Ariadne (/æriˈædniː/; Ancient Greek: Αριάδνη; Latin: Ariadna; "most holy", Cretan Greek αρι [ari] "most" and αδνος [adnos] "holy"), in Greek mythology, was the daughter of King Minos of Crete, and his queen Pasiphaë, daughter of Helios, the Sun-titan. She is mostly associated with mazes and labyrinths, due to her involvement in the myths of the Minotaur and Theseus. Her father put her in charge of the labyrinth where sacrifices were made as part of reparations (either to Poseidon or to Athens, depending on the version of the myth); however, she would later help Theseus in overcoming the Minotaur and saving the would-be sacrificial victims. In other stories, she became the bride of the god Dionysus, with the question of her background as being either a mortal or a goddess varying in those accounts.
Since ancient Greek myths were passed down through oral tradition, many variations of this and other myths exist. According to an Athenian version of the legend, Minos attacked Athens after his son was killed there. The Athenians asked for terms, and were required to sacrifice seven young men and seven maidens every nine years to the Minotaur. One year, the sacrificial party included Theseus, a young man who volunteered to come and kill the Minotaur. Ariadne fell in love at first sight, and helped him by giving him a sword and a ball of thread, so that he could find his way out of the Minotaur's labyrinth.
She eloped with Theseus after he achieved his goal, but according to Homer "he had no joy of her, for ere that, Artemis slew her in seagirt Dia because of the witness of Dionysus" (Odyssey XI, 321-5). Homer does not expand on the nature of Dionysus' accusation, but the Oxford Classical Dictionary speculates that she was already married to Dionysus when Theseus ran away with her.
In Hesiod and most other accounts, Theseus abandoned Ariadne sleeping on Naxos, and Dionysus rediscovered and wedded her.
In a few versions of the myth, Dionysus appeared to Theseus as they sailed away from Crete, saying that he had chosen Ariadne as his wife, and demanded that Theseus leave her on Naxos for him; this has the effect of absolving the Athenian culture-hero of desertion. The vase-painters of Athens often showed Athena leading Theseus from the sleeping Ariadne to his ship.
With Dionysus, she was the mother of Oenopion, the personification of wine, Staphylus (related to grapes), Thoas, Peparethus, Phanus, Eurymedon, Ceramus, Maron, Euanthes, Latramys and Tauropolis. Her wedding diadem was set in the heavens as the constellation Corona.
She remained faithful to Dionysus, but was later killed by Perseus at Argos. In other myths Ariadne hanged herself from a tree, like Erigone and the hanging Artemis, a Mesopotamian theme. Some scholars think, due to her thread-spinning and winding associations, that she was a weaving goddess such as Arachne, and they support the assertion with the mytheme of the Hanged Nymph.
Dionysus however descended into Hades and brought her and his mother Semele back. They then joined the gods in Olympus.