Tuesday March 16, 2021’s Smile of the Day: The Minotaur
On this Day:
In 1900, Sir Arthur Evans rediscovered the bronze age city of Knossos in Crete, home of the legendary Minotaur.
In Greek mythology, the Minotaur is a mythical creature portrayed in Classical times with the head and tail of a bull and the body of a man or, as described by Roman poet Ovid, a being “part man and part bull”. He dwelt at the center of the Labyrinth, which was an elaborate maze-like construction designed by the architect Daedalus and his son Icarus, on the command of King Minos of Crete. The Minotaur was eventually killed by the Athenian hero Theseus.
After ascending the throne of the island of Crete, Minos competed with his brothers as ruler. Minos prayed to the sea god Poseidon to send him a snow-white bull as a sign of the god’s favour. Minos was to sacrifice the bull to honor Poseidon, but owing to the bull’s beauty he decided instead to keep him. Minos believed that the god would accept a substitute sacrifice. To punish Minos, Poseidon made Minos’ wife Pasiphaë fall in love with the bull. Pasiphaë had the craftsman Daedalus fashion a hollow wooden cow, which she climbed into in order to mate with the bull. The monstrous Minotaur was the result.
Pasiphaë nursed the Minotaur but he grew in size and became ferocious. As the unnatural offspring of a woman and a beast, the Minotaur had no natural source of nourishment and thus devoured humans for sustenance. Minos, following advice from the oracle at Delphi, had Daedalus construct a gigantic labyrinth to hold the Minotaur. Its location was near Minos’ palace in Knossos.
The Minotaur is commonly represented in Classical art with the body of a man and the head and tail of a bull. According to Sophocles’ Trachiniai, when the river spirit Achelous seduced Deianira, one of the guises he assumed was a man with the head of a bull.
From Classical times through the Renaissance, the Minotaur appears at the center of many depictions of the Labyrinth. Ovid’s Latin account of the Minotaur, which did not describe which half was bull and which half-man, was the most widely available during the Middle Ages, and several later versions show a man’s head and torso on a bull’s body – the reverse of the Classical configuration, reminiscent of a centaur. This alternative tradition survived into the Renaissance, and still figures in some modern depictions, such as Steele Savage’s illustrations for Edith Hamilton’s Mythology (1942).
Androgeus, son of Minos, had been killed by the Athenians, who were jealous of the victories he had won at the Panathenaic festival. Others say he was killed at Marathon by the Cretan Bull, his mother’s former taurine lover, whom Aegeus, king of Athens, had commanded him to slay. The common tradition holds that Minos waged and won a war to avenge the death of his son. Catullus, in his account of the Minotaur’s birth, refers to another version in which Athens was “compelled by the cruel plague to pay penalties for the killing of Androgeon.” Aegeus had to avert the plague caused by his crime by sending “young men at the same time as the best of unwed girls as a feast” to the Minotaur. Minos required that seven Athenian youths and seven maidens, drawn by lots, be sent every seventh or ninth year (some accounts say every year) into the Labyrinth to be devoured by the Minotaur.
When the third sacrifice approached, Theseus volunteered to slay the monster. He promised his father Aegeus that he would put up a white sail on his journey back home if he was successful, but would have the crew put up black sails if he was killed. In Crete, Minos’ daughter Ariadne fell madly in love with Theseus and helped him navigate the labyrinth. In most accounts she gave him a ball of thread, allowing him to retrace his path. According to various Classical sources and representations, Theseus killed the Minotaur with his bare hands, his club, or a sword. He then led the Athenians out of the labyrinth, and they sailed with Ariadne away from Crete. On the way home, Theseus abandoned Ariadne on the island of Naxos and continued to Athens. He neglected, however, to put up the white sail. King Aegeus, from his lookout on Cape Sounion, saw the black-sailed ship approach and, presuming his son dead, committed suicide by throwing himself into the sea that is since named after him. This act secured the throne for Theseus (per Wikipedia).
First, a Story:
Alexios was hired to look after the labyrinth on Crete. Problem is, he was a hard man to find.
Second, a Song:
Adam Tucker wrote “Theseus and the Minotaur” which is a song which tells the story of Theseus, the hero who defeated the Mintoaur. (www.rightroyalscene.co.uk).
I hope you enjoy this!
Thought for the Day:
“If I have to pick one story that most influenced ‘The Hunger Games,’ it would be the Greek myth of Theseus, which I read when I was about 8 years old. In punishment for past deeds, Athens periodically had to send seven youths and seven maidens to a labyrinth. In the maze was this Minotaur, and it would eat them.” – Suzanne Collins
Have a great day!
© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky