In Greek Mythology, father of Theseus. Sent his son to Crete to keep them from having to pay a yearly tribute of 7 virgins and 7 children. If successful, Theseus was to return on a ship with white sails instead of black.

He succeeded but forgot to change the sails. His father Aegeus, overcome with grief, threw himself into the sea.

The Aegean Sea is named after him.


A king of Athens and father of Theseus. He was himself the son of Pandion, the ancestor of Cecrops (Table 11). Pandion was forced to leave Athens by the sons of Metion as the result of a revolution and withdrew to Megara where he married Pylia, the daughter of king Pylas, and ultimately took his father-in-law's place on the throne. At Megara Pandion's four sons, Aegeus, Pallas, Nisus and Lycus were born. After Pandion's death his sons marched on Athens and regained power, the eldest Aegeus exercising the largest share, together with sovereignty over Attica. Another tradition makes Aegeus the son of Scyrius and only the adopted son of Pandion; this lay behind the argument of the descendants of Pallas in opposition to Theseus, the legitimacy of whose power they disputed.

Aegeus married first Meta, daughter of Hoples, and secondly Chalciope, the daughter of Rhexenor (or, in another version, Chalcodon). Despite these two marriages he was unable to have a child, a fact which he put down to the anger of Aphrodite Urania, the goddess born of Uranus (see Aphrodite), and he introduced her cult into Athens. Then he went to seek the advice of the Delphi oracle, and the Pythia gave him a baffling reply which ran as follows: 'Do not, thou most excellent of men, unloose the opening which causes wine to gush out from the wine bottle before you have reached the highest point in the city of Athens.' Aegeus returned towards Athens but on the way he stopped at Troezen with Pittheus, the son of Pelops. Pittheus understood what the oracle meant and made haste to make Aegeus drunk and to leave him with his own daughter Aethra on the same night in which the god Poseidon also visited the girl. When he went on his way, Aegeus instructed Aethra that should she give birth to a son she must bring him up without telling him the name of his father, but he left his sandals and his sword under a certain rock, saying that when the child was big enough to move the rock he would have the means to trace his father. The child in question was Theseus.

Medea came in search of Aegeus and promised him that is he married her the sterility from which he suffered would be at an end. He did so and she gave him a son, Medus. When Theseus on reaching maturity returned to Athens, Medea, whose magical powers enables her to know who he was, wanted at first to have him killed by Aegeus, but he recognized the boy and it was Medea who had to fly with her own son. Theseus arrived just in time; the sons of Pallas, urged on to revolt against Aegeus, tried to dethrone him, but they were crushed by Theseus.

Aegeus was guilty of the murder of Androgeos and Minos then invaded Attica. The annual tribute imposed of fifty young men and fifty girls gave rise to Theseus' expedition against the Minotaur. This was the undertaking during which Aegeus, by then an old man, lost his life. Theseus promised to hoist white flags on his fleet if he came back victorious but if the ships returned without him, they were to run up black flags. Driven to distraction by the curses of Ariadne, whom he deserted on Naxos, Theseus forgot to change the colour of the sails. Aegeus, who was waiting for his return on the shore, believed that his son was dead and threw himself into the sea which had ever since born his name, the Aegean Sea.


Table of Sources:
- Appolod. Bibl. 1, 9, 28; 3, 15, 5ff.
- Tzetzes on Lyc. 494
- Plut. Thes. 3; 13
- Paus. 1, 5, 3f.; 1, 39, 4
- Strabo 9, 1, 6, p. 392
- schol. on Aristophanes, Lys. 58
- Hyg. Fab. 26
- Ovid, Met. 7, 402ff.
- See also Theseus

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