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Crete princess; sometimes seen as a goddess associated with mazes
Member of the Cretan Royal Family
Dioniso scopre arianna, da casa dei capitelli colorati a pompei, 9278 (cropped).JPG
Ariadne asleep at Hypnos's side. Detail of ancient fresco in Pompeii
AbodeCrete, later Mount Olympus
SymbolString / Thread, Serpent, Bull
Personal information
ParentsMinos and Pasiphaë or Crete
SiblingsAcacallis, Phaedra, Catreus, Deucalion, Glaucus, Androgeus, Xenodice; the Minotaur
Consort(1) Dionysus, Theseus
Children(1) Staphylus, Oenopion, Thoas, Peparethus, Phanus, Eurymedon, Phliasus, Ceramus, Maron, Euanthes, Latramys, Tauropolis, Enyeus and Eunous
Roman equivalent"Arianna" and "Ariadna" in Latin; Hyginus identified Ariadne as the Roman Libera/Proserpina

Ariadne (/ˌæriˈædni/; Greek: Ἀριάδνη; Latin: Ariadne) was a Cretan princess in Greek mythology. She was mostly associated with mazes and labyrinths because of her involvement in the myths of the Minotaur and Theseus. She is best known for having helped Theseus escape the Minotaur but being abandoned by him on the island of Naxos; subsequently, she became the wife of Dionysus. (There are many other versions of her myth.)

The ancient Roman author Hyginus identified Ariadne as the Roman Libera/Proserpina at approximately the same time as Libera was officially identified with Proserpina in 205 BC, these two names becoming synonymous for the same goddess. Hyginus equated Libera/Proserpina with Ariadne as bride to Liber whose Greek equivalent was Dionysus, the husband of Ariadne.[1]


Bacchus and Ariadne, Guido Reni, c.1620

Greek lexicographers in the Hellenistic period claimed that Ariadne is derived from the ancient Cretan dialectical elements ari (ἀρι-) "most" (which is an intensive prefix) and adnós (ἀδνός) "holy".[2] Conversely, Stylianos Alexiou has argued that despite the belief being that Ariadne's name is of Indo-European origin, it's actually pre-Greek.[3]

Linguist Robert S. P. Beekes has also supported Ariadne having a pre-Greek origin; specifically being Minoan from Crete. This being due to her name containing the sequence dn (δν), which is rare in Indo-European languages, indicating that it is a Minoan loanword.[4]


Ariadne was the daughter of Minos, the King of Crete[5] and son of Zeus, and of Pasiphaë, Minos' queen and daughter of Helios.[6] Others denominated her mother "Crete", daughter of Asterius, the husband and King of Europa. Ariadne was the sister of Acacallis, Androgeus, Deucalion, Phaedra, Glaucus, Xenodice, and Catreus.[7] Through her mother, Pasiphaë, she was also the half-sister of the Minotaur.

Ariadne married Dionysus and became the mother of Oenopion, the personification of wine, Staphylus, who was associated with grapes, Thoas, Peparethus, Phanus, Eurymedon, Phliasus, Ceramus, Maron, Euanthes, Latramys, Tauropolis,[8] Enyeus[9] and Eunous.[10]

Ariadne's family
Relation Names Sources
Homer Hesiod Apollon. Diod. Ovid Apollod. Plutarch Hyginus Pausa Quin. Theophilus
Ody. Sch. Ili. Ehoiai Arg. Sch. Her. Met. Theseus Fabulae Autolycus
Parentage Minos
Minos & Pasiphae
Consort Dionysus ✓ or
Children Enyeus


Minos put Ariadne in charge of the labyrinth where sacrifices were made as part of reparations either to Poseidon or Athena, depending on the version of the myth; later, she helped Theseus conquer the Minotaur and save the victims from sacrifice. In other narrations she was the bride of Dionysus, her status as mortal or divine varying in those accounts.[11][12]

Minos and Theseus[edit]

