Theseus was almost to Athens. He had been travelling around the Saronic Gulf instead of taking the easier method of traveling by boat. His partially divine nature had given him the ability to defeat many of the bandits and monsters that he encountered along the way. He had avoided being torn in two by Sinis, beaten with a club by Periphetes and had managed to kill an enormous pig that had been killing other travelers. He had also avoided being tossed off a cliff near the town of Megara.
He still had a ways to go, however, before he could reach the city and claim his birthright as one of Aegeus’ sons. He still had two more enemies to defeat before he could reach Athens and meet his father.
At Eleusis, an important religious site and the location of the Eleusinian Mysteries Theseus met up with King Cercyon. Cercyon was extremely strong. Some legends say that he was also a son of Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea. Other legends state that he was the son of Branchus and the grandson of Apollo. Cercyon challenged Theseus to a wrestling match. In the past, Cercyon had always managed to defeat his opponents and would kill them after he had defeated them. But he had met his match in Theseus. Instead of being defeated and slain, Theseus was able to defeat Cercyon and killed him after the wrestling match was over.
After defeating Cercyon at Eleusis, Theseus continued along the route to Athens. He met the final enemy that he would have to defeat on the plain of Eleusis. His final battle was with Procrustes. Procrustes was also known as “The Stretcher”.
Procrustes was a rather nasty man. He would force passers-by to lay down in an iron bed. He would then measure them against the bed. If they were too tall for it he would cut off their legs. If they were too short to fit in the bed he would stretch them out until they fit. Of course, nobody ever fit the bed. This was because Procrustes actually had two beds. One was shorter and one was longer. Nobody would ever fit the beds. Theseus defeated Procrustes and forced him to lie down in his own bed. When Procrustes did not fit, Theseus cut off his legs and then decapitated him using Procrustes’ own axe.
With these enemies defeated, Theseus could continue on to Athens and meet up with his father, Aegeus. Instead of immediately announcing his parentage Theseus decided to lay low. His father was suspicious of who this powerful young stranger was. Aegeus’ wife Medea recognized him and was not happy that he was there. She worried that Aegeus’ son would supplant her own son as ruler of the kingdom.
Medea decided that she wanted Theseus to be killed. She set him the task of capturing the Marathonian Bull. She thought that he would likely die in the attempt and she would no longer have to worry about him taking the throne away from her son Medus. Theseus left on this task and Medea thought she could sit back and relax. But could she?
Tomorrow: What really happened with Theseus and the Marathonian Bull.