete, Athens must pay tribute to Minos in Crete by sending young Athenians to be devoured in the Labyrinth. Theseus does not refuse the call. He volunteers to join the Athenian youths who are to go to Crete. His father plays the role of a mentor who worries about Theseus. Aegeas makes Theseus promise he will show that his mission was successful by sailing home with white sails. Theseus leaves Athens and crosses the sea to the island of Crete. Ariadne falls in love with Theseus and decides to help him. At the suggestion of Daedalus, the creator of the Labyrinth, Ariadne provides Theseus with a sword and spool of thread to find his way back through the Labyrinth. Theseus enters the Labyrinth. He must travel through the complex maze devised by Daedalus. Theseus battles with and slays the Minotaur. He uses the thread to make his way out of the Labyrinth. Theseus rescues the young Athenians and takes Ariadne on the boat bound for Greece. The ship makes a stop at the island of Naxos, and Ariadne is left behind. Atonement doesn't fit well with Theseus' story. If anything, this is the opposite of atonement. Theseus forgets to change the sail from black to white to show he had survived. In grief, his father commits suicide. Theseus returns to Athens to find that his father has died. He is now the new king of Athens.