About the Labyrinth

Deborah Everhart and Martin Irvine, Co-Directors

Sponsored by Georgetown University

The Labyrinth provides free, organized access to resources in medieval studies. The Labyrinth’s easy-to-use links provide connections to databases, services, texts, and images around the world. Each user will be able to find an Ariadne’s thread through the maze of information on the Web.

Ariadne’s Thread and the Labyrinth in Classical Mythology

Ariadne was the daughter of King Minos of Crete. Minos had Daedalus build a Labyrinth, a house of winding passages, to house the bull-man, the Minotaur, the beast that his wife Pasiphae bore after having intercourse with a bull. (Minos had refused to sacrifice a bull to Poseidon, as the king promised, so the god took revenge by causing his wife to desire the bull–but that’s another story.) Minos required tribute from Athens in the form of young men and women to be sacrificed to the Minotaur.

Theseus, an Athenian, volunteered to accompany one of these groups of victims to deliver his country from the tribute to Minos. Ariadne fell in love with Theseus and gave him a thread which he let unwind through the Labyrinth so that he was able to kill the Minotaur and find his way back out again.

Ovid says that Daedalus built a house in which he confused the usual passages and deceived the eye with a conflicting maze of various wandering paths (in errorem variarum ambage viarum) (Metamorphoses 8.161): “so Daedalus made the innumerable paths of deception [innumeras errore vias], and he was barely able to return to the entrance: so deceptive was the house [tanta est fallacia tecti]” (8.166-68).

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The Labyrinth by Deborah Everhart and Martin Irvine is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Based on a work at http://labyrinth.georgetown.edu. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://labyrinth.georgetown.edu.

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