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Thesseus and the Minotaur

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. 

The god Poseidon.

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 the string.

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 minotaur.

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.


Other Greek Myths:

  Creation Myths:

  Other Myths:

  • Oedipus and the Sphinx Oedipus defeats the riddle of the Sphinx yet in the end meets a tragic fate!
  • The Naming of Athens Read about the contest of two gods of Olympus for the naming of the city of Athens.
  • Echo and Narcissus The story of the Nymph Echo, and unreturned love.
  • Persephone The beautiful daughter of Demeter, and how she became queen of the underworld.
  • King Midas and the Golden Touch King Midas and how all the riches of the world could not satisfy him, until his greediness became his curse.
  • Medusa the Gorgon Who was Medusa and her Gorgon sisters? Why were they so hideous? This is their story.
  • Pandora This is the little girl that the ancient Greeks believed released the plagues on our world.  How did she do it, and why?
  • Athena and Arachne Our favorite! How the spider was created out of a disrespectful pupil!
  • The Flight of Icarus King Minos ruled the land and the sea how could Deadalus escape with his son?  Through the air! 
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