Bacchus and Ariadne


ARIADNE, the daughter of King Minos of Crete, having furnished Theseus with a sword with which to encounter the Minotaur and with a thread by means of which he was to find his way out of the Labyrinth, having, in short, done everything to secure the triumph of the man she loved in the great enterprise which he had undertaken, let herself, eagerly enough, be carried away by him when he sailed to return to Athens. Theseus tired of her; and while she was asleep on the Island of Naxos where they had stopped, abandoned her. Venus came to Ariadne and took pity on her, consoling her with the promise of an immortal lover.

It happened that the island of Naxos was a favorite playground of the god Bacchus. And so it was contrived that as Ariadne sat lamenting her fate, Bacchus came to her. Touched by her grief, he consoled her and made her his wife. He gave her as a marriage present a golden crown encircled with gems; and when at last she died, he tossed her crown up into the heavens. There it became a constellation.

The poet Spenser has written of this happening:

Look how the crown which Ariadne wore
Upon her ivory forehead that same day
That Theseus her unto his bridal bore;
Then the bold Centaurs made that bloody fray
With the fierce Lapiths which did them dismay;
Being now placed in the firmament,
Through the bright heaven doth her beams display,
And is unto the stars an ornament,
Which round about her move in order excellent.

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