display | more...


Daughter of Pittheus, king of Troezen, and thus grand-daughter of Pelops (Table 2). She was the mother of Theseus, who through her was the rightful possessor of the throne of Troezen.

Aethra was first wooed by Bellerophon. But when Aegeus arrived at Troezen from Delphi, where he had sought advice from the oracle on where he could best ensure that his line did not die out, King Pittheus, who understood the meaning of the oracle's reply (see Aegeus), arranged to bring together his daughter and his guest without the latter's knowledge. From this union Theseus was born. It is also said that on the eve of the day on which Aegeus was to arrive Athena inspired Aethra in a dream to go to a neighbouring island and offer a sacrifice to the hero Sphaerus who had been the driver of Pelops' chariot. There she was surprised by Poseidon and revished by him. The same night she slept with Aegeus, so Theseus could pass as the son of the god as much as that of the man.

When Aegeus returned to Athens Aethra remained at Troezen where she brought up her son (see Theseus). Later Theseus, having become King of Athens, entrusted to his mother the case of the young Helen, whom he had abducted. The girl's two brothers Castor and Pollux come to rescue her and took Aethra prisoner. She followed Helen to Troy as a slave, voluntarily it is said, and indeed some authors hold that she advised Helen to leave Menelaus and follow Paris. At Troy Aethra brought up her great-grandson Munitus. When the city was taken she was recognized by her grandsons Demophon and Acamas who secured her release.

It is said that as the death of Theseus Aethra killed herself for grief.


Table of Sources:
- Apollod. Bibl. 3, 10, 7; 3, 15, 7
- Hyg. Fab. 14; 37; 92; 243
- Plut. Thes. 3; 6
- Paus. 2, 33, 1ff.; 5, 19, 3
- Hom. Il. 3, 144
- Tzetzes on Lyc. Alex. 494f
- See also Theseus; Helen; Acamas.