Before King Minos was king of Crete he asked the god Poseidon
for a sign indicating that he would become ruler of the island. He built an
altar overlooking the sea of Crete for the god Poseidon, and prayed for the god
to bring forth a bull, a sign that would indicate he would be king. King Minos
promised Poseidon that if a bull was brought forth from the sea he would
sacrifice the bull to the honor of the gods. Poseidon then brought forth a
beautiful bull as the sign that indicated Minos would be king.
King Minos did not keep his promise to the god Poseidon.
When the bull sprang forth from the water it was a beautiful beast that he could
not bear to kill. Instead he took a bull from his own heard and sacrificed
it to the honor of the gods. All the gods became enraged at the
insolence King Minos showed towards the god Poseidon. The goddess
Aphrodite through a curse on king Minos, she made his wife Pasiphae fall
in love with the beast King Minos refused to kill.
Pasiphae had to guard her terrible secret from her people as
they clearly would not accept it. She asked Deadalus a great craftsman of
King Minos's court to build an object where she could guard her secret. Deadulus
then built a hollow wooden cow for Pasiphae where she could spend time
with her lover.
The gods then became angrier as Pasiphae was to be
an example for all to see, she could not be made an example if her secret
was kept in the dark. They made her conceive a monster as a result
of sleeping with the bull. The monster that Pasiphae bore was known as the
Minotaur and had the body of a man and the head of a bull.
Horrified at what had transpired the king went to the oracle to seek
advice. The oracle told him that he must hide his shame. King
Minos asked his craftsman Deadalus to build a labyrinth, a maze that no one
could escape. In the center of this maze he placed the horrid beast. King
Minos knew that if any one entered the maze they would never escape, they would
be eaten by the Minotaur.
To feed the beast a horrible "blood tax" was placed on
the city of Athens. Every nine year seven young boys and girls from Athens
were sent by boat. When the young boys and girls arrived they were placed
into the maze and fed to the waiting Minotaur. Athens owed the tax to King
Minos as a result of an accidental death perpetrated by the King of Athens
Aegeus on one of King Minos's children. Twice Athens paid the tax in blood
and the people became weary as the third time now approached.
This time it would be different, the adopted son of King Aegeus
the young hero Theseus offered himself as a sacrifice. Theseus promised he would
kill the Minotaur or it would end up killing him. King Aegeus deeply loved
Theseus and told him to make sure that the ship he returned in hoisted a
white flag indicating his triumph over the Minotaur, rather than the traditional
black flag of morning.
Thesseus's ship then landed in Crete, he told king Minos that if
he succeeded in slaying the beast Athens would no longer owe tribute to
Crete. If he failed in his attempt to kill the Minotaur he would die in the
labyrinth at its hands. King Minos scoffed at this challenge and wishing
to see Theseus die let him enter the labyrinth.
King Minos's daughter Ariadne had fallen in love with Theseus.
She offered him the details of the maze that Deadalus had provided her if he
would take her as his wife. Theseus agreed and pledged to Ariadne that if
he lived through his meeting with the fearful Minotaur he would marry her.
Ariadne gave Theseus the map of the labyrinth and where he
could find the Minotaur, she also gave him a ball of thread. As he entered the
maze he would unwind the thread and use it as a path to know where he entered
from, after he killed the Minotaur he would lead himself out of the maze with
When Theseus found the Minotaur it was a sleep, raising
from its sleep it attacked Theseus, yet he was much stronger than it and after a vicious
battle he slew it.
Theseus slays the
As Theseus sailed back to Athens he was overcome with joy.
Theseus had overcome a curse that hung over Athens for a generation.
However, in his happiness he forgot what his father had told him, he left the
black sail of morning flying over his ship. When king Aegeus saw the black flag he
thought his son had died. Overcome with grief King Aegeus
flung himself into the sea, he could not bear a life without the son he so dearly
loved. The Aegean sea is named after King Aegeus.