The Labyrinth of Crete: The Myth Of The Minotaur
Zeus, in the form of a bull, brought Europe from
the Phoenician seashore to Gortys in Crete where he made love with
her under a plane tree (or on the plane tree after assuming the form
of another sacred animal, the eagle), since then the plane tree was
blessed to never lose its leaves (evergreen). From their union three
sons were born triplets (or two twins). Next, Zeus arranged the marriage
of Europe to the Cretan King Asterion (or Asterio),
who appointed Europe's and Zeus' sons as his successors.
-> Read more about Gortys
-> Read more about the Abduction
of Europe by Zeus
As promised, the three sons of Europe and Zeus (Minos
or Minoas, Radamanthis, Sarpidon) succeeded King Asterion to the
throne of Crete. Initially they seemed satisfied to co-govern, but
Minos, who wanted the reign to be his exclusively, ended up banishing
his brothers: Radamanthis was sent to Viotia (or Cyclades) and Sarpidon
to Asia Minor. Minos became the monarch who believed the gods would
give him everything and anything he wished.
The gods loved Minos because his father, Zeus,
honored him above all. They presented him with a wife, Pasiphae,
daughter of Helios (Sun) and Persida, and sister of Circe, the sorceress,
Kalypso and Aete, and aunt of Mideia, the grand sorceress. There
is talk of eight children for Minos and Pasiphae: Androgeos, Katrefs,
Defkalion, Glafkos, Akali (or Akakalis), Xenodiki, Ariadne and
Once, wanting to offer a sacrifice in honor of his
uncle Poseidon, Minos asked Poseidon to send the best bull he could
find from the sea. The bull was so beautiful that Minos didn't sacrifice
him, but instead kept him with his flock (or in the palace gardens).
To revenge Minos for not keeping his promise, Poseidon made the
bull so ferocious and dangerous that his eventual capture in Crete
became one of the twelve feats of Hercules (Cretan Bull).
Pasiphae, his immortal wife, saw the bull she fell in love and coupled
with him. She was able to couple with him with the help of Daedalus,
who constructed a wooden likeness of a cow, in which Pasiphae hid.
From this union the monster Minotaur was born, a humanoid being with
a bull's head, which Minos promptly jailed in the Labyrinth, an enormous
construction in Knossos.
-> Read more about the Minoan Palace of Knossos
-> Read more about Daedalus
Minos, as ruler of the greatest naval kingdom of
that time, undertook many journeys and military expeditions. His
best known aggressive expedition was against Athens to avenge the
murder of his first born son, Androgeos. When the siege of Athens
continued for too long of a period, Minos asked his father, Zeus,
for help, and Zeus unleashed a terrible epidemic. Following the instructions
of the Oracle, the Athenians were forced to surrender and accept
all of Minos' terms of submission. The most onerous condition of
the surrender was the blood tribute. This called for Athens to provide
every year (or every three or nine years) seven young men and seven
young women as food for the monster Minotaur for as long as he lived.
When the last group of young men and women arrived
from Athens, prince Theseus, son of Poseidon and the successor
of King Aegeas of Athens, was among them. The princess of Knossos
, Ariadne, fell in love with the brave youth from Athens, and helped
him escape. She devised a plan and gave Theseus a ball of yarn (mitos)
so he could find his way through the Labyrinth and kill the monster
Minotaur. After the killing, Ariadne departed Crete together with
Theseus. However, along the way Theseus deserted her. Eventually,
Ariadne became the wife of the god Dionysos.
During Minos' reigning years, Daedalus,
from Athens , took up residence in Knossos, after he was exiled
to Crete for committing a crime in his own country. In Crete he eventually
became the official architect and sculptor for Minos. In Knossos
he built the Palace, the Labyrinth, the wooden likeness of a cow
for Pasiphae, and even helped Ariadne and Thiseas kill the
horrible Minotaur. However, when Minos became disillusioned with
him, he jailed Daedalus together with his son, Icarus. The brilliant
engineer didn't stay long - he made
a pair of wings for himself and Icarus and they flew away. The
wings were made of feathers held together with wax. Daedalus
warned his son not to fly too close to the sun, as it would melt
his wings, and not too close to the sea, as it would dampen them
and make it hard to fly.
They successfully flew from Crete, but Icarus grew
exhilarated by the thrill of flying and began getting careless. Flying
too close to the sun, the wax holding together his wings
melted from the heat and he fell to his death, drowning in the sea.
The Icarian Sea, where he fell, was named after him. Daedalus
lamented his dead son and then continued to Sicily, where he came
to stay at the court of Cocalus in a place called Camicus.
Of Daedalus' many ingenious works, the most famous was the Labyrinth - the
gigantic palace comprised of clusters of rooms and corridors so complex
and convoluted that only Daedalus himself was able to find the way
out again. It was in this Labyrinth that the Minotaur, the horrible
creature who was the love-child of Pasiphae's perverse affair with
the bull from the sea - was kept.
NOTE. This story comes from the book "The
Labyrinth of Messara" by Kaloust Paragamian and Antonis Vasilakis.
English translation by Lou Duro for ExploreCrete.com - ALL RIGHTS