In Greek mythology, Ariadne was the daughter of King Minos of Crete and his wife Pasiphae. In retaliation for his son's death at the hands of an Athenian, during some games that were organised in Athens, King Minos attacked and defeated Athens.
He then demanded that, every year Athens should send seven young men and seven young women to Crete to be devoured by the Minotaur, the half-bull, half-human creature that was born from the union of Queen Pasiphae with a bull and dwells in a labyrinth. The Athenians were also warned that, in case of non compliance with the demand, they will have to face complete destruction.
One year, Theseus the son of King Aegeus of Athens, volunteered to be sent to Crete, planning to kill the Minotaur and relieve his countrymen from their plight. As he arrived in Crete, Ariadne spotted him and fell in love instantly. She approached Theseus and offered to help him to kill the monster, if he agreed to marry her. As Theseus agreed, she gave him a sword to fight and a ball of thread to mark his way.
He was advised by the beautiful princess to tie one end of the thread near the entrance of the labyrinth and let the thread unroll as he delves deeper into the twisting and branching route. Eventually, Theseus killed the monster and then followed the thread back to the entrance, where Ariadne was eagerly waiting for him.
To keep his promise, Theseus sailed for Athens with Ariadne, though he had no intention to marry her. During a brief break on the island of Naxos, he treacherously sailed away without her while she was sleeping on the deserted beach. The distressed, as well as grief-stricken girl was spotted by Bacchus, the god of wine, who was leading a procession of revelers in a chariot drawn by two cheetahs. He loved her instantly, jumped out from his chariot and offered her marriage with the promise of a crown of stars as a wedding gift.
However, the end of the story differs a little in another version, where it was stated that, Bacchus offered her the sky as a wedding gift where she would become the constellation of the Northern Crown.
Bacchus and Ariadne (1522-1523), an oil painting by Titian, based on the mythical story, was commissioned by Alfonso I d'Este, Duke of Ferrara, for his wonderful Camerino d'Alabastro, a private chamber in his ducal palace in Ferrara. In his painting Titian portrayed the first encounter between Bacchus and Ariadne on the island of Naxos and extracted the maximum amount of drama out of the story. The painting, considered as one of greatest works of Titian, now hangs in the National Gallery in London.
Apart from Titian, the story of Bacchus and Ariadne incited the imagination of many other old masters.