The abandoned Ariadne, ancient fresco from Pompeii, National Archaeological Museum, Naples

Because ancient Greek myths were orally transmitted, like other myths, that of Ariadne has many variations.[13] According to an Athenian version, Minos attacked Athens after his son was killed there. The Athenians asked for terms and were required to sacrifice 7 young men and 7 maidens to the Minotaur every 7 or 9 years. One year, the sacrificial party included Theseus, the son of King Aegeus, who volunteered to kill the Minotaur. Ariadne fell in love with him at first sight and provided him a sword and ball of thread (ο Μίτος της Αριάδνης, "Ariadne's string") so that he could retrace his way out of the labyrinth of the Minotaur.

Ariadne betrayed her father and her country for her lover Theseus.[14] She eloped with Theseus after he killed the Minotaur, yet according to Homer in the Odyssey "he had no joy of her, for ere that, Artemis slew her in seagirt Dia because of the witness of Dionysus".[15] The phrase “seagirt Dia” refers to the uninhabited island of Dia, which lies off the northern coast of the Greek island of Crete in the Mediterranean Sea. Most accounts claim that Theseus abandoned Ariadne, and in some versions Perseus mortally wounds her. According to some, Dionysus claimed Ariadne as wife, therefore causing Theseus to abandon her. Homer does not elaborate on the nature of Dionysus' accusation, yet the Oxford Classical Dictionary speculated that she was already married to him when she eloped with Theseus.


Bacchus and Ariadne by Titian: Dionysus discovers Ariadne on the shore of Naxos. The painting also depicts the constellation named after Ariadne.

In Hesiod and most other versions, Theseus abandoned Ariadne sleeping on Naxos, and Dionysus rediscovered and wedded her. In a few versions of the myth,[16] Dionysus appeared to Theseus as they sailed from Crete, saying that he had chosen Ariadne as his wife and demanding that Theseus leave her on Naxos for him; this had the effect of absolving the Athenian cultural hero of desertion. The vase painters of Athens often depicted Athena leading Theseus from the sleeping Ariadne to his ship.

She bore Dionysus famous children including Oenopion, Staphylus, and Thoas. Her wedding diadem was set in the heavens as the constellation Corona Borealis. Ariadne was faithful to Dionysus. Perseus killed her at Argos by turning her to stone with the head of Medusa during Perseus' war with Dionysus.[17] In the Odyssey,[18] it is told that Artemis killed her. In other myths she hanged herself from a tree, like Erigone and the hanging Artemis, a Mesopotamian theme.[citation needed]. Dionysus then went to Hades, and brought her and his mother Semele to Mount Olympus, where they were deified.[19] Some scholars have posited, because of her associations with thread spinning and winding, that she was a weaving goddess, like Arachne, and support this theory with the mytheme of the Hanged Nymph (see weaving in mythology).[citation needed]

As a goddess[edit]

Ariadne as the consort of Dionysus: bronze appliqué from Chalki, Rhodes, late fourth century BCE, in the Musée du Louvre

Karl Kerenyi and Robert Graves theorized that Ariadne, whose name they thought derived from Hesychius' enumeration of "Άδνον", a Cretan-Greek form of "arihagne" ("utterly pure"), was a Great Goddess of Crete, "the first divine personage of Greek mythology to be immediately recognized in Crete",[20] once archaeological investigation began. Kerenyi observed that her name was merely an epithet and claimed that she was originally the "Mistress of the Labyrinth", both a winding dancing ground and, in the Greek opinion, a prison with the dreaded Minotaur in its centre. Kerenyi explained that a Linear B inscription from Knossos "to all the gods, honey ... [,] to the mistress of the labyrinth honey" in equal amounts, implied to him that the Mistress of the Labyrinth was a Great Goddess in her own right.[21] Professor Barry Powell suggested that she was the Snake Goddess of Minoan Crete.[22]

Plutarch, in his vita of Theseus, which treats him as a historical person, reported that in contemporary Naxos was an earthly Ariadne, who was distinct from a divine one:

Some of the Naxians also have a story of their own, that there were two Minoses and two Ariadnes, one of whom, they say, was married to Dionysos in Naxos and bore him Staphylos and his brother, and the other, of a later time, having been carried off by Theseus and then abandoned by him, came to Naxos, accompanied by a nurse named Korkyne, whose tomb they show; and that this Ariadne also died there.

