Greek Mythology: Minotaur Picture

The ancient Greek myths often blend a story with events that actually happened, so it becomes difficult to separate where the story ends and the myth begins.

One of the most popular of the myths is the story of Theseus and the Minotaur, it centres around an early civilisation on the island of Crete, it is a myth told long before Athens became the ruling capital. It is the legend of the Minotaur.

King Minos had angered the Greek God Poseidon by not sacrificing a great white bull that had been sent to him. Poseidon decided that he would punish King Minos by making his wife Pasiphae fall in love with the bull. Pasiphae hid herself within a hollow wooden cow statue and the bull found her attractive, the result of their 'union' unfortunately was their son the Minotaur a fierce half bull, half man like creature. The Minotaur was kept inside a huge labyrinth built by the chief architect at Knossos, Daedalus.

In ancient Greece, the Athenians had a great fear for the island of Crete and its King Minos; King Minos had defeated King Aegeus of Athens and had threatened to destroy his country unless he gave seven young women and men for sacrifice to the Minotaur every nine years.

King Aegeus had agreed to these terms and every nine years without fail a ship with black sails would set sail from Crete to Athens to collect the prisoners. Once the ship arrived in Crete, the young men and women were prepared for sacrifice, they were dressed in the finest of robes and fed with the most delicious foods but then they were taken to the doors of a huge labyrinth, were the Minotaur lived. One by one, each of the prisoners would enter the labyrinth the horrific screams could be heard from the outside, no one ever returned. The Athenians would be then safe for another nine years.

Theseus, King Aegeus's son had no idea why every nine years his father was so sad and begged his father to tell him why. Theseus decided that he must go to Crete as one of the prisoners and slay the Minotaur. King Aegeus protested, Theseus was his only son and heir to the throne, and no one had ever returned.

Theseus was determined to be a hero though and set sail on the ship with the other prisoners, once in Crete he was fed at a huge banquet that was given in honour of the young men and women to be sacrificed, at the banquet he sat next to King Minos's daughter Ariadne. Theseus and Ariadne began to talk and she became besotted with his handsome features and his courage. Ariadne decided that she would help Theseus in exchange for him marrying her and taking her back to Athens. Ariadne gave Theseus a ball of silken thread and explained that as he walked round the labyrinth he should unwind the thread so he could find his way back out of the maze.

Once Theseus had entered the maze, he attached the thread to the door and took hold of his sword, he could hear the heavy breath of the Minotaur sleeping in the distance, he kept walking deeper into the maze, but then he no longer heard the Minotaur. Theseus crept along quietly and found that he had entered a large dark cave. The Minotaur was awake and standing in front of him, Theseus dropped his sword in fright, the beast was terrifying, half man and half bull, huge and strong. The Minotaur began to attack Theseus, but Theseus managed to grasp his sword and plunge it into the Minotaur killing it.

Theseus and Ariadne boarded the ship back to Athens, on the journey home Theseus had a dream where the God Dionysus visited him, he requested that Theseus should not marry Ariadne as he had already chosen her as his bride and that he must leave her on the island of Naxos for Dionysus to collect her. Theseus does leave Ariadne on the island but he so full of sorrow on the way home that he forgets to change the black sails on the ship to white, his father King Aegeus is watching for the safe return from a cliff and he sees the ship with the black sails and assumes that his beloved son is dead. Aegeus jumps into the sea, this stretch of water is still called the Aegean today after him.

Theseus became King and was the great hero of Athens; he is connected as the founder of Athens democracy and a King who helped the poor. Though later in his life, he was not quite as much the hero it is said that Athens grew tired of his foolish adventures and he never produced an heir to his throne. Theseus died in exile from Athens but soldiers out at war often saw his ghost, they brought his bones back to be placed in a sacred tomb.

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