Such, then, are the memorable things about Romulus and Theseus which I have been able to learn. And it appears, first of all, that Theseus, of his own choice, when no one compelled him, but when it was possible for him to reign without fear at Troezen as heir to no inglorious realm, of his own accord reached out after great achievements; whereas Romulus, to escape present servitude and impending punishment, became simply ‘courageous out of fear,’ as Plato phrases it,1
and through the dread of extreme penalties proceeded to perform great exploits under compulsion.
In the second place, the chief deed of Romulus was the slaying of a single tyrant of Alba; whereas for mere by-adventures and preliminary struggles Theseus had Sciron, Sinis, Procrustes, and Corynetes, by slaying and chastising whom he freed Greece from dreadful tyrants before those who were saved by him knew who he was. Theseus might have travelled to Athens by sea without any trouble, and suffering no outrage at the hands of those robbers; whereas Romulus could not be without trouble while Amulius lived.
And there is strong proof of this; for Theseus, although he had suffered no wrong at their hands himself, sallied out in behalf of others against those miscreants; while Romulus and Remus, as long as they themselves were not harmed by the tyrant, suffered him to wrong everybody else. And surely, if it was a great thing for Romulus to be wounded in a battle with the Sabines, and to slay Acron, and to conquer many enemies in battle, with these exploits we may compare, on the part of Theseus, his battle with the Centaurs and his campaign against the Amazons;
but as for the daring which he showed about the Cretan tribute, whether that was food for some monster, or a sacrifice on the tomb of Androgeos, or whether—and this is the mildest form of the story— he offered himself for inglorious and dishonourable servitude among insolent and cruel men when he volunteered to sail away with maidens and young boys, words cannot depict such courage, magnanimity, righteous zeal for the common good, or yearning for glory and virtue.
It is therefore my opinion that the philosopers2
give an excellent definition of love when they call it ‘a ministration of the gods for the care and preservation of the young.’ For Ariadne's love seems to have been, more than anything else, a god's work, and a device whereby Theseus should be saved. And we should not blame her for loving him, but rather wonder that all men and women were not thus affected towards him; and if she alone felt this passion, I should say, for my part, that she was properly worthy of a god's love, since she was fond of virtue, fond of goodness, and a lover of the highest qualities in man.