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The change of Theseus story in classical Athens <NOTE>
Theseus was the greatest national hero in classical Athens. In the middle of the sixth century, Theseus was represented on Attic vase painting in two following themes: the fights against the Minotaur and the Bull of Marathon. The products of these iconographies were, however, quite limited. Depictions of Herakles, on the other hand, were very common and were far more popular than that of Theseus during this period. Around 510 B.C. Theseus scenes began to change. From 510 B.C. the theme of battles between Theseus and bandits appeared. They happened in his journey from his homeland Troizen to Athens. As the result of this change, Herakles scenes were reduced in number and replaced by Theseus scenes.
Walker explained this replacement of subject from Herakles to Theseus around 510 B.C. in the historical and political context in Ahens. While Herakles was taken to be a Dorian hero, the Athenians saw Theseus as their own hero. In this time Athenian citizens saw Sparta as threat, because the Spartans repeatedly tried to intervene in the politics of Athens in the last quarter of the sixth century. So the Athenians set Theseus up as a rival to the widely admired hero of the Dorians, and the Athenian artist began to adopt the Theseus story.
Theseus was a hero who incorporated in nationalistic thoughts of Athenians that grew up through contacts with foreign invaders, for example the Spartans. In classical Athens a compliment to the hero was risen more and more. In the half of the fifth century, Bacchylides developed another story that Theseus was the son of Poseidon. That is to say, he was descended from god. We can find that during this period he was already firmly taken to be a national hero of Athens.
In this paper I try to explain that the great change occurred at ca. 510 B.C., by which Theseus became decisively the greatest national hero of Athens.
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