greekmythology

Minotaur

minotaur

In Greek mythology, the Minotaur was a being with a human body and a bull’s head and tail. Apart from this descriptive name, the name of the Minotaur was Asterion. Sometimes it is still represented as a bull with a human torso, in correspondence with the Centaur. He lived in the Labyrinth, a building built by Daedalus on the orders of the king of Crete Minos. The Minotaur was killed by Theseus.

Before Minos became king, he asked the god Poseidon for a sign to prove that he, and not his brother, should ascend the throne. The god sent a beautiful white bull and asked Minos to sacrifice this bull to him. But Minos sacrificed another bull instead, hoping that God would not notice.

But Poseidon realized what had happened, got angry, and made Minos Pasiphae’s wife fall in love with the bull. The woman could not satisfy her passion and asked for help from the engineer Daedalus. He made an empty cow dummy, Pasiphae got into it and the bull was fooled and mated with her. From this union the Minotaur was born.

Minos, after receiving an oracle from the Oracle of Delphi, asked Daedalus to build a building to enclose the Minotaur, and he built the Labyrinth.

Half man, half bull, the Minotaur was the result of king Minos’s refusal to sacrifice a certain bull to the god Poseidon. The god punished him by making Pasiphe, Minos’s wife, fall in love with the bull, and she bore it a son, the Minotaur.

Because it was a terrible monster, Minos had it enclosed in a labyrinth, and each year he had seven young girls and seven young boys from Athens sacrificed to it.
The Minotaur was killed by the hero Theseus, who with the help of Minos’s daughter Ariadne made it out of the labyrinth by following a thread he had tied to the entrance.

When, all those years ago, Theseus’ father. Aegeus had returned to Athens after visiting the Oracle at Delphi he organized the Panathenaic Games which were held every four years and involved, amongst other things, athletic competitions. Androgeos, the son of Minos, took part in these games and won many victories. The jealous Aegeus was angry that Athenian citizens had been defeated by this son of a Cretan King and sent him to Marathon where he was commanded to slay the Cretan bull. However, he was killed by the bull and his father, Minos the King of Crete, blamed the Athenians and also the citizens of Megara for the brutal death of his son.

theseus-amd-minotaurIn revenge Minos gathered together his men and sailed forth towards Athens. His fleet entered the Saronic Gulf and Megara was overthrown and conquered. The war, however, was not over. Minos called upon Zeus for assistance and the god sent a plague to the city of Athens. In despair at the destruction the plague had wreaked on the Athenian population Aegeus capitulated and Minos laid out his terms of retribution for his son’s death.

Minos demanded from the Athenians to send as a sacrifice to the Minotaur seven young men and seven young women every nine years. This sacrifice of the Athenian youth would only end when one of the victims managed to kill the Minotaur by fighting with him in the Labyrinth of Knossos.

Twice, seven young males and seven young females were shipped off to the Labyrinth in a ship with black sails, and each time they were killed and devoured by the Minotaur. When the third time came to send the hapless victims off to Knossos, Theseus offered to go and attempt to slay the bull himself. Reluctantly, Aegeus agreed but instructed the captain to change his sails from black to white if Theseus had been successful and the young people where spared. The wily Theseus exchanged two of the girls with boys, dressing them in women’s clothes. Venus was invited to become a guide on their journey and on the 6th of Mouichion (April) they set sail.