Theseus 9: The Tragedy of Phaedra and Hippolytus
Later in years, Theseus, wanting to strengthen the ties to Crete’s kingdom, remarries to Princess Ariadne’s sister Phaedra. During these years, Phaedra gives birth to two sons, and Theseus quashes a usurpation attempt by his uncle, Pallas. But tragic machinations begin when Theseus son, Hippolytus, from his previous marriage to the Amazonian Antiope, visits the kingdom. Hippolytus, in the service of Artemis, has made a vow to chastity, which angers Aphrodite. Seeking to punish the man, Aphrodite bewitches Phaedra to fall in love with her step son. When Hippolytus refuses the queen’s lustful advances, either from heartbreak, shame, or fear of Theseus’, Phaedra commits suicide; but not before leaving a note accusing Hippolytus of rape. Theseus, believing his dead wife’s allegation, curses his son and prays to his father Poseidon for revenge. Poor Hippolytus, fleeing the kingdom in his chariot, is beset by Poseidon’s giant bull erupting from the sea. The horses spook, the chariot overturns, and Hippolytus is dragged to his death.
The version of the tale I recount here, where Aphrodite seeks to punish the chaste hero, (similar to her role in Atalanta’s myth) is based on Euripides’ play, “Hippolytus” (428 B.C.E.) In the play, the final scene has Artemis appearing before Theseus to inform him of Phaedra’s deception, and Hippolytus, dying, forgives his father, leaving the king to process the tragic turn of events. In earlier versions of the tale, Aphrodite’s presence is absent, and Phaedra’s lustful actions are her own.
Certainly Greek myths contains many instances of male gods and heroes abducting and raping helpless female victims. But here we have the rare ancient literary example of the flip side of the token; an innocent man suffering the consequences of a false rape allegation. There are other tales which share this motif. An ancient Egyptian tale of two brothers and a lustful wife, ends with the younger accused brother decapitating his own penis in renunciation of the allegation. In the Iliad, Homer tells of the hero Bellerophon, and the assassination attempt on his life by the king Proteus, after refusing the queen Anteia’s advances. In Genesis of the Old Testament, Joseph refuses Potiphar’s wife, and is thrown into prison as a result of the false rape allegations.
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Ares in Mythology:
Kills the guy who tried to assault his daughter and refused to apologize for it when he got put on trial (it was ruled justifiable homicide by Athena btw).
The only time he’d been captured in battle was when he was protecting his mom from being captured by giants who wanted to forcibly marry her.
Found and Freed Thanatos when he was imprisoned by Sisyphus when no other Gods could
Helps found the Amazons by helping their founder escape her abusive husband and becomes their patron God.
Genuinely loves and respects Aphrodite as her own person
One of his epithets is “feasted by women”.
Ares in Modern Media:
Meatheaded sexist asshole out of an eighties teen movie.
Conclusion: My boy is getting done dirtier than Hades in modern representation. Ares is one of the least problematic Gods in the pantheon (except for the murders, I will grant you) and ya’ll are sleeping on him.