In a kylix by the painter Aison (circa 425 to circa 410 BCE)[23] Theseus drags the Minotaur from a temple-like labyrinth, yet the goddess who attends him in this Attic representation is Athena.

The Vatican Sleeping Ariadne, long erroneously identified as Cleopatra, a Roman marble in late Hellenistic style

An ancient cult of Aphrodite-Ariadne was observed at Amathus, Cyprus, according to the obscure Hellenistic mythographer Paeon of Amathus; his works are lost, but his narrative is among the sources that Plutarch cited in his vita of Theseus (20.3-5). According to the myth that was current at Amathus, the second most important Cypriote cult centre of Aphrodite, Theseus' ship was swept off course and the pregnant and suffering Ariadne put ashore in the storm. Theseus, attempting to secure the ship, was inadvertently swept out to sea, thus being absolved of abandoning Ariadne. The Cypriote women cared for Ariadne, who died in childbirth and was memorialized in a shrine. Theseus, overcome with grief upon his return, left money for sacrifices to Ariadne and ordered two cult images, one of silver and one of bronze, erected. At the observation in her honour on the second day of the month Gorpiaeus, a young man lay on the ground and vicariously experienced the throes of labour. The sacred grove in which the shrine was located was denominated the "Grove of Aphrodite-Ariadne".[24] According to Cypriote legend, Ariadne's tomb was located within the temenos of the sanctuary of Aphrodite-Ariadne.[25] The primitive nature of the cult at Amathus in this narrative appears to be much older than the Athenian sanctioned shrine of Aphrodite, who at Amathus received "Ariadne" (derived from "hagne", "sacred") as an epithet.


Ariadneia (ἀριάδνεια) were festivals in honour of Ariadne in Naxos and Cyprus.[26]

In Etruscan culture[edit]

Ariadne, in Etruscan Areatha, is paired with Dionysus, in Etruscan "Fufluns", on Etruscan engraved bronze mirror backs, where the Athenian cultural hero Theseus is absent, and Semele, in Etruscan "Semla", as mother of Dionysus, may accompany the pair,[27] lending an especially Etruscan air[28] of familial authority.

Reference in post-classical culture[edit]


  • The word "clue" was originally a form of clew, meaning "skein of thread," with the sense evolution being a reference to Ariadne's thread.[29]

Non-musical works[edit]

