Theseus holds a sword and drags the Minotaur out of the labyrinth. Goddess Athena is by his side holding a spear and wearing a crested helm and aegis vest bearing the head of the Gorgon.
In honour of goddess Athena, Athenians were holding sacred games in Athens, the Panathenia. At a time before Theseus had arrived in Athens, Androgeus, son of Minos King of Crete took part in the Panathenia games and won. Some of his Athenian opponents got jealous and killed him. King Minos then launched a powerful fleet against Athens and to spare the city he demanded a heavy toll; seven young men and seven young women had to be sent to Crete and sacrificed to the minotaur every year.
Minotaur was a monster with a head of a bull and human body, living in an underground labyrinth created by Daedalus, underneath Minos’ palace. Whoever entered the labyrinth got lost and never managed to escape.
When Theseus found out about his peoples awful misfortune, he decided to take the place of one of the seven young men sent as toll, in order to find and kill the Minotaur. Upon his arrival to the island of Crete, he met Minos’ daughter Ariadne, who decided to help him. She gave him a ball of thread (the clew) and advised him to tie the thread’s end to the entrance of the labyrinth and unwind it behind him as he proceeds so that he could then find his way back out of the labyrinth.
Theseus found the Minotaur, fought and killed him with his sword. He won with the aid of goddess Athena, patron of his city of Athens. He then left Crete, taking Ariadne with him who wanted to avoid her father’s wrath having betrayed the secret of the labyrinth.
Copy from original red figure kylix, 5th century BC
National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid