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6323: The Minotaur. Copy of a composition of the classical period. National Archaeological Museum, Athens.

RI.1-0935: Daedalus delivering the wooden cow. Daidalos verfertig der Pasiphaë die hölzerne Kuh. Relief in Palazzo Spada (nach Braun, 12 antike Basreliefs Taf. V. Roscher, 1884.

king187: Theseus killing the Minotaur. Painting by William Russell Flint (1880-1969). Charles Kingsley, Grekiska Hjältesagor (1924, Swedish Edition of The Heroes). Paintings (watercolors) from 1911.

The Minotaur was a bull-headed man, whom King Minos 2 shut up in the Labyrinth which Daedalus had built in Crete. The Athenians were then forced by Minos 2 to send every year seven young men and seven young women to be fodder of this famous beast.

King Minos 2 upsets Poseidon

King Minos 2 of Crete affirmed that he had received the kingdom from the gods, and in order to prove it, he declared that whatever he prayed for would be granted. While sacrificing to Poseidon, he prayed that a bull might appear from the sea, and promised to sacrifice it to the god. Poseidon sent him such a beautiful bull, that Minos 2 thought it wiser to sacrifice another bull instead. In this way, he caused the anger of the god, who noticing that he had been deluded by the king, contrived that Minos 2's wife Pasiphae should fall in love with the bull.

Architect at the service of the Queen's passions

The skilful architect Daedalus, who, having been banished from Athens for murder, lived in Crete, assisted the queen in satisfying her passion. He constructed a wooden cow on wheels, hollowed it out in the inside, sewed it up in the hide of a cow which he had skinned, and set it in the meadow where the bull used to graze. Then Pasiphae introduced herself into the wooden cow, and so the bull, taking the wooden cow for a real one, came and coupled with her. After some time, Pasiphae gave birth to Asterius 7, a bull-headed man who became known as the Minotaur. It is also told that Pasiphae had not made offerings to Aphrodite for several years, that being the reason why the goddess inspired in her the unnatural love for the bull. In any case, when Minos 2 discovered the affair, he cast Daedalus into prison for having used his skill for abnormal purposes, and for having helped to corrupt the queen.

Life of a Minotaur

Minos 2 shut his monstruous stepson—the bull-headed man—up in the Labyrinth which also had been built by Daedalus. The Labyrinth was a chamber whose passageways were so winding that those unfamiliar with them had difficulty in making their way out. In this Labyrinth, the Minotaur was maintained, devouring the youths that were sent from Athens. The Athenians, having lost a war against Crete, were forced by Minos 2 to send every year seven youths and seven damsels to be fodder of the Minotaur (but it is also told that Minos 2 did not destroy them, but kept them as servants).

Death of the Minotaur

When many young men and women had thus been destroyed by the Minotaur in the Labyrinth, Theseus (who later became king of Athens) was numbered among those who were sent as the third tribute to the Minotaur. It was then that Ariadne, daughter of Minos 2, fell in love with Theseus, and obtaining the secret to the Labyrinth from Daedalus, disclosed the way out to him. Theseus killed the Minotaur after finding him in the last part of the Labyrinth; and with Ariadne's help, he found his way out, fled from Crete, and came to Naxos with her.




Bull 1 & Pasiphae


Some believe that this bull could be the Marathonian Bull, which killed Androgeus, son of Minos 2. The Marathonian Bull was killed, or mastered, by Theseus.

Queen Pasiphae, daughter of Helius, was immortal, and yet Aeneas saw her in the Underworld. As her husband consorted with many women, she bewitched him in such a way that he, on making love to them, ejaculated beasts, and his mistresses perished. Some have said that Pasiphae's mother was Perseis, one of the OCEANIDS, but others affirm that her mother was Crete 3 (otherwise unknown).

Related sections

Ariadne, Crete, Daedalus, Minos 2, Theseus


Apd.3.15.8, 3.3.3-4; Apd.Ep.1.9; Hyg.Fab.38, 42; Plu.GQ.35; Vir.Aen.6.24.