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Ariadne and the Labyrinth

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Abstract

Ariadne’s origins are undiscoverable and her story acquired so many variations in ancient times that we cannot guess what she once meant, but it is certain that she should be seen in a religious light and not confined to her role as abandoned lover. What we might be tempted to think of as her ‘romantic’ life emerges from a profoundly religious world. Even Plutarch, writing his life of Theseus in a comparatively late phase of polytheism, and believing in the reality of both Theseus and Ariadne (though not that of the Minotaur or the Labyrinth), treats her as little more than a vulnerable princess. But this part of Ariadne’s career has to be completed by reference to her later alliance with Dionysus, or, in brief, her elevation. Plutarch mentions this but thinks of it as just another fable. However, if we view Ariadne appreciatively, we are impressed by her rising above the sphere of mortality, while Theseus himself, the unifier of Attica, is never raised to godhood.

Keywords

Active Force Human Soul Human Cooperation Religious World Ascetic Ideal 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    This letter is included in Nietzsche Briefwechsel (Vol. III 5, Colli and Montinari edition (Berlin, New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1984), pp. 572ff.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    See Nietzsche, Friedrich, Dithyrambs of Dionysus, Bilingual Edition, Translated and Introduced by R. J. Hollingdale (London: Anvil Press Poetry, 1984), pp. 83–5.Google Scholar
  3. 12.
    I haved taken this translation from an old collection of the works of Leibniz, Leibnitz (so spelled), The Philosophical Works, translated with notes by George Martin Duncan (New Haven: Tuttle, Morehouse and Taylor, 1890), pp. 69f.Google Scholar

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© Keith M. May 1993

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