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Minos

by Ron Leadbetter
The legendary king of Crete, son of Zeus and the Phoenician princess Europa. Minos and his two brothers, Rhadamanthys and Sarpedon, were raised in the royal palace of Cnossus. Minos married Pasiphae, daughter of the sun-god Helios. Some of their children were Phaedra, Ariadne, and Andregeos.

In mythology, a dispute over the sovereignty of Crete led Minos to ask Poseidon for help. He asked the god to send an offering as a sign of his true kingship. The god of the sea sent a gleaming pure white bull, which emerged miraculously from the waves. This confirmed to all concerned that Minos was their true king. However, as soon as King Minos saw this magnificent beast he refused to sacrifice it to Poseidon, and replaced it with another. Poseidon in retaliation sent Pasiphae into uncontrollable lust for this huge beast. So much so that she had the urge to mate with this huge animal. To do this she requested the help of Daedalus, a craftsman and inventor, who built a hollow wooden cow. Pasiphae hid inside, the amorous bull mounted the wooden cow and as a result Pasiphae conceived its child, or rather a creature which was half man and half bull, which became known as the Minotaur (Minotauros, "the bull of