This is the story of Theseus, King of Athens. The book opens with his
triumphant return from Crete, after slaying the Minotaur, to mount the
throne left empty by the death of his father Aigeus. The youth of Theseus
was the subject of The King Must Die, one of the most highly
praised novels of recent years. Now, from the many classical myths and
legends that surround his later career, Miss Renault has reconstructed
the heroic exploits of Theseus the King.
All through his reign, Theseus is torn between his genius for kingship
and his truant craving for adventure. His love of danger draws him to
challenge the pirate prince Pirithoos, to recognize him as a kindred
spirit, and to join his forays. As Theseus is setting out toward Crete
for a dynastic marriage with Phaedra, Pirithoos lures him off to explore
the unknown Euxine, where he meets and captures the young warrior
priestess Hippolyta. She is the love of his life, and that love is the
crux of his fate. Only after Hippolyta has borne him a son, and later
fallen at Theseus' side fighting off the great Scythian invasion, only
then does he bring home his neglected queen. Phaedra meets Hippolytos, the
center of his father's love, pride, and unacknowledged envy, and the Great
Goddess whom Theseus has defied so often takes her full revenge.
The bull of Marathon, the battle of the Lapiths and Kentaurs, and the
moon-goddess cult of Pontos are but a portion of the legendary material
that Miss Renault weaves into the fabric of great historical fiction.
Whether or not these myths have their far-distant origin in actual
events, the author's imagination and scholarship have invested them with
an immediate and magical reality.
* Thanks to Jarren Cheha for giving me the book
from which I typed this synopsis, 16 Aug 97.
The Minotaur is dead. Theseus the bull-leaprer returns to Attica from
Crete. The boy-king must now be High King. He has sacked the Labyrinth,
brought down the Minoan dynasty and now he must learn to rule like a god.
But these are the days when Greek kings are also pirates. So, Theseus
must go raiding the Hellespont. He must seek the golden fleece, the
secret of the Kentaur horse-men and the magical rites of the Amazons.
But even a hero-king can have his destiny stolen by his love.
Mary Renault writes of the time when men became heroes and heroes became
gods; when myths became history and history became myth.