by Sam Leo


One of the mysteries in Greek mythology is why, after being assisted by King Minos' daughter Ariadne in his famous slaying of the Minotaur, the hero Theseus crudely abandons her on the island of Dia after they've fled from Crete. Traditionally, it is understood that here she was found by the god Dionysus and that she married him. But in the Odyssey, Odysseus sees her shade in Hades, indicating that she's dead.

It has been suggested that the explanation here is in Ariadne's status on the island of Crete. It must be remembered that she was a priestess there, and more, her mother, Pasiphae, was also the mother of the Minotaur (thanks to her intimacy with Posiedon's Bull From the Sea), and therefore the Minotaur was her half-brother, whom she betrayed. There is a mention of Dionysus "calling out" to Artemis (ever noted as an archer) on seeing Ariadne on Dia; this could be seen as a demand from the god that Ariadne atone for the betrayal of her religion and her half-brother.


All during the short trip from Crete to Dia, Ariadne remained standing in the bow of the boat. She'd resumed her priestess garb, the tightly-corseted dress with the flounced skirt that left her magnificent breasts exposed. Theseus had been concerned about her, fearful that a sudden swell might pitch her into the sea. It did not happen, and night was already coming on when the vessel scraped up on Dia's sandy shore.

Almost as soon as they'd set foot on the beach, Ariadne's brooding manner changed. Her infectious smile returned; she stayed near the Athenian's side as the evening meal was cooked and eaten, though she was still shadowed closely by the other young priestess, the one she'd insisted on bringing from Knossos with them.

After dinner, she drew Theseus aside. Her small hands on his shoulders, she looked up into his face. "Tomorrow," she said, "you must do something for me."

He smiled back tolerantly. "If I can," he answered. "Whatever I can."

"You must leave me here, leave me sleeping on the beach."

He stared. "But Ariadne, I can't do that!"

She laughed. "No, no. You don't understand. I have offended the God and Goddess by helping you. I must be cleansed."

"But what does that have to do with--?"

"You will get on your ship as Theseus," she told him. "Antione, here, will go with you, instruct you. Then you will get off again as the Horned one, Dionysus. Antione will be as Our Lady, as Artemis. You will come to me. You will purify me. Then," she shrugged, "things will be as they were."

He looked uncomfortable. "You're sure? I don't know this rite, I don't know what to do!"

"Antione will guide you," she insisted. A little reluctantly, he finally agreed. She, in turn, drew his face down to her breasts; as he gently nibbled at her nipple, she began unlacing her dress.

The next morning, Antione awakened him carefully; he rose without waking Ariadne, who was sleeping peacefully beside him. With the priestess guiding him, he gathered the Athenians together, packed up the gear, and loaded the ship. Finally, he and Antione boarded. To his surprise, the priestess produced a ritual horned headdress for him and a short tunic, a bow, and a quiver for herself. She told him what he had to do; it seemed very simple.

Disembarking again, they returned together to where they'd left Ariadne sleeping. Theseus was a little uncomfortable when they found her gone, but Antione, telling him not to worry, led him on down the beach.

Around a slight promontory, out of sight of the ship, they found her. There was a dead tree there, a stark white shape thrusting up from the sand. Ariadne, dressed only in the belt and boots of a bull-dancer, was leaning against it. Remembering the part he was to play, Theseus walked toward her, said nothing.

"I have betrayed you," she said softly as he approached. "I beg you for absolution. Take me to yourself, I beg you. The man I betrayed you for has gone, over the sea."

"I will grant it," he said, repeating the words Antione had given him. The other priestess was standing a little behind him, just out of his sight; and he only had eyes for Ariadne anyway. She was stretching her arms up the tree, holding a branch, lifting her breasts. Her nipples stood out sharply, and she had her legs spread a little, revealing the cleft of her genitals. "Artemis, cousin," he went on, "As I witness, restore her purity to her!" There was a little pause; Ariadne smiled at him, freely, openly. Then she looked over his shoulder.

And, to his absolute shock, a barb-pointed arrow sizzled past him. He was still watching Ariadne when it struck her, just below her navel, piercing her body deeply. The girl was apparently expecting it; her eyes dropped shut and her body stiffened, but she didn't fall, she didn't change her position at all. Still, blood almost immediately starting oozing out around the shaft.

Breaking his paralysis, Theseus whirled around. "What have you done!?" he shouted.

Antione's face was impassive. "What you told me to do, my Lord Dionysus," she answered. She gestured toward Ariadne. "And what she wished as well. What she knows is necessary."

With a groan, Theseus ran forward. Ariadne, still clinging desperately to the tree branch over her head, opened her huge eyes and looked at him. "It is so," she said, her voice was hoarse and strained. "As she said, it is what I wished."

He touched the arrow piercing her, tears coming to his eyes. She winced. "Ariadne...!" he moaned.

"I come to you, my Lord," she whispered. "Soon I shall be yours!"

"No, I - !"

But Antione stepped up beside him, another savage-looking arrow on her bow. She shook her head, aimed the arrow at the trembling Ariadne, and began drawing the string.

Theseus started to leap at her, to stop her. But Ariadne's eyes pleaded; he looked again at the arrow standing in her abdomen, at the blood already gathering on her lips. There was no way she could survive this wound, and he knew it. He stepped closer, touched her cheek, and shook his head. "Yes, Artemis," he continued finally. "Finish her purification."

Ariadne turned her head; her eyes locked his, and he cupped her delicately beautiful face in his two hands. He was still looking into her eyes when he heard Antione's bowstring twang again.

He heard the arrow strike; he felt the shock in his hands as it tore its way into Ariadne's soft body, through her breast this time, burying itself deep in her chest. Her eyes flew open very wide, her body jerked again and she moaned, low in her throat. For several seconds he just continued to hold her face and gaze into her eyes. She opened her lips slightly, and a thin stream of blood came from her mouth.

Finally he looked down at her body once more. Antione's arrow had pierced her right breast; this one had struck the nipple itself before passing between her ribs. Blood was collecting rapidly below it, flowing steadily down her body. Her legs trembled with the effort of remaining upright, but still, she kept her eyes on his face.

"Tell Theseus," she muttered, "tell him I loved him. Tell him I gave my life for him, my life as well as my brother's..."

He sobbed openly, but he nodded toward the other priestess. While he continued to hold Ariadne's face, the third arrow whistled in, striking her left breast this time, tearing through it and biting into her heart.

Ariadne's body went utterly rigid, but she just sighed as her blood almost sprayed out around this arrow. Then she relaxed and started to collapse; Theseus caught her, cradling her body in his arms. She looked up at him and moved her lips a little, but then the life passed from her. Theseus fancied he could see it, drifting out over the sea, returning to Knossos, to her home.