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Theseus



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Theseus, son and successor of Aegetus, king of the Athenians.  The history of this Grecian hero is so much mixed up with the fables of antiquity that it is scarcely possible to disentangle his real exploits from the marvellous adventures which posts and tragedians have ascribed to him.  But Plutarch, in his life has collected many things worthy of commemoration and there are some passages in Apollodorus which also serve to justify his title to celebrity. The only circumstance by which a name, familiar enough to mythological associations, can with any show of probability, be brought within the range of Roman numismatics, is that of the contorniate medal given in Morell’s Thesaurus.  This pseudo monetal relic bears Nero’s portrait on its obverse; it has for legend of reverse AGIT SPETESEVS; and for type a naked warrior, with helmet on his head and spear and buckler in his left hand.  He stands, with his right hand pressing on the neck of a Centaur, who holds a lyre, and whom he seems in the act of forcibly compelling to go down on his knees.    Ovid (in Metamorph. Lib. Xii.) in recounting the incidents of a bloody skirmish between the Centaurs and the Lapithae, assembled together at the nuptial feast of Pirthous, sings the praises of Theseus, who slew Eurytus and others of the double-limped race “half-man, half-beasts,” for committing a brutal outrage on fair Hippodame, the bride of his faithful friend.  Of the meaning to be attached to the inscription above-quoted, no satisfactory explanation has been offered and whether the group portrayed on the contorniate was intended to shadow forth the triumphant prowess of Theseus, as the ally of “the horse-tamers,” and the avenger of outraged hospitality and the insulted honour of marriage is a question still left to be determined by those who may deem it worthy of further inquiry.  But the type shows at least that the family or tribe of the Centaurs continued to cultivate the science of music after the example of their great progenitor Chiron.  See Centaur.


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