Places: The Book of Theseus

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First transcribed: Teseida, c. 1340-1341 (English translation, 1974)

Type of work: Epic

Type of plot: Romance

Time of work: Antiquity

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Athens

*Athens. Book of Theseus, TheBoccaccio’s mythologized version of the ancient Greek city, in which conflicts are resolved by heroic wisdom. It is to Athens that the Theban widows of Creon’s victims come for justice, and it is there that the ruler Theseus brings the Amazon leaders Hippolyta and Emilia. Athens is also home to the temples of Mars, Venus, and Diana, shrines that figures in Boccaccio’s epic frequently visit. Theseus’s presence in Athens, where he is a model of wisdom and heroism, indicates that the city has a civilizing influence on this many-adventured hero.


Grove. Pleasant cluster of trees just outside of Athens where Palaemon, escaping from prison, meets Arcites, a regular visitor to the grove, to fight for the right to court Emilia until Theseus intervenes.


Scythia (SEHTH-ee-ah). Mythical home of the Amazon nation of warrior women, apparently located somewhere north of the Black Sea. Theseus leads an army against Scythia and, after a spirited resistance, the Amazons surrender.


Theater. Athenian arena in which Arcites and Palaemon meet in battle to determine which shall have the hand of Emilia. Each man leads one hundred warriors before a noble audience of Athenians and distinguished visitors.

BibliographyAnderson, David. Before the Knight’s Tale: Imitation of Classical Epic in Boccaccio’s “Teseida.” Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1988. A literary analysis. Asserts that Boccaccio’s Teseida is a creative imitation of the work of a classical writer Statius. Emphasizes Boccaccio’s own sources of inspiration.Boccaccio, Giovanni. The Book of Theseus-Teseida delle Nozze d’Emilia. Translated by Bernadette Marie McCoy. New York: Medieval Text Association, 1974. A translation of the work with an introduction. Includes (placed at the end of each of the Teseida’s twelve books) a slightly abridged translation of Boccaccio’s own marginal glosses to the text.Branca, Vittore. Boccaccio: The Man and His Works. Translated by Richard Monges. New York: New York University Press, 1976. Authoritative biography of Boccaccio by a preeminent Italian scholar. Also includes specific discussion of the Teseida.Branch, Eren Hostetter. “Rhetorical Structures and Strategies in Boccaccio’s Teseida.” In his The Craft of Fiction: Essays in Medieval Poetics, edited by Leigh A. Arrathoon. Rochester, Mich.: Solaris Press, 1984. Examines various rhetorical devices employed by Boccaccio. Discusses the intellectual and stylistic traditions–for example, classical, Christian, vernacular–into which Boccaccio’s rhetorical devices fit.Wallace, David. Chaucer and the Early Writings of Boccaccio. Woodbridge, Suffolk: D. S. Brewer, 1985. Examines the relationship between Boccaccio and Geoffrey Chaucer. Discusses The Book of Theseus in chapter 7.
Categories: Places