  • Ariadne: A Tragedy in Five Acts, a play by Thomas Corneille.
  • In Letitia Elizabeth Landon's poem "Ariadne" from Ideal Likenesses (1825), she sees her as "a lesson how inconstancy should be repaid again by like inconstancy".
  • Johann Heinrich von Dannecker's marble sculpture Ariadne on the Panther (1814), was well known in 19th-century Germany.
  • The narrative of Ariadne is a theme throughout the second volume of George Eliot's novel Romola.
  • "Ariadne auf Naxos", a poem by Heinrich Wilhelm von Gerstenberg.
  • "Ariadne", a story by Anton Chekhov.
  • "Klage der Ariadne", a poem by Friedrich Nietzsche.
  • Metaphysical painter Giorgio de Chirico painted 8 works with a classical statue of Ariadne as a prop.
  • Ariadne (1924), a play by A. A. Milne.
  • Ariadne (1932), an epic poem by F. L. Lucas.[30]
  • Ariadne is a major character in Mary Renault's historical novel The King Must Die (1958), about the Bronze Age hero Theseus.
  • Ariadne's thread is referenced in Georges Bataille's The Solar Anus.
  • The Minotaur myth is referenced repeatedly as a metaphor throughout the trilogy The Golden Age by John C. Wright, culminating at the end with a newly "born" machine-mind that adopts Ariadne as her name.
  • An adaptation of the narrative of Ariadne appears in the novel Death in the Andes by Mario Vargas Llosa.
  • Ariadne is the subject of W. N. Herbert's poem Ariadne on Broughty Ferry Beach (1983).[31]
  • In the Fright Night comic series (1989), a spin-off of the popular 1985 vampire movie of the same name, regular character "Aunt Claudia" Hinnault is the reincarnation of Ariadne, and she resurrects Theseus and the Minotaur during her first appearance in issue #12, "Bull-Whipped".
  • Ariadne Oliver is a friend of the detective Hercule Poirot in many of his detective mysteries, by Agatha Christie.
  • Ariadne is a recurring character in the book series The Troy Game by Sara Douglass.
  • Ariadne, played by Elliot Page, is a supporting character who designs labyrinth-like dream worlds in the film Inception (2010).
  • Ariadne is the Persona that the character Labrys wields in the videogame Persona 4 Arena (2012).
  • Ariadne, played by Aiysha Hart, is a major character in the BBC series Atlantis (2013), which is loosely based on Greek myths. She falls in love with Jason and helps him conquer the Minotaur and escape the labyrinth. Later, her stepmother, Pasiphae tries to prevent their union.
  • Ariadne, played by Sophia Lauchlin Hirt, is a character in the Syfy series Olympus, also loosely based on Greek myths. Daughter of King Minos, she is manipulative and in love with Hero, yet he does not reciprocate her love.
  • Mark Haddon's short story "The Island", in The Pier Falls (2016), is an adaptation of Ariadne's narrative.
  • Ariadne appears as a stagecraft in the German Netflix TV series Dark (2017), which employs the trope of Ariadne's thread as a metaphor throughout.
  • Ariadne appears as a minor character in Madeline Miller's novel Circe (2018).[32]
  • "Ariadne" is the title of the first-season finale of the Netflix series Russian Doll (2019), in which the primary character Nadia, played by Natasha Lyonne, and a stranger named "Alan", played by Charlie Barnett, are trapped in a time loop that always ends with both of their deaths, and they must help each other escape.[33]
  • Ariadne is the main character of the book Lifestyles of Gods and Monsters (2019) centered around Ariadne's role in the killing of the Minotaur[34]
  • Ariadne is the titular character in the book  ''Ariadne'' (2021) by Jennifer Saint which retells the myth from Ariadne’s perspective.

Musical works[edit]


