If a hero is properly defined as somebody who does something dangerous to help somebody else, then the heroes of Greek mythology do not qualify. They were a pretty selfish bunch, often with additional antisocial tendencies thrown into the bargain--in other words, not exactly role models for the younger generation of today. But knowing their names and exploits is essential for understanding references in literature and even popular culture today.

So let's recognize and celebrate Hercules and Perseus and the others by their proper dictionary definition: "In mythology and legend, a man or woman, often of divine ancestry, who is endowed with great courage and strength, celebrated for his or her bold exploits, and favored by the gods."
Theseus was a Greek hero in Greek mythology. While havîng all the qualities of a traditional hero, such as strength and courage, he was also intelligent and wise.

Theseus was a Greek hero in Greek mythology. While having all the qualities of a traditional hero, such as strength and courage, he was also intelligent and wise. His early adventures benefited the city and region of Athens, helping in the consolidation of the Athenian power through shrewd political maneuvering. He also led the Athenian army on a number of victorious campaigns. He was also credited as the founder of democracy, voluntarily transferring many of his powers as king over to an elected assembly.

 He gained a reputation for helping the poor and oppressed. His shedding of power also made it easier for him to continue going on adventures after his rule. "Not without Theseus" became a popular Athenian saying, reflecting the belief he should be included in any important undertaking. While growing up, he looked up to his older cousin Heracles. Theseus and Heracles later saved each other's lives; Heracles through his strength; Theseus through his wisdom. In middle age, his wisdom deserted him. He began going on foolish adventures, and making bad decisions. His efforts to produce an heir for the throne led to more problems. The people of Athens grew tired of the turmoil he produced. 

Eventually, he died in exile. The city did not bother to bring his body home. Generations passed without much thought being given to Theseus. Then, during the Persian wars, Athenian soldiers reported seeing the ghost of Theseus and came to believe that he was responsible for their victories. The Athenian general Kimon received a command from the Oracle at Delphi to find Theseus' bones and return them to Athens. He did so, and he was reburied in a magnificent tomb that also served as a sanctuary for the defenseless.

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