Sleeping Ariadne 2

The Vatican Museum's Sleeping Ariadne, long called Cleopatra, a roman marble in late hellenistic style.

Ariadne (pronounced: /æriˈædniː/; Ancient Greek: Ἀριάδνη; ]]Latin]]: Ariadna; "most holy", Cretan Greek αρι [ari] "most" and αδνος [adnos] "holy"), in Greek mythology, was the daughter of Minos king of Crete,[1] and his queen Pasiphaë, daughter of Helios, the Sun-titan.[2] She is mostly associated with mazes and labyrinths, due to her involvement in the myths of the Minotaur and Theseus. Her father put her in charge of the labyrinth where sacrifices were made as part of reparations (either to Poseidon or to Athena, depending on the version of the myth); however, she would later help Theseus in overcoming the Minotaur and saving the would-be sacrificial victims. In other stories, she became the bride of the god Dionysus, with the question of her background as being either a mortal or a goddess varying in those accounts.[3][4]

Minos and Theseus

Since ancient Greek myths were passed down through oral tradition, many variations of this and other myths exist.[5] According to an Athenian version of the legend, Minos attacked Athens after his son was killed there. The Athenians asked for terms, and were required to sacrifice seven young men and seven maidens every seven or nine years to the Minotaur. One year, the sacrificial party included Theseus, the son of King Aegeus, who volunteered to come and kill the Minotaur. Ariadne fell in love at first sight, and helped him by giving him a sword and a ball of thread, so that he could find his way out of the Minotaur's labyrinth.

She eloped with Theseus after he achieved his goal, but according to Homer "he had no joy of her, for ere that, Artemis slew her in seagirt Dia because of the witness of Dionysus" (Odyssey XI, 321-5). Homer does not expand on the nature of Dionysus' accusation, but the Oxford Classical Dictionary speculates that she was already married to Dionysus when Theseus ran away with her.


Titian Bacchus and Ariadne

Bacchus and Ariadne by Titian: Dionysus discovers Ariadne on the shore of Naxos. The painting also depicts the constellation named after Ariadne

In Hesiod and most other accounts, Theseus abandoned Ariadne sleeping on Naxos, and Dionysus rediscovered and wedded her.

In a few versions of the myth,[6] Dionysus appeared to Theseus as they sailed away from Crete, saying that he had chosen Ariadne as his wife, and demanded that Theseus leave her on Naxos for him; this has the effect of absolving the Athenian culture-hero of desertion. The vase-painters of Athens often showed Athena leading Theseus from the sleeping Ariadne to his ship.

With Dionysus, she was the mother of Oenopion, the personification of wine, Staphylus (related to grapes), Thoas, Peparethus, Phanus, Eurymedon, Enyeus, Ceramus, Maron, Euanthes, Latramys and Tauropolis.[7] Her wedding diadem was set in the heavens as the constellation Corona.

She remained faithful to Dionysus, but was later killed by Perseus at Argos. In other myths Ariadne hanged herself from a tree, like Erigone and the hanging Artemis, a Mesopotamian theme. Some scholars think, due to her thread-spinning and winding associations, that she was a weaving goddess such as Arachne, and they support the assertion with the mytheme of the Hanged Nymph.

Dionysus however descended into Hades and brought her and his mother Semele back. They then joined the gods in Olympus.

Ariadne as a goddess

Dionysos Ariadne BM 311

Ariadne as the consort of Dionysos: bronze appliqué from Chalki, Rhodes, late fourth century BCE, (Musée du Louvre).

Karl Kerenyi and Robert Graves theorize that Ariadne (whose name they derive from Hesychius' listing of Άδνον, a Cretan-Greek form for arihagne, "utterly pure") was a Great Goddess of Crete, "the first divine personage of Greek mythology to be immediately recognized in Crete",[8] once archaeology had begun. Kerenyi observes that her name is merely an epithet and claims that she was originally the "Mistress of the Labyrinth", both a winding dance-ground and in the Greek view a prison with the dreaded Minotaur at its centre. Kerenyi notes a Linear B inscription from Knossos, "to all the gods, honey... to the mistress of the labyrinth honey" in equal amounts, suggesting to him that the Mistress of the Labyrinth was a Great Goddess in her own right.[9] Professor Barry Powell has suggested she was Minoan Crete's Snake Goddess.[10]

Plutarch, in his vita of Theseus, which treats him as a historical individual, reports that in the Naxos of his day, an earthly Ariadne was separate from a celestial one:

"Some of the Naxians also have a story of their own, that there were two Minoses and two Ariadnes, one of whom, they say, was married to Dionysos in Naxos and bore him Staphylos and his brother, and the other, of a later time, having been carried off by Theseus and then abandoned by him, came to Naxos, accompanied by a nurse named Korkyne, whose tomb they show; and that this Ariadne also died there."

In a kylix by the painter Aison (c. 425–c. 410 BCE)[11] Theseus drags the Minotaur from a temple-like labyrinth, but the goddess who attends him, in this Attic representation, is Athena.

