Why ? Simply because she was in love.
Ariadne is abandoned in Naxos, not knowing she will become the wife of mighty Dionysus
Painting by John William Waterhouse
Is this the end of the story ? Not even near !
Theseus abandons Ariadne in the island of Naxos and sails home to meet his unfortunate father Aegeus, who will soon commit suicide due to his son's neglect. What about Ariadne ? She is to marry Dionysus, God of wine and ecstasy.
Here are the Wikipedia links to the full story of Theseus and Ariadne.
What comes next is part of a blog-posting I came across which deals with the psycological and affective "behind the scenes" of Theseus and Ariadne.
Did Ariadne leave her family for love ? Was it a command of the Gods ? Destiny ? What did she feel ? What went through Theseus' mind when he anandoned her ?
It starts here ...
I try to imagine Theseus’s shipride to Crete–how he and his fellow travellers were stripped of their weapons as soon as they boarded ship, and then forced to row, side by side, the long voyage to the land of the enemy. How close they must have grown as every day and every league drew them nearer to the end of so many things. Did they talk about their youths? their mothers? their sweethearts? Maybe they confided in each other their plans for farming peaceably or fighting well or nurturing families, plans that they had fostered since they were little. These futures were to be sacrificed, and the sweeter the future, the greater the sacrifice. I wonder if this comforted them. I wonder if they recognized themselves in the throes of their fear and grief, stripped of time like that, taken from their homes, their families and their pasts, sent off to a strange place where time for them would end, and that end was absolutely knowable and terrifying. And even as they grew closer and grew to love each other in their misery, and learned how to comfort the ones who were always crying, they were also growing nearer to the end of that closeness, the end of comfort, the end of love.
Did they dream? Did they have nightmares of running in slow motion through a pitch-black labyrinth, pounding against walls and tripping over stairs while their ears were flooded by the roar of the monster coming closer, coming to tear them into pieces and eat them alive?
Then they landed, maybe they were enchained, maybe they cried, most likely they went into shock at the naked imminence of their deaths. I imagine them divided from the Cretans by hatred, by fear, by language . . . . a babbling and antagonistic crowd gathered around them, poking, prodding, leering, doing as we do when we are about to knowingly hurt somebody: blaming it on them. Theseus would have kept a brave face. He’d already proven himself a fearless hero, and the experience had made him cocksure. He believed in his blood that he was meant for great things.
The myths say that Ariadne was made by one of the goddesses to fall in love with Theseus, but if there are no goddesses than this is a fiction and Ariadne fell in love for the usual reasons. I can see how standing on the dock in the middle of all that rabble, commanding everyone’s attention with his strength and beauty, that Theseus was magnetic. So maybe it started with a spark of attraction and awe. Or maybe Ariadne saw Theseus and immediately recognized him as a kindred soul, someone she had known in past lives and who was therefore instantly knowable and lovable to her. Or it could have been pity for the Athenians that inspired her to help them, and she just chose Theseus to help directly because he was their leader, and fell in love from there. Maybe she just didn’t like being alone, or maybe she was rebelling against her Dad. Maybe she was simply ambitious, or tired of Crete, or hungry for adventure. Maybe maybe maybe. I’m not sure it matters, because the result is the same: she loved him suddenly and passionately.
I think of her faith in love, and I’m touched or appalled. She loved Theseus so much that she threw away her father, her mother, her family, her throne, and her home. She loved him so much that she trusted him completely. “If I help you, will you take me away with you and make me your wife?” she asked. Theseus said, “Yes.” She didn’t hold anything for ransom: right up front she gave him the thread, the sword, and the directions through the labyrinth. Because he said he loved her, she gave him everything.
So what about Theseus? Did he mean it when he said, “yes,” or was he saying whatever it took to survive and become the hero of his people? Maybe he was sincere when he said yes, I love you, and just as sincere at Naxos when he said to himself, no, I don’t want to take her home. What was the value of his word? Having said yes, even if he’d tired of Ariadne by the time they got to Naxos, shouldn’t he have kept his promise so that his word remained a true and constant thing? Or was it vanity and cowardice? Was he too afraid of Athenian opinion to remain loyal to the daughter of the enemy, even if she did save his life? Or was it hypocrisy: some scholars say that, as a rule, Greek heroes in the end find it unforgivable that a woman would betray her own kind, even if it’s to save the Greek hero, and the Greek hero inevitably punishes her for the betrayal after he’s benefited from it.
Did Theseus believe in love? A man who would risk sacrificing his life to save his people but not consider sacrificing any freedom, pride, or pleasure to save the woman who saved him. It’s possible, then, that he didn’t believe in love. I guess Athenians to this day, though, are grateful for the lie that saved their legendary King and preserved Athens. What they will never know is whether Theseus might have been even greater, and Athens even more wonderful, had Theseus kept his word to Ariadne despite the cost. Perhaps a future was lost in which a powerful and brave woman inspired and influenced a great king. Perhaps a future was lost wherein Theseus let nothing, especially not the betrayal of a woman who loved and helped him, chip away at his integrity. In that future, maybe Theseus feels bold and pure for longer and therefore rules with greater integrity and confidence. Because maybe abandoning Ariadne put a crack in his virtue that gradually opened into a fissure. And thus he matured into the kind of man who on a lark, with his best friend Pirthouous, would abduct a seven-year-old Helen and have his mother keep the little girl prisoner until she was old enough to marry, who became the kind of man who would help his best friend try to steal another man’s wife–a god’s wife, in fact.
Ariadne alone on Naxos and abandoned, maybe pregnant or maybe rescued by Dionysus, cursed Theseus in her grief. She cursed him to forget to change the sail from black to white to signal victory to his father. So when poor Aegeus, who had kept watch on that cliff for months, finally saw a speck on the horizon, he held his breath until it came close enough to make out. The anticipation he must have felt! Because he’d missed his son so much, and worried over him, grieved for him, prayed for him, imagined this moment. . . and here he came at last. . .. Then it took one split second for Aegeus to see the black sail, to feel his heart break in two, and to let go of life and fall into the sea. Suddenly, just like that, Theseus became King.
When he was an old man himself, Theseus would stand on that same cliff and look out at the ocean, imagining Naxos just beyond the horizon. He would allow himself for a few seconds to imagine Ariadne years ago waking up from her dream on the beach all alone, with Theseus completely gone. The weeping and the pacing and the shocked disbelief, the torturous helplessnees of loving somebody who doesn’t love you. The lamenting. The heart-crushing pain. Did she drown herself? Grow old and bitter? Marry somebody else? He would never know anything for certain except that he’d done her harm. He would think this, and maybe remorse would clench his chest, because the guilt engendered by that decision might have flavored everything that came after it: his rule of Athens, his adventures abroad, his subsequent love affairs. Maybe he felt regret. But the abandonment left the sail black, which killed his father, which made him king. Power and adventure or love and sacrifice? If Theseus had it to do all over again, would he have chosen differently?
And that’s why he’s like the ship of Theseus. Over time, it doesn’t really change. It’s the same ship, and like the ship, Theseus would have made the same choices. Or the ship only looks the same but actually has been fundamentally transformed over time. And like the ship, Theseus with the wisdom of age knows now he might not have betrayed Ariadne, he might’ve saved his father’s life, and had time to grow wiser before becoming king. And thus he might have become an old man standing on a high cliff without this regret, guilt, or anguish in his heart.
Interestingly, legend has it that the next great love of Theseus’s life was Antiope, an Amazon warrior — sister to the queen of the Amazons, in fact. She was killed fighting in battle by Theseus’s side.
Taken from "Theseus and Ariadne" (A world in a Grain of Sand)