C – Labors of Theseus

πέμπτον ἔκτεινεν ἐν Ἐλευσῖνι Κερκυόνα τὸν Βράγχου καὶ Ἀργιόπης νύμφης. οὗτος ἠνάγκαζε τοὺς παριόντας παλαίειν καὶ παλαίων ἀνῄρει: Θησεὺς δὲ αὐτὸν μετέωρον ἀράμενος ἔρραξεν εἰς γῆν. [4] ἕκτον ἀπέκτεινε Δαμάστην, ὃν ἔνιοι Πολυπήμονα λέγουσιν. οὗτος τὴν οἴκησιν ἔχων παρ᾽ ὁδὸν ἐστόρεσε δύο κλίνας, μίαν μὲν μικράν, ἑτέραν δὲ μεγάλην, καὶ τοὺς παριόντας ἐπὶ ξένια καλῶν, τοὺς μὲν βραχεῖς ἐπὶ τῆς μεγάλης κατακλίνων σφύραις ἔτυπτεν, ἵν᾽ ἐξισωθῶσι τῇ κλίνῃ, τοὺς δὲ μεγάλους ἐπὶ τῆς μικρᾶς, καὶ τὰ ὑπερέχοντα τοῦ σώματος ἀπέπριζε. καθάρας οὖν Θησεὺς τὴν ὁδὸν ἧκεν εἰς Ἀθήνας.

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Now that you have read Apollodorus’ account of Theseus’ six labors, draw a comic strip with six panels, one for each labor.  It is okay to draw stick figures.  In each panel, write a sentence or two describing the labor and include one or two speech or thought bubbles showing what Theseus or his victim might be thinking or saying.

Now that you have illustrated all six labors, what is your favorite labor?  Why?

Heracles performed twelve labors, the majority against various kinds of monsters.  Theseus, on the other hand, performs only six, most of his exploits against other men.  Why do each of the heroes set out on their journeys?  What cultural theme(s) or societal values do you see running through Theseus’ six labors?  What notions of masculinity do each of the heroes embody?  How do the two heroes differ?


Theseus wrestles Cercyon
Theseus wrestles Cercyon.
Theseus and Procrustes
Theseus prepares to cut off Procrustes’ feet.
Photograph by Maria Daniels, courtesy of the Toledo Museum of Art, January 1992. Toledo 1963.27
Detail of Kodros Painter's red figure kylix depicting the Deeds of Theseus
Theseus fighting Prokrustes. Attic red-figured kylix, ca. 440-430 BC. Said to be from Vulci. British Museum E 84.