The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







Ariadne ("utterly pure," from a Cretan-Greek form for arihagne) was a fertility goddess of Crete. Her name is merely an epithet, for she was originally the "Mistress of the Labyrinth", both a prison with the dreaded Minotaur at its center and a winding dance-ground. She was especially worshipped on Naxos, Delos, Cyprus, and in Athens. (The Romans called their comparable goddess Libera and their poets associated her with Minoan-Greek Ariadne.)

In later Greek mythology, Ariadne's divine origins were submerged and she became known as the daughter of King Minos of Crete, who conquered Athens after his son was murdered there. The Athenians were required to sacrifice seven young men and seven maidens each year to the Minotaur. One year, the sacrificial party included Theseus, a young man who volunteered to come and kill the Minotaur. Ariadne fell in love at the first sight of him, and helped him by giving him a magic sword and a ball of thread so that he could find his way out the Minotaur's labyrinth. She ran away with Theseus after he achieved his goal, and according to Homer was punished by Artemis with death, but in Hesiod and most others accounts, he left her sleeping on Naxos, and Dionysus wedded her. With Dionysus, she was the mother of Oenopion.

Ariadne is also the name of a play by A.A. Milne. Ariadne auf Naxos furnished the subject for an opera by Richard Strauss.

Last updated: 05-22-2005 04:17:01