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Apropos of nothing, I've been thinking some more about Theseus. So you guys are the victims of this off-topic Ramble.
I really like the guy.
Here's a kid with a tough upbringing. He's a bastard, and a royal one to boot. That's always hard. Then he pulls his father's sword from UNDER the stone (sound familiar?) and sets off on a quest. Lots of adventure, dealing with bandits and rogue kings. Gets to Athens. And immediately has to deal with an assassination attempt perpetrated by his step-mother (the always interesting Medea). Then he promptly volunteers for hazardous duty and goes to Crete where he's a big hero (at least from the Athenian point of view -- obviously the Cretans and the Minotaur wouldn't agree.)
On the way home, he does abandon Ariadne, but I still think he had no choice because the lady had caught Dyonisus' eye.
He then screws up and is indirectly responsible for his father's suicide. Mary Renault tries to explain this in THE KING MUST DIE. Everyone can decide for themselves whether her explanation is convincing.
Anyway, I'm coming to what I think is the key to his character. The transition point that changed his life, largely for the worse -- ultimately.
He fell in love. With Antiope, Queen of the Amazons. (Hyppolyta's younger sister.) I think this was a great love. A love of equals, in battle, in governance, in life, in bed, etc. This was the love of his life.
And then she dies. It all might have turned out differently if she had lived. I think they were a good influence on each other. But she died in battle, saving his life. And nothing would ever be the same.
After that, he makes one bad decision after another. (Though he does manage to set up the first semi-constitutional monarchy, which is something of an achievement, even if his motivation was selfish -- he didn't want to be tied down to dealing with day-to-day governance.) But basically, he just can't deal. His marriage to Phaedra is clearly a political alliance. And that's a disaster, resulting in her vengeful suicide and the death of Hyppolytus, his son by Antiope. The fact that Theseus is largely to blame for Hyppolytus' death (as he was for his father Aegeus') I think drives him past caring about much of anything.
Now he's just looking for something to kill the pain. He kidnaps Helen, not cause he wants her but because she's a prize. He becomes buddy to that idiot Perithoos. He abandons Athens and winds up stuck in Hades for seven years. And finally, he's killed by a king who was trying (in a very old west fashion) to build his rep by being the man who killed Theseus. It's not a great Arthurian way to go, of course.
But it feels honest to me.
I'm not trying to excuse all of Theseus' mistakes (some of them were fairly horrendous). But I do think there's an explanation.
And if you look at Antiope as the fulcrum of his life. With the Teeter-Totter heading uphill until he met her, holding steady while they were together, but swinging sharply down after her death, I think it ranks up there as one of the great tragedies. And yet still very human.