Later on, when Minos’s son Androgeus was killed by the Athenians, King Minos blamed the Athenians for the death of his only human son and for the destruction of his family line. He sailed against the Athenians and harassed them until they agreed to pay the price for his son’s death. King Minos demanded that Athens pay a tribute to Crete of seven maidens and seven youths every nine years. Reluctantly, the Athenians submitted to Minos’ terms and King Minos returned to Crete.
The third year, Theseus, son of Aegeus decided to be one of the seven young men that would go to Crete, in order to kill the Minotaur and end the human sacrifices to the monster. King Aegeus tried to make him change his mind but Theseus was determined to slay the Minotaur.
Theseus promised his father that he would put up white sails coming back from Crete, allowing him to know in advance that he was coming back alive. The boat would return with the black sails if Theseus was killed.
When the prince and the children arrived on the island of Crete, King Minos and his daughters, the Princess Ariadne and Phaedra, came out to greet them. The both Princesses fell madly in love with him, who fell in love with him. Unable to cope with Theseus being eaten by her half-brother the Minotaur, she decided to help Theseus. Late that night, Ariadne went to Daedalus for help. She begged the craftsman to tell her how one could escape from his Labyrinth. Once he had told her, she wrote Prince Theseus a note and slipped it under his bedroom door.
Dear Theseus (Ariadne wrote)
Without my help, the Minotaur will surely gobble you up. I know a trick that will save your life. If I help you kill the monster, you must promise to take me away from this island and marry me. If interested in this deal, meet me by the gate to the Labyrinth in one hour.
Yours very truly,
Prince Theseus slipped out of the palace and waited patiently by the gate. Princess Ariadne finally showed up. In her hands, she carried a sword and a ball of string. Ariadne gave the sword and the ball of string to Prince Theseus. “Hide these inside the entrance to the maze. Tomorrow, when you and the other children from Athens enter the Labyrinth, wait until the gate is closed, then tie the string to the door. Unroll it as you move through the maze. That way, you can find your way back again. The sword, well, you know what to do with the sword,” she laughed.
Theseus thanked the princess for her kindness.
“Don’t forget, now,” she cautioned Theseus. “You must take me with you so that we can get married.”
The next morning, the Athenian children, including Prince Theseus, were shoved into the maze. The door was locked firmly behind them. Following Ariadne’s directions, Theseus tied one end of the string to the door. He told the children to stay by the door and to make sure the string stayed tied so the prince could find his way back again. The children hung on to the string tightly, as Theseus entered the maze alone.
Using the sword Ariadne had given him, Theseus killed the monstrous beast. He followed the string back and knocked on the door.
Princess Ariadne opened the door. Without anyone noticing, Prince Theseus and the children of Athens ran to their ship and sailed quietly away along with Ariadne and Phaedra.
On the journey home, they stopped for supplies on the tiny island of Naxos. Princess Ariadne insisted on coming ashore. There was nothing much to do on the island. Soon, she fell asleep. All the people gathered to admire the sleeping princess. Theseus continues to sail to Athens with his intended wife, Phaedra and the children of Athens and left her there, sleeping.
On Naxos, Ariadne reflects on her actions and naivety of assisting with her brother’s murder (the Minotaur) for Theseus, who she thought would marry her.
Theseus is overjoyed to be almost home with his new wife Phaedra but absent-mindlessly forgets to change the color of his sails from black to white. His father, King Aegeus, seeing the black sails from afar is overcome with grief and kills himself by jumping off a cliff into the sea. It is this act explains the origin name of the Aegean Sea.