  1. ^ T. P. Wiseman, "Satyrs in Rome? The Background to Horace's Ars Poetica", The Journal of Roman Studies, Vol. 78 (1988), p. 7, note 52. JSTOR 301447
  2. ^ Hanks & Hodges 1997, pp. 15.
  3. ^ Alexiou 1969, pp. 72.
  4. ^ Beekes, Robert S. P. (2010). Etymological Dictionary of Greek. Volume I, with the assistance of Lucien van Beek. Leiden Indo-European Etymological Dictionary Series; 10. Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2010. p. 130. ISBN 978-90-04-17420-7.
  5. ^ Homer, Odyssey, 11.320; Hesiod, Theogony, 947; and later authors.
  6. ^ Pasiphaë is mentioned as mother of Ariadne in Bibliotheke, 3.1.2 (Pasiphaë, daughter of the Sun); Apollonius, Argonautica, 3.997; and Hyginus, Fabulae, 224.
  7. ^ Pseudo Apollodorus, Bibliotheca, 3.1.2.
  8. ^ The classical references to these progeny are at "TheoiProject: Ariadne" and "Theoi Project: Dionysus Family". Euanthes, Latramys, and Tauropolis are only mentioned in scholia on Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica, 3. 997.
  9. ^ Scholia on Homer, Iliad, 9.668.
  10. ^ Theophilus of Antioch, To Autolycus 7
  11. ^ In creating a "biography" for a historicized Ariadne, Theseus' having abandoned her on Naxos explains her presence there; in assembling a set of biographical narrative episodes, this would have had to be placed after her abduction from Knossos. In keeping with the office of Minos as King of Crete, Ariadne came to bear the late title of "Princess". The culmination of this rationalization is the realistic historicizing fiction of Mary Renault, The Bull from the Sea (1962).
  12. ^ Fiana Sidhe, "Goddess Ariadne in the Spotlight", MatriFocus, 2002.
  13. ^ "MSN Encarta Encyclopedia: Greek Mythology". Archived from the original on 2009-03-01.
  14. ^ Roman, Luke; Roman, Monica (2010). Encyclopedia of Greek and Roman Mythology. Infobase Publishing. p. 81. ISBN 9781438126395.
  15. ^ Homer, Odyssey, Book 11, 321-5.
  16. ^ Diodorus Siculus, 4.61 and 5.51; Pausanias, 1.20, § 2, 9.40, § 2, and 10.29, § 2.
  17. ^ Nonnus, Dionysiaca, 47.665
  18. ^ Homer, Odyssey, Book XI.
  19. ^ Ariadne, "".
  20. ^ Kerenyi, Dionysos: Archetypal Image of Indestructible Life, 1976, p. 89.
  21. ^ Kerenyi, 1976, p. 90f.
  22. ^ Barry B. Powell, Classical Myth, Second Edition, with new translations of ancient texts by Herbert M. Howe, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, USA, Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1998, p. 368.
  23. ^ The kylix is conserved at the National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid; see image.
  24. ^ Edmund P. Cueva, "Plutarch's Ariadne in Chariton's Chaereas and Callirhoe", American Journal of Philology, 117.3 (Autumn 1996), pp. 473-84.
  25. ^ Breitenberger, Barbara (2007). Aphrodite and Eros: The Development of Greek Erotic Mythology. New York, NY: Routledge. p. 32.
  26. ^ A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), Ariadneia
  27. ^ For example on the mirror engraving reproduced in Larissa Bonfante and Judith Swaddling, Etruscan Myths, The Legendary Past series, University of Texas/British Museum, 2006, fig. 25, p. 41.
  28. ^ "The married couple is ubiquitous in Etruscan art. It is appropriate to the social situation of the Etruscan aristocracy, in which the wife's family played as important a role in the family's genealogy as that of the husband." (Bonfante and Swaddling, 2006, 51f.).
  29. ^ "Clue". Online Etymological Dictionary. Retrieved 16 July 2020.
  30. ^ "Ariadne | English literature 1830-1900". Cambridge University Press. Retrieved 2020-12-15.
  31. ^ Herbert, William N. "Ariadne on Broughty Ferry Beach". Scottish Poetry Library.
  32. ^ "Madeline Miller - Circe: Cast of Characters". Retrieved 2020-12-15.
  33. ^ VanArendonk, Kathryn (February 4, 2019). "Let's Talk About the Russian Doll Ending". Vulture. Retrieved February 17, 2018.
  34. ^ Ratcliff, Melissa (2019-10-23). "Emily Roberson Combines Reality TV, Romance & Mythology in YA Debut". Paperback Paris. Retrieved 2020-08-03.
  35. ^ cite web


  • Kerenyi, Karl. Dionysos: Archetypal Image of Indestructible Life, part I.iii "The Cretan core of the Dionysos myth" Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1976.
  • Peck, Harry Thurston. Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities (1898).
  • Ruck, Carl A. P. and Danny Staples. The World of Classical Myth. Durham: Carolina Academic Press, 1994.
  • Barthes, Roland, "Camera Lucida". Barthes quotes Nietzsche, "A labyrinthine man never seeks the truth, but only his Ariadne," using Ariadne in reference to his mother, who had recently died.

External links[edit]