An ancient cult of Aphrodite-Ariadne was observed at Amathus, Cyprus, according to the obscure Hellenistic mythographer Paeon of Amathus; Paeon's works are lost, but his narrative is among the sources cited by Plutarch in his vita of Theseus (20.3-.5). According to the myth that was current at Amathus, the second most important Cypriote cult centre of Aphrodite, Theseus' ship was swept off-course and the pregnant and suffering Ariadne put ashore in the storm. Theseus, attempting to secure the ship, was inadvertently swept out to sea, thus being absolved of abandonment. The Cypriote women cared for Ariadne, who died in childbirth and was memorialized in a shrine. Theseus, returning, overcome with grief, left money for sacrifices to Ariadne and ordered two cult images, one of silver and one of bronze, set up. At the observation in her honour on the second day of the month Gorpiaeus, one of the young men lay on the ground vicariously experiencing the throes of labour. The sacred grove, in which the shrine was located was called the grove of Aphrodite Ariadne.[12]

In reading the account, the primitive aspect of the cult at Amathus would appear to be much older than the Athenian-sanctioned shrine of Aphrodite, who has assumed Ariadne (hagne, "sacred") as an epithet at Amathus.

Ariadne in Etruscan culture

Ariadne (Etruscan: Areatha) is paired with Dionysus (Etruscan: Fufluns) on engraved bronze Etruscan bronze mirrorbacks, where the Athenian culture-hero Theseus is absent, and Semele (Etruscan: Semla), as mother of Dionysus, may accompany the pair,[13] lending a particularly Etruscan air[14] of family authority.

Reference in post-classical culture

Non-musical works

  • "Ariadne auf Naxos" is a poem by Heinrich Wilhelm von Gerstenberg.
  • "Ariadne" is a story by Anton Chekhov.
  • "Klage der Ariadne" is a poem by Friedrich Nietzsche.
  • Metaphysical painter Giorgio de Chirico painted eight works with a classical statue of Ariadne as a prop.
  • Ariadne, King Minos and the Minotaur appear in In the Grip of the Minotaur by Farnham Bishop and Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur, a novel which was serialized in Adventure magazine in 1916. Set around 1400 BCE; it tells the story of a group of Northmen who visit the ancient Mediterranean on a trading mission and become embroiled in intrigues between the rising power of Troy and the mistress of the Mediterranean, Crete. Brodeur was a professor at Berkley who translated the Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson and was a well-known Beowulf scholar. The novel was printed in book form for first time in 2010 by Black Dog Books (ISBN 978-1-928619-98-7).
  • Ariadne is a 1924 play by A. A. Milne.
  • Ariadne is a character in Mary Renault's 1958 novel The King Must Die.
  • The Quest for Theseus, ed. Anne Price (London, 1970), examines the Theseus-Minotaur-Ariadne myth and its historical basis, and later treatments and adaptations of it in Western culture.
  • "Arianna sírása" is a poem by Miklós Zrínyi.
  • Claudia Crawford, To Nietzsche: Dionysus, I love you! Ariadne was published by State University of New York Press, Albany in 1995.
  • John Dempsey's 1996 Ariadne's Brother is a novel on the fall of Bronze Age Crete.
  • Ariadne is an important character in Sara Douglass' historical fantasy series The Troy Game, published by HarperCollins 2002-2006.
  • "Ariadne" is the protagonist of Montreal writer Tess Fragoulis's 2001 novel, Ariadne's Dream.
  • The Algerian-French writer, Hélène Cixous, calls Ariadne the anti-Ulysses.
  • A planet called Ariadne is mentioned in the backstory of the 2002-2006 game series Xenosaga.
  • The Minotaur myth is referenced repeatedly as a metaphor over the course of the trilogy The Golden Age, culminating at the end with a newly "born" machine-mind adopting Ariadne as her name.
  • A character in the film Inception, played by Ellen Page, who is the architect of a labyrinth-like dream construct and accompanies the protagonist to the underworld/unconscious here called Limbo.
  • Ariadne is mentioned in the book The Battle of the Labyrinth which is the fourth part of the series Percy Jackson & the Olympians. Ariadne's String also plays a role in the plot of the book where it is a magical artifact and will show anyone who holds it the way through the Labyrinth.
File:The Labyrinth of Ariadne - Il labirinto di Arianna.jpg

