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Goddess of the Labyrinth, Vegetation, Mazes, Paths, Fertility, Wine, Labyrinths, Snakes, and Passion
Ariadne in Naxos, by Evelyn De Morgan, 1877.jpg
AbodeMount Olympus
SymbolString/thread, Serpent, Bull
Personal information
ConsortDionysus, Theseus
ChildrenStaphylus, Oenopion
ParentsMinos and Pasiphaë
SiblingsPhaedra, Catreus, Deucalion, Glaucus, Androgeus
Roman equivalentAriana, Libera

Ariadne (/ˌæriˈædni/; Greek: Ἀριάδνη; Latin: Ariadne), in Greek mythology, was a Cretan princess. She is mostly associated with mazes and labyrinths because of her involvement in the myths of the Minotaur and Theseus.


Ariadne was the daughter of Minos—the King of Crete[1] and a son of Zeus—and Pasiphaë—Minos' queen and a daughter of Helios.[2] Others called her mother Crete, daughter of Asterius, husband-king of Europa. Ariadne was the sister of Acacallis, Androgeus, Deucalion, Phaedra, Glaucus, Xenodice and Catreus.[3] 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 (related to grapes), Thoas, Peparethus, Phanus, Eurymedon, Phliasus, Enyeus,[4] Ceramus, Maron, Euanthes, Latramys and Tauropolis.[5]

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 to Athena, depending on the version of the myth); later, she helped Theseus overcome the Minotaur and save the potential sacrificial victims. In other stories, she became the bride of the god Dionysus, with the question of her being mortal or a goddess varying in those accounts.[6][7]

Minos and Theseus[edit]

Since ancient Greek myths are passed down through oral tradition, many variations of this and other myths exist.[8] According to an Athenian version of the legend, Minos attacked Athens after his son was killed there. The Athenians asked for terms, and were required to sacrifice seven young men and seven maidens to the Minotaur every seven or nine years. One year, the sacrificial party included Theseus, the son of King Aegeus, who volunteered to come and kill the Minotaur. Ariadne fell in love at first sight, and helped him by giving him a sword and a ball of thread (μίτο της Αριάδνης 'Ariadne's string'), so that he could find his way out of the Minotaur's labyrinth.

She eloped with Theseus after he achieved his goal, but according to Homer "he had no joy of her, for ere that, Artemis slew her in seagirt Dia because of the witness of Dionysus" (Odyssey XI, 321-5). Most accounts claim that Ariadne was abandoned by Theseus, but in some versions she is mortally wounded by Perseus. One of the versions told by the oldest Greeks was that the wine God Dyonisus,claimed Ariadne as his wife, therefore making Thesus abandon her. Homer does not expand on the nature of Dionysus's accusation, but the Oxford Classical Dictionary speculates that she was already married to Dionysus when she ran away 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 accounts, Theseus abandoned Ariadne sleeping on Naxos, and Dionysus rediscovered and wedded her. In a few versions of the myth,[9] Dionysus appeared to Theseus as they sailed away from Crete, saying that he had chosen Ariadne as his wife and demanding that Theseus leave her on Naxos for him; this has the effect of absolving the Athenian culture-hero of desertion. The vase-painters of Athens often showed Athena leading Theseus from the sleeping Ariadne to his ship.

With Dionysus, she bore him famous children including Oenopion, Staphylus and Thoas. Her wedding diadem was set in the heavens as the constellation Corona Borealis.

Ariadne remained faithful to Dionysus but was later killed by Perseus at Argos. In other myths she hanged herself from a tree, like Erigone and the hanging Artemis, a Mesopotamian theme[citation needed]. Some scholars have posited, due to her thread-spinning and winding associations, that she was a weaving goddess, like Arachne, supporting this theory with the mytheme of the Hanged Nymph (see weaving in mythology). Dionysus descended into Hades and brought her and his mother Semele back. They then joined the gods in Olympus.

As a goddess[edit]

Ariadne as the consort of Dionysos: bronze appliqué from Chalki, Rhodes, late fourth century BCE (Louvre)

Karl Kerenyi and Robert Graves theorize that Ariadne (whose name they derive from Hesychius's listing of Άδνον, a Cretan-Greek form for arihagne, "utterly pure") was a Great Goddess of Crete, "the first divine personage of Greek mythology to be immediately recognized in Crete",[10] once archaeology had begun. Kerenyi observes that her name is merely an epithet and claims that she was originally the "Mistress of the Labyrinth", both a winding dance-ground and in the Greek view a prison with the dreaded Minotaur at its centre. Kerenyi notes a Linear B inscription from Knossos, "to all the gods, honey... to the mistress of the labyrinth honey" in equal amounts, suggesting to him that the Mistress of the Labyrinth was a Great Goddess in her own right.[11] Professor Barry Powell has suggested she was Minoan Crete's Snake Goddess.[12]

Plutarch, in his vita of Theseus, which treats him as a historical individual, reports that in the Naxos of his day, an earthly Ariadne was separate from a celestial 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 (c. 425 – c. 410 BCE)[13] Theseus drags the Minotaur from a temple-like labyrinth, but the goddess who attends him, in this Attic representation, is Athena.

