Theseus' cycle of deeds: centre: dragging the Minotaur from the Labyrinth: Kodros painter, Attic red-figured kylix, c. 440-430 BC, found at Vulci (British Museum; image by Twospoonfuls, 2008)
The thread was placed by the hand of Ariadne in the hand of Theseus (in the other was his sword) so that this might permit him to penetrate the labyrinth and discover at its centre the man with the head of a bull, or, as Dante would have it, the bull with the head of a man, bring death to this creature, and if the labour was performed correctly, thus unravel the secrets of the networks of stone, and return again to her, his love.
But things happen as they happen. Theseus could not have known that on the other side of the labyrinth was another labyrinth, that of time, and that beyond there, in some prefigured place, waited Medea.
The thread has been lost; the labyrinth has been lost also. Now, we no longer even know whether these corridors that encircle us are those of a labyrinth, a secret cosmos, or a chaos of pure chance. Our beautiful duty is to imagine that there exists a labyrinth and a thread. We might never come across the thread; or we might stumble upon it unexpectedly and then lose it again in an act of faith, in the rhythm of a line, in a dream, in the sort of words that are called philosophy or in a moment of mere and simple happiness.
Theseus and the Minotaur: Attic black-figure pot, 6th c. BC.: image by Darsie, 2005
El hilo de la fábula (Borges): image by Emenegritos, 31 January 2011
Theseus dragging the Minotaur from the Labyrinth: Kodros painter, Attic red-figured kylix, c. 440-430 BC, found at Vulci (British Museum; image by Marie-Lan Nguyen, 2007)