Theseus is celebrated as the greatest of Athenian heroes. Using an anthropological approach to Greek religion and society, Henry John Walker explores the world of Greek literature, myth, and political ideology to determine what Theseus meant to the Athenians at the height of their city-state in the fifth century B.C. Assembling material that has previously been scattered in scholarly works, Walker presents the evidence for the development of the myth and cult of Theseus in the archaic age. He then looks to major works of classical literature in which Theseus figures, probing the contradictions between the archaic, primitive side of his character and his refurbished image as the patron of democracy. His ambiguous nature as outsider, flouting accepted standards of behavior, while at the same time being a hero-king and a representative of higher ideals, is analyzed through his representations in the works of Bacchylides, Euripides, and Sophocles.