Year after year went by, and yet no word reached AEthra from her husband on the other side of the sea. Often and often she would climb the mountain above Troezen, and sit there all day, looking out over the blue waters and the purple hills of AEgina to the dim, distant shore beyond. Now and then she could see a white-winged ship sailing in the offing; but men said that it was a Cretan vessel, and very likely was filled with fierce Cretan warriors, bound upon some cruel errand of war. Then it was rumored that King Minos had seized upon all the ships of Athens, and had burned a part of the city, and had forced the people to pay him a most grievous tribute. But further than this there was no news.
In the meanwhile AEthra’s babe had grown to be a tall, ruddy-cheeked lad, strong as a mountain lion; and she had named him Theseus. On the day that he was fifteen years old he went with her up to the top of the mountain, and with her looked out over the sea.
“Ah, if only your father would come!” she sighed.
“My father?” said Theseus. “Who is my father, and why are you always watching and waiting and wishing that he would come? Tell me about him.”
And she answered: “My child, do you see the great flat stone which lies there, half buried in the ground, and covered with moss and trailing ivy? Do you think you can lift it?”
“I will try, mother,” said Theseus. And he dug his fingers into the ground beside it, and grasped its uneven edges, and tugged and lifted and strained until his breath came hard and his arms ached and his body was covered with sweat; but the stone was moved not at all. At last he said, “The task is too hard for me until I have grown stronger. But why do you wish me to lift it?”
“When you are strong enough to lift it,” answered AEthra, “I will tell you about your father.”
After that the boy went out every day and practiced at running and leaping and throwing and lifting; and every day he rolled some stone out of its place. At first he could move only a little weight, and those who saw him laughed as he pulled and puffed and grew red in the face, but never gave up until he had lifted it. And little by little he grew stronger, and his muscles became like iron bands, and his limbs were like mighty levers for strength. Then on his next birthday he went up on the mountain with his mother, and again tried to lift the great stone. But it remained fast in its place and was not moved.
“I am not yet strong enough, mother,” he said.
“Have patience, my son,” said AEthra.
So he went on again with his running and leaping and throwing and lifting; and he practiced wrestling, also, and tamed the wild horses of the plain, and hunted the lions among the mountains; and his strength and swiftness and skill were the wonder of all men, and old Troezen was filled with tales of the deeds of the boy Theseus. Yet when he tried again on his seventeenth birthday, he could not move the great flat stone that lay near the plane tree on the mountain side.