Musical works

  • Richard Strauss's standard repertory opera Ariadne auf Naxos was preceded by a L'Arianna each by Claudio Monteverdi and Carlo Agostino Badia, by an opera Ariadne (1691) by German composer Johann Georg Conradi, and by non-operatic Ariadne auf Naxos works including a cantata based on the Heinrich Wilhelm von Gerstenberg poem and Jiri Antonin Benda's melodrama Ariadne auf Naxos, and by Joseph Haydn's cantata Arianna a Naxos.
  • Albert Roussel's ballet score Bacchus and Ariadne
  • Carl Orffs "Klage der Ariadne" is an adaption of Claudio Monteverdi's "Lamento d'Arianna".
  • Pietro Locatelli "Concerto Grosso in Eb Op 7/6, Il Pianto d'Arianne".
  • "Ariadne" is the title of a rock 'n' roll song written in 1959 by Eddie Love and Stu Shermeroff and recorded by Eddie Love and the Lovers.
  • "Ariadne" is a song in The Frogs, a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by Burt Shevelove, revisions by Nathan Lane. In this song, Dionysus reflects on his marriage to Ariadne.
  • "Ariadne's Thread" is a song by the screamo band Saetia and is featured on their 1997 self-titled album as well as their end of career collection, A Retrospective.
  • "Ariadne" is a song by The Crüxshadows on their 2007 album DreamCypher.
  • Thread is a ballet with music by Paul Drescher and choreography by Margeret Jenkins. It was premiered by San Francisco Ballet in April 2008
  • "Ariadne's Thread" is a musical composition for harp and six instruments from 1985 by American composer Wayne Peterson. Winner of the American Society of Harpists 1985 composition contest.
  • "Ariadne" is a song by Dead Can Dance on their 1993 album Into the Labyrinth.
  • "Ariadne" is a song on the album Inner Journeys by Cusco
  • "Ariadne Sleeping" is an instrumental piece by The Clientele on their Ariadne EP.
  • "All My Love" is a song by Led Zeppelin which mentions Ariadne under the French-derived name Arianne, with references to the labyrinth story.
  • "El beso de Ariadna" ("Ariadne's Kiss") is the name of a musical comedy act by Argentinian comedy-musical group Les Luthiers. In this act, the singer, as Theseus, asks the gods to fulfil his only wish: to be kissed by Ariadne.
  • Ariadne is a principal character in the monumental series of music dramas conceived by the Canadian composer and writer R. Murray Schafer, in his "Patria Cycle", including "The Princess of the Stars," "Requiems for the Party Girl"
  • Ariadne (The Dividing Sea) lyrics and vocals by Joanna Stevens on Sleepthief's 2009 CD Labyrinthine Heart.
  • Minotaur - The Island by David Young and Margaret Cameron, is an opera that reimagines the 1608 lost opera by Monteverdi L'Adrianna. It was due to premiere as part of Ten Days on the Island in Tasmania, Australia in 2011.
  • Nerina Pallot recorded an unreleased song, titled "Ariadne's Afternoon".


  1. Homer, Odyssey 11.320, Hesiod, Theogony 947, and later authors.
  2. Pasiphaë is mentioned as Ariadne's mother in Bibliotheke 3.1.2 (Pasiphaë, daughter of the Sun), in Apollonius' Argonautica iii.997, and in Hyginus Fabulae, 224.
  3. In creating a "biography" for a historicized Ariadne, her presence on Naxos is accounted for by Theseus' having abandoned her there; in assembling a set of biographical narrative episodes, this would have had to be placed "after" her abduction from Knossos. In keeping with the role of Minos as king of Crete, Ariadne has come to bear the late designation of "princess". The endpoint of this rationalizing process is the realistic historicizing fiction of Mary Renault, The Bull from the Sea (1962).
  4. Sidhe, Fiana. "Goddess Ariadne in the Spotlight",MatriFocus 2002.
  5. "MSN Encarta Encyclopedia: Greek Mythology". Archived from the original on 2009-10-31. 
  6. Diodorus Siculus iv. 61, v. 51; Pausanias, i. 20. § 2, ix. 40. § 2, x. 29. § 2.
  7. The classical references for these offspring are at TheoiProject:Ariadne and Theoi Project: Dionysus family. Euanthes, Latramys and Tauropolis are only mentioned in scholia on Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica, 3. 997
  8. Kerenyi, Dionysos: archetypal image of indestructible life, 1976, p. 89.
  9. Kerenyi 1976, p 90f.
  10. Powell, Barry B. Classical Myth. Second ed. with new translations of ancient texts by Herbert M. Howe. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1998, p. 368.
  11. The kylix is conserved at the National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid; see image.
  12. Edmund P. Cueva, "Plutarch's Ariadne in Chariton's Chaereas and Callirhoe" American Journal of Philology 117.3 (Fall 1996) pp. 473-484.
  13. For example on the mirror engraving reproduced in Larissa Bonfante and Judith Swaddling, Etruscan Myths (Series The Legendary Past) University of Texas/British Museum, 2006, fig. 25 p. 41.
  14. "The married couple is ubiquitous in Etruscan art. It is appropriate to the social situation of the Etruscan aristocracy, in which the wife's family played as important a role in the family's genealogy as that of the huisband." (Bonfante and Swaddling 2006:51f.).


  • Kerenyi, Karl. Dionysos: Archetypal Image of Indestructible Life, part I.iii "The Cretan core of the Dionysos myth" Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1976.
  • Peck, Harry Thurston. Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities (1898).
  • Ruck, Carl A. P. and Danny Staples. The World of Classical Myth. Durham: Carolina Academic Press, 1994.
  • Barthes, Roland, "Camera Lucida". Barthes quotes Nietzsche, "A labyrinthine man never seeks the truth, but only his Ariadne," using Ariadne in reference to his mother, who had recently died.

External links

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Ariadne. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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