The Vatican Sleeping Ariadne, long called Cleopatra, a Roman marble in late Hellenistic taste

An ancient cult of Aphrodite-Ariadne was observed at Amathus, Cyprus, according to the obscure Hellenistic mythographer Paeon of Amathus; Paeon's works are lost, but his narrative is among the sources cited by Plutarch 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's 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 abandonment. 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, set up. At the observation in her honour on the second day of the month Gorpiaeus, one of the young men lay on the ground vicariously experiencing the throes of labour. The sacred grove in which the shrine was located was called the grove of Aphrodite Ariadne.[14]

The primitive aspect of the cult at Amathus in this account would appear to be much older than the Athenian-sanctioned shrine of Aphrodite, who has assumed Ariadne (hagne, "sacred") as an epithet at Amathus.

In Etruscan culture[edit]

Ariadne (Etruscan: Areatha) is paired with Dionysus (Etruscan: Fufluns) on engraved bronze Etruscan bronze mirrorbacks, where the Athenian culture-hero Theseus is absent, and Semele (Etruscan: Semla), as mother of Dionysus, may accompany the pair,[15] lending a particularly Etruscan air[16] of family authority.

Reference in post-classical culture[edit]

Non-musical works[edit]


  • 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, completed in 1814, was well known in 19th-century Germany.
  • The story 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 eight works with a classical statue of Ariadne as a prop.
  • Ariadne, a 1924 play by A. A. Milne.
  • Ariadne, a 1932 epic poem by F. L. Lucas[18]
  • Ariadne is a major character in Mary Renault's 1958 historical novel The King Must Die, about the Bronze Age hero Theseus.
  • Ariadne's thread is referenced in Georges Bataille's text "The Solar Anus"
  • The Minotaur myth is referenced repeatedly as a metaphor over the course of the trilogy The Golden Age, culminating at the end with a newly "born" machine-mind adopting Ariadne as her name.
  • An adaptation of the story of Ariadne appears in the novel Death in the Andes, by Nobel Prize Winner Mario Vargas Llosa.
  • Ariadne is the subject of Scottish poet W.N. Herbert's poem Ariadne on Broughty Ferry Beach (1983)
  • In 1989's Fright Night comic series, 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, which is entitled "Bull-Whipped."
  • "Ariadne Oliver" is a friend of the detective Hercule Poirot in many of his detective mysteries written by Agatha Christie.
  • Ariadne is a recurring character in the book series The Troy Game by Australian author Sara Douglass.
  • Ariadne (played by Ellen Page) is a supporting character who designs labyrinth-like dream worlds in the 2010 movie Inception.
  • Ariadne is the Persona wielded by the character Labrys in the 2012 videogame Persona 4 Arena.
  • Ariadne is a main character in the 2013 BBC series Atlantis, 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 is portrayed by Aiysha Hart.
  • Ariadne 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, but he does not love her back. Ariadne is portrayed by Sophia Lauchlin Hirt.
  • Mark Haddon's short story "The Island", in The Pier Falls (2016), is an adaptation of Ariadne's tale.
  • 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 the show.
  • "Ariadne" is the title of the first season finale of the Netflix series Russian Doll (2019). In the series, lead character Nadia (Natasha Lyonne) and a stranger named Alan (Charlie Barnett) are stuck in a time loop that always ends with both of their deaths and they must help one another in order to escape.[19]

Musical works[edit]


  1. ^ Homer, Odyssey 11.320, Hesiod, Theogony 947, and later authors.
  2. ^ Pasiphaë is mentioned as Ariadne's mother in Bibliotheke 3.1.2 (Pasiphaë, daughter of the Sun), in Apollonius' Argonautica iii.997, and in Hyginus Fabulae, 224.
  3. ^ Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca, 3.1.2.
  4. ^ Scholia on Homer, Iliad 9.668
  5. ^ The classical references for these offspring are at TheoiProject:Ariadne and Theoi Project: Dionysus family. Euanthes, Latramys and Tauropolis are only mentioned in scholia on Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica, 3. 997
  6. ^ In creating a "biography" for a historicized Ariadne, her presence on Naxos is accounted for by Theseus' having abandoned her 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 role of Minos as Crete's king, Ariadne has come to bear the late designation of "princess". The endpoint of this rationalizing process is the realistic historicizing fiction of Mary Renault, The Bull from the Sea (1962).
  7. ^ Sidhe, Fiana. "Goddess Ariadne in the Spotlight",MatriFocus, 2002.
  8. ^ "MSN Encarta Encyclopedia: Greek Mythology". Archived from the original on 2009-03-01.
  9. ^ Diodorus Siculus iv. 61, v. 51; Pausanias, i. 20. § 2, ix. 40. § 2, x. 29. § 2.
  10. ^ Kerenyi, Dionysos: archetypal image of indestructible life, 1976, p. 89.
  11. ^ Kerenyi 1976, p 90f.
  12. ^ Powell, Barry B. Classical Myth. Second ed. with new translations of ancient texts by Herbert M. Howe. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1998, p. 368.
  13. ^ The kylix is conserved at the National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid; see image.
  14. ^ Edmund P. Cueva, "Plutarch's Ariadne in Chariton's Chaereas and Callirhoe" American Journal of Philology 117.3 (Fall 1996) pp. 473-484.
  15. ^ For example on the mirror engraving reproduced in Larissa Bonfante and Judith Swaddling, Etruscan Myths (Series The Legendary Past) University of Texas/British Museum, 2006, fig. 25 p. 41.
  16. ^ "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.).
  17. ^ Herbert, William N. "Ariadne on Broughty Ferry Beach". Scottish Poetry Library.
  18. ^ [1]
  19. ^ VanArendonk, Kathryn (February 4, 2019). "Let's Talk About the Russian Doll Ending". Vulture. Retrieved February 17, 2018.


  • 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]