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The “Theseus Mosaic” is among the most beautiful mosaics ever found in Austria. It portrays scenes from the Theseus legend, set in an ornamental framework. According to the Greek myth, Ariadne, the daughter of the Cretan king Minos, fell in love with the young Theseus when he arrived from Athens to slay the Minotaur, a terrifying monster with a bull’s head on a human body, and free the Athenians from paying tribute to the Minotaur in the form of human sacrifice. With the aid of the king’s daughter, the hero succeeded in killing the beast in the Cretan Labyrinth and safely returned from the winding paths of the maze. Since Theseus had promised to marry Ariadne once he had accomplished his task, they fled to his ship and sailed off to Athens. At the gods’ behest, however, the hero deserted his beloved on the island of Naxos, where Dionysus, the god of wine, found the abandoned and mourning Ariadne and made her his wife. The large central picture of the “Theseus Mosaic” shows the killing of the Minotaur by the Athenian hero. With its regular winding paths, the Cretan Labyrinth occupies most of the mosaic like a giant ornament. Theseus safely makes his way out of the maze with the help of the red thread Ariadne has given him, as the picture on the left illustrates. In the upper picture, the hero boards the ship with Ariadne in order to return to Athens. Theseus, however, had forgotten to replace the black sails with white ones to signal his success. Sighting the ship from afar and thinking mistakenly that Theseus’s expedition had failed, his father, Aegeus, threw himself into the sea. The Aegean Sea, according to legend, was so named as a result of this event. The right picture shows Ariadne in mourning on Naxos. © Kurt Gschwantler, Alfred Bernhard-Walcher, Manuela Laubenberger, Georg Plattner, Karoline Zhuber-Okrog, Masterpieces in the Collection of Greek and Roman Antiquities. A Brief Guide to the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna 2011

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Theseus Mosaic (Supplemental)

Theseus Mosaic (Supplemental)

Theseus Mosaic (Supplemental)

Theseus Mosaic (Supplemental)

Theseus Mosaic (Supplemental)

Theseus Mosaic (Supplemental)

Theseus Mosaic (Supplemental)

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