And he was numbered among those who were to be sent as the third tribute to the Minotaur; or, as some affirm, he offered himself voluntarily.1 And as the ship had a black sail, Aegeus charged his son, if he returned alive, to spread white sails on the ship.2
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1 Compare Plut. Thes. 17; Eustathius on Hom. Od. xi.320, p. 1688; Scholiast on Hom. Od. xi.322, and Il. xviii.590; Hyginus, Fab. 41; Lactantius Placidus on Statius, Achill. 192. The usual tradition seems to have been that he volunteered for the dangerous service; but a Scholiast on Hom. Il. 18.590 speaks as if the lot had fallen on him with the other victims. According to Hellanicus, cited by Plut. Thes. 17, the victims were not chosen by lot, but Minos came to Athens and picked them for himself, and on this particular occasion Theseus was the first on whom his choice fell.
2 As to the black and white sails, see Diod. 4.61.4; Plut. Thes. 17 and Plut. Thes. 22; Paus. 1.22.5; Catul. 64.215-245; Hyginus, Fab. 41, 43; Serv. Verg. A. 3.74. According to Simonides, quoted by Plut. Thes. 22, the sail that was to be the sign of safety was not white but scarlet, which, by contrast with the blue sea, would have caught the eye almost as easily as a white sail at a great distance.
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