'Ariadne', John William Waterhouse
‘Ariadne’, John William Waterhouse

Ariadne was a daughter of Minos, king of Crete.  She defied her father by helping his prisoner, Theseus, who had been imprisoned in the Minotaur’s labrynth.  Ariadne gave him the thread that he used to find his way to freedom after killing the monster.  In helping Theseus, she risked the anger and retribution of her father — in a strange familial twist so often found in Greek myth, the Minotaur was also Ariadne’s half brother.

After securing his freedom, Theseus took Ariadne with him in order to make her his bride.  They stopped on the island of Naxos where Theseus’ memory was clouded and he abandoned her there.

Ariadne, like the Lady of Shalott and Mariana, is seemingly doomed to an isolated existence.  However, unlike the Lady of Shalott whose curse came to fruition, Ariadne was rescued by the god Dionysis, who married her. Accounts of Ariadne differ. In one, Dionysis gives her a crown of gems and upon her death, he places her as a constellation in the sky.  Most tales of Ariadne hold that she was given immortality and became a goddess herself, as seen in Hesiod’s Theogeny where she is described as the “wife of Dionysis, whom Zeus made immortal”.

'Ariadne at Naxos', Evelyn De Morgan
‘Ariadne at Naxos’, Evelyn De Morgan


1 thought on “Ariadne”

  1. Thisbe was one half of the famous “Pyramus and Thisbe” duo featured in myths starting with Ovid’s Metamorphoses on to Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and, more recently, the American musical The Fantastiks. Thisbe, you see, was this Babylonian hottie who had a boyfriend living next door. But back then, they were more about virginity and then marriage with someone you’d never spoken to, so both their parents forbid it. On the up side, there was a hole in the wall separating their gardens that they were always talking through. So anyway, one day they arranged to meet at this tomb (now, I don’t know what they were expecting meeting at a dead dude’s house). So Thisbe got there first, and then this lioness dragged up an ox she was eating and Thisbe totally wigged out and booked out. Of course, she also dropped her scarf, which the lioness nuzzled. To make a long story short, Pyramus came, saw the bloody scarf, assumed Thisbe was dead and killed himself, and then Thisbe killed herself, and the mulberry tree they had met beneath was stained from white to red by their blood. The painting at right is another of John Waterhouse’s masterpieces.


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