The hero son of Neptune is absent now, in happy hour, and will be absent long; he is kept by the shores of his dear Pirithous. Theseus – unless, indeed, we refuse to own what all may see – has come to love Pirithous more than Phaedra, Pirithous more than you. Nor is that the only wrong we suffer at his hand; there are deep injuries we both have had from him.
|A lovesick Phaedra
What's interesting to me, is that Ovid's commentary doesn't put the emphasis on the sexuality, so much as how Theseus has neglected his wife and child in favor of spending time with his best friend. That's the true wrong that Phaedra is suffering from in this passage. Ovid paints Phaedra as a jealous wife, feeling ignored and throwing out spiteful accusations about where Theseus is having his needs met, if not in her bed.
Of course Theseus' track record with women tells us a lot about his relationship with Phaedra, too. You know that if he was off with Pirithous for extended periods he was coming home with new ah, consorts, lifted from raids on neighboring and unallied lands. Theseus is a man who loves women a little bit too much, not unlike Heracles, and somehow I really doubt he was keeping that enjoyment any kind of secret from his wife. Certainly it isn't any secret to us, today. But that wouldn't have been unusual for that time period-- women were prizes, and having a wife would never stop a man from taking another as a consort. Homer makes that very clear in the Iliad.
But I'm still left wondering: Is this Ovid's view of the ancient Greek hero, as a Roman stereotyping (and maybe even slandering) Greeks, OR is this just an illustration of Phaedra's character as a spiteful woman talking smack about her husband?