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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


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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

Example

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that identifies recurring themes and motifs in the story of Theseus. Illustrate instances of each and write a short description below each cell.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Identify the theme(s) and/or motifs from the Theseus myth you wish to include and replace the "Theme 1" text.
  3. Create an image for an example that represents this theme.
  4. Write a description of each of the examples.



Template: Theme

Example

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Theseus Hero Journey


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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

Example

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Use the story of Theseus and map it to the narrative structure of the Hero's Journey.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Depict and describe how the chosen character's story fits (or does not fit ) into each of the stages of the Hero's Journey.
  3. Finalize images, edit, and proofread your work.
  4. Save and submit storyboard to assignment.



TEMPLATE - HERO'S JOURNEY

Example

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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The Adventures of Theseus, Episode 2

Like Hercules, Theseus is a hero of many adventures. Have students retell one (or more) of his heroic encounters in the style of a TV episode, or perhaps a skit that will actually be filmed in class. For this activity, students need to move beyond the words on the page and reimagine the myth as a television episode or video. Students need to consider setting, theme, characters, point of view, and more when devising a movie storyboard!


Some of Theseus' Adventures

Theseus encountered quite a few villains in his day:


  • Periphetes the Club-Bearer
  • Sinis the Pine-Bender
  • Phaia (Crommyonian Sow)
  • Sceiron
  • Cercyon
  • Procrustes
  • Medea
  • Minotaur
  • Marathon Bull
  • Amazons
  • Centaurs and Lapiths

Filming Aspects to Consider

  • Setting and props
  • Character costumes
  • Actions and emotions of characters
  • Character dialogue
  • Narrator/voiceover
  • Camera point of view
  • Camera shot distance
  • Camera movement within a shot
  • Background audio, sound effects, music
  • Lighting and/or filters
  • Camera Focus


Check out our film resources like Camera Shots.

Example Theseus Heroic Episode

SHOT # CAMERADIALOGUEACTION
1Establish the shotNarrator: When we last left Theseus, he had discovered his true identity and set off for Athens.Theseus walks toward the camera from a distance.
2Zoom in on PeriphetesNarrator: Periphetes the Club-Bearer. He is the son of Hephaestus and Anticleia. His favorite pastimes include whacking people on the head with a bronze club and robbing their corpses.
3Cut to full shotPeriphetes: Halt, Traveler! I am Periphetes. Don't worry, you won't need to remember my name for much longer. I shall beat you with my bronze club! Periphetes jumps out from behind a tree. Theseus is startled.
4Cut to mid shotTheseus: Wait... is your club REALLY made out of bronze? I've heard the stories, but I just can't believe it. Theseus shows disbelief and disinterest.
4Mid shotPeriphetes: What?! How dare you! I am the mightiest! Take a look for yourself and see my great bronze club!

Narrator: He's got him now!
Periphetes gives Theseus the club.
5Cut to full shot; slow zoom in and focus on PeriphetesNarrator: Our mighty adventurer gave Periphetes exactly what he deserved: a knock on the noggin! Next time on the Adventures of Theseus: Sinis the Pine-Bender! Periphetes lies on the ground. Theseus walks away

On the Way to Athens

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Theseus Myth Summary


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A common use for Storyboard That is to help students create a plot diagram of the events from a story. Not only is this a great way to teach the parts of the plot, but it reinforces major events and helps students develop greater understanding of literary structures.

Students can create a storyboard capturing the narrative arc in a work with a six-cell storyboard containing the major parts of the plot diagram. For each cell, have students create a scene that follows the story in sequence using: Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.



Example Theseus and the Minotaur Plot Diagram

Exposition

Theseus is born to Aethra and Aegeus. His father leaves his sword and sandals under a rock for Theseus to find when he is older.


Conflict

After retrieving his father's sword, Theseus goes to Athens where the Marathon Bull kills a visiting prince from Crete. [Some versions say Androgeus was assassinated by jealous rivals because he was successful in the Olympic Games.] Athens and Crete go to war. Crete is victorious.


Rising Action

An oracle tells Athens to satisfy Minos' demands: Athens must submit fourteen young people every nine years to Knossos. Theseus volunteers as tribute to Crete, as one of the seven youths and seven maidens that Minos requires.


Climax

Ariadne, a princess in Crete, falls in love with Theseus. With the help of Daedalus, she tells Theseus to use a spool of thread to find his way. Theseus enters the labyrinth.


Falling Action

Theseus defeats the Minotaur and escapes.


Resolution

Though Theseus won the day, tragedy strikes. Theseus forgot to change the sails from black to white. His father jumped off the cliff into the ocean from grief, thinking the mission had not been successful.


Theseus and the Minotaur Plot Diagram

Example

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a visual plot diagram of the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur.


  1. Separate the story into the Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.
  2. Create an image that represents an important moment or set of events for each of the story components.
  3. Write a description of each of the steps in the plot diagram.



Plot Diagram Template

Example

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•   (English) Greek Mythology: Theseus   •   (Español) Mitología Griega: Teseo   •   (Français) Mythologie Grecque: Thésée   •   (Deutsch) Griechische Mythologie: Theseus   •   (Italiana) Mitologia Greca: Teseo   •   (Nederlands) Griekse Mythologie: Theseus   •   (Português) Mitologia Grega: Theseus   •   (עברית) מיתולוגיה יוונית: תזאוס   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) الأساطير اليونانية: ثيسيوس   •   (हिन्दी) ग्रीक पौराणिक कथाओं: थेसियस   •   (ру́сский язы́к) Греческая Мифология: Тесей   •   (Dansk) Græsk Mytologi: Theseus   •   (Svenska) Grekisk Mytologi: Theseus   •   (Suomi) Kreikkalainen Mytologia: Theseus   •   (Norsk) Gresk Mytologi: Theseus