Dikteon Cave myths

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Myths of the Dikteon Cave

The birth of Zeus

Undoubtedly the best-known myth connected to the Dikteon Cave, the cause of its fame in antiquity, was that of the birth of Zeus. According to the myth, this was where Rhea bore the greatest of the gods, Zeus, hidden from her husband Cronus. This was also where Zeus grew up under the protection of the legendary Curetes, cared for by the goat Amalthea and the nymph Melissa.

NOTE: The honour of being the birthplace of Zeus is also claimed by the Ideon Cave on Mount Ida or Psiloritis.

Laius, Cerberus, Celeus and Aegolius

According to another legend, mortals were forbidden to enter the sacred cave of Dicte. This injunction, however was broken by four men: Laius, Cerberus, Celeus and Aegolius.

Wishing to enter the cave and take the honey from the sacred bees, they put on bronze armour to avoid being stung. Inside the cave they found the swaddling-clothes of Zeus, who was so angry that he struck them with a thunderbolt.

But none could die in the cave of the birth, so Themis and the Fates turned the four friends into birds, including the thrush, the cuckoo and the owl.

Minos receives the laws from Zeus

Local tradition also has it that Minos met his father Zeus in the Dikteon Cave every nine years, when the courses of sun and moon converge, to receive the renewed laws. It is therefore no coincidence that Minos symbolised absolute justice and became a judge in Hades after his death. Of course the Ideon Cave is also claimed to be the meeting-place of Minos and Zeus.

Minos born in the Dikteon Cave

Another, relatively unknown local myth has it that Minos, like his father Zeus, was also born in the Dikteon Cave.

When Zeus, in the form of a bull, abducted the Phoenician princess Europa, he carried her off to Crete, to the Dikteon Cave (unlike the better-known version in which he took her to Gortyn), where he revealed himself to her in all his glory.

Their union bore fruit: Minos, the legendary king of Knossos, Rhadamanthys and Sarpedon.

Epimenides

A great figure of the ancient world, the wise Epimenides, once sat down to rest in the cave and fell asleep. When he awoke, many years later, he had not aged at all but had gained divine knowledge and wisdom.

No other cave could have such magical powers except that in which the greatest of the gods was born: the Dikteon Cave.



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