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The end of Theseus

Posted February. 12, 2019 07:56,   

Updated February. 12, 2019 07:56


The first series of Plutarch’s Lives is about king Theseus. The most representative heroes in Greek mythology would be Hercules, Perseus, who beheaded Medusa, and Theseus, who killed Minotaur of Crete.

Theseus is less known to people than Hercules or Perseus but realistically he is the most important hero. Theseus was from Athens. Before him, Athens was governed by a lax political system. Theseus traveled to neighboring regions to persuade them into integrating power.

He had two justifications to back up his argument. One was to uphold the law and the other was to defend the country from a war. As a society starts to group people into socioeconomic strata and the weak starts to fall prey to the strong, it results in conflicts between the rich and the poor and between regions. To be sure, their conflicts cannot be suppressed by power. But without power, a country cannot uphold its law, either. In order to settle regional conflicts, there should be a higher authority. The same goes to a war. In order to confront a powerful enemy, neighboring regions need to unite and to do so, they need a higher authority.

The story of Theseus clearly shows how a country and power is created. People tolerate authority and are willingly dominated not because of coercion or force. It is because maintaining order and protecting their lives and property are the common values people hold so dear.

Like other heroes, Theseus faced a tragic death. The reason of his death was didactic than that of any other heroes. He used his authority and waged a war for personal gains. The reason why Plutarch described the story of Theseus was probably because he wanted people to mediate on the lesson.

Eun-Taek Lee nabi@donga.com