On the right of the gateway is a temple of Wingless Victory. From this point the sea is visible, and here it was that, according to legend, Aegeus threw him self down to his death. For the ship that carried the young people to Crete began her voyage with black sails; but Theseus, who was sailing on an adventure against the bull of Minos, as it is called, had told his father beforehand that he would use white sails if he should sail back victorious over the bull. But the loss of Ariadne made him forget the signal. Then Aegeus, when from this eminence he saw the vessel borne by black sails, thinking that his son was dead, threw himself down to destruction. There is at Athens a sanctuary dedicated to him, and called thehero-shrine of Aegeus. Pausanias.
Athenian red-figure kylix depicting Aegeus, King of Athens, consulting the Delphic Oracle (pottery)
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Upon the death of Pandion, Aegeus and his brothers took control of Athens from Metion, who had seized the throne from Pandion. They divided the government in four but Aegeas became king. His first wife was Meta and the second was Chalciope.
Themis (oracle) and Aegeus
Still without a male heir, Aegeus asked the Oracle at Delphi for advice. Her cryptic words were "Do not loosen the bulging mouth of the wineskin until you have reached the height of Athens."
Aegeus (king of Athens) went to Troezena and met with Aethra, daughter of Troezena's king Pittheus. Pittheus understood the prophesy and introduced Aegeas to his daughter, Aethra, when he was drunk. They had sex and then, in some versions, Aethra waded out to the sea to Sphairia and had sex with Poseidon. When she fell pregnant, Aegeus decided to go back to Athens. Before leaving, he covered his sandals, shield and sword under a huge rock and told her that when their son grew up, he should move the rock and bring the weapons back.
Theseus, the child, grew up and became a brave young man. He managed to move the rock and took his father's arms. His mother then told him the truth about who his father was and how he should take the weapons back to him. Theseus decided to go to Athens and had the choice of going by sea, which was the safe way or by land, following a dangerous path with thieves and bandits all the way. Young, brave and ambitious, Theseus decided to go to Athens by land.
When Theseus arrived, he did not reveal his true identity. He was welcomed by Aegeas, who was suspicious about the stranger who came to Athens. Aegeas' wife, Medea (who had fled from the wrath of Jason and had one son, Medus, with Aegeus), tried to have Aegeas kill Theseus by asking him to capture the Marathonian Bull, but Theseus succeeded. She tried to poison him but at the last second, Aegeas recognized the sandals, shield and sword and knocked the wine glass out of Theseus' hand. Father and son were reunited.
King Minos' son, Androgeus, lost every game in a contest to Aegeus of Athens. However, the other contestants were jealous of Androgeus and killed him. Minos was angry and declared war on Athens. He offered the Athenians peace if, every year, they sent him seven young men and seven young women to feed to the Minotaur, a vicious monster. This continued until Theseus killed the Minotaur with the help of Ariadne, Minos' daughter.
Aegeus had told Theseus, before he left, to put up the white sails when he left Crete, if he had been successful in killing the Minotaur. Theseus forgot (deliberately, according to some accounts) and Aegeus jumped into the sea when he saw the black sails coming into Athens, in the mistaken belief that his son had been slain. Henceforth, this sea was known as the Aegean Sea.
Arrival or departure of a young warrior or hero (maybe Theseus arriving at Athens and being recognized because of his sword by Aegeus). Apulian red-figured volute-krater, ca. 410–400 BC. From Ruvo (South Italy).BM F158