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Found in Greek mythology, the Minotaur myth has been around since the time of Zeus. It is a figure said to have the head of a bull on top of a man’s body.
As the legend goes, he was birthed by Pasiphae, the Cretan queen, after the Cretan king, Minos, deceived the sea god Poseidon. Poseidon made Minos’ wife fall in love with a Cretan bull, as punishment, and Pasiphae wound up mating with the bull.
Their offspring was the Minotaur, which was known to be a ferocious, unnatural offspring of a beast and man. This made it almost impossible to care for, which is why the stories tell of him eating humans for nourishment.
Ultimately, King Minos had an architect construct a maze to house the beast in, which was known as the Labyrinth.
It’s hard to deny that this is a wild story. As such, we’re here to figure out if there is any truth to the creation of this beast.
The Backstory on the Legend of the Minotaur
We mentioned above the quick version of how this creation came about, but there’s a little more worth noting.
Back before Minos was the king of Crete, he was merely one of three brothers who came from the union of Europe and Zeus, specifically when Zeus took the form of a bull himself. Europa’s husband, Asterion the then king of Crete, was not the father of Minos, but still cared for him and Europa’s other sons.
When he died, there was no natural-born king to assume the role, so Minos and his siblings had to prove themselves fit for the throne. Minos claimed that he had the power of the gods on his side, along with the authority to do so. If he prayed, they would deliver.
So, pray he did.
The sea god, Poseidon, heard his call for a bull. This bull would be sacrificed by Minos on Poseidon’s behalf. Of course, Poseidon obliged, happy to flex his power, and the people of Crete found Minos’ claim to be legitimate.
Thus, he banished his brothers from the land and took the title as King of Crete.
Unfortunately, he never did fulfill his promise to Poseidon.
Instead, the new king of Crete sacrificed a different bull, so that he could keep the majestic one for himself. This wasn’t part of the deal and as such, this angered Poseidon greatly.
His punishment? For Pasiphae to fall in love with a bull.
The love drove the queen mad and soon, she decided to mate with the bull with help from a wooden bull creation. She was able to go inside the structure, leading to the creation of the half-bull-half-man beast.
She named him Asterion, after her stepfather, but the Minotaur name came from combing “Minos” and “taur,” the Cretan name for a bull.
Creating the Maze to House the Beast
Eventually, the young bull-man would grow and become violent towards all men, women, and children, creating a problem for King Minos.
To solve the problem of the unpredictable being, the king had his legendary architect Daedalus build a maze, sort of like a house, to keep the creature in. Partially punishing his wife, while partially keeping his people safe, Minos named the building the Labyrinth.
As you might deduce, this is where we see the first use of the labyrinth.
This maze was to completely entrap anyone, or thing, that entered it, ultimately forcing them to be held captive for the rest of their lives. It was constructed of corridors and cells that would house the Minotaur for its lifetime, and even Daedalus found it difficult to escape after finishing the project.
Keeping the Minotaur Alive for Awhile
If you’re wondering how the Minotaur was kept alive over the years, we’ll tell you.
Over the course of King Minos’ rule, he eventually had a son named Androgeus who was killed by the Athenian people. This gave Minos a chance at declaring war against Athens, where he eventually triumphed.
His terms for victor included making the Greek people provide seven men and seven women every nine years to be sacrificed to the Minotaur. It might’ve been a cruel way to provide food, but it worked.
The Slaying of the Minotaur
Ironically enough, it was Theseus — the son of Poseidon — who ultimately killed the Minotaur.
Even more interesting was that to do this deed, Theseus needed Ariadne’s help. If you’re wondering who she is, have a wild guess: Mino’s daughter. Yes, the King of Crete’s own daughter fell in love with a rival.
Sounds like a tale that’s as old as time, doesn’t it?
At any rate, Theseus announced his inclination to kill the Minotaur to Minos. Minos doubted he’d be able to escape the Labyrinth, but Ariadne had a different idea. As it’s told, she provided a long string of thread to him. This thread was to be unraveled as he traveled deeper into the confusing structure, leaving a path to follow on his way out.
All in all, he managed to kill the Minotaur and save the Athenians who would’ve been sacrificed.
We know there is a lot more to this story, starting farther back in time, but it still should be understood before dissecting the lore itself.
So, Can We Believe Anything About the Minotaur?
As with any myth, legend, or high-tale from the ether, any longstanding story should be questioned for legitimacy.
With the myth of the Minotaur, it’s no different.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how all the events played out within Crete and the Minotaur, but the overall tale remains the same. Two people fell in love, and then subsequently craved power. To achieve their wants, they asked for the gods’ aide in the matter. Defying the gods has consequences, of which achieved the Minotaur being created.
But is everything believable surrounding the whole story?
It’s hard to say.
Taking a Closer Look Thematically
While the legend itself likely has some truth to it, as most history accounts can agree on the overarching story itself, the problem lies with the different tellings of the details that lead up to the beast’s creation and its eventual death.
As with most Greek myths, there were so many people involved that the history more than likely was diluted over the years, especially when considering the gods’ involvement. Kind of in the same way people play telephone and details get changed or obscured when going from person to person.
The biggest theme to take away from this tale is the relationship between the gods and humans, and just where it led. Most of the time, the gods didn’t meddle within human affairs. After all, they are gods. But here, we see a human pleading for help from a god and then being granted his wish.
It would make sense that a god would have the power to create a half-beast-half-human person if they themselves exist(ed). Even still, this same thinking poses another question: how would the gods even do this? Plus, if they had the power to create a beastly creation, why not just transform the person or persons themselves?
In the end, we see a story that is focused on love, creation, death, and deception.
All of these are entirely human-based traits, of which a fascinating story is told regarding someone’s mistake with power.
It was Minos who craved power. That, to him, was more important than almost anything else in the world. We could see something driving him to deceive Poseidon, such as power, but it does seem foolish to defy a god, no matter if they were real or not.
Think about it: would you want to defy an all-powerful deity for self-gain?
Playing with fire there.
In the End, It’s Up to You
Regardless of the evidence here, it’s hard to form a solid opinion on any Greek-based myth. Due to the high number of gods, stories, and poets, there is so much information that’s been uncovered Sometimes so much that it makes it difficult to figure out what may have been true or what may be a complete myth.
We think it could make sense that the gods would lend their aid to a human at some point, especially if the gods felt there was something in it for them.
On the other hand, that same lust almost sounds like a human-like trait, and whenever there are human accounts of myths, it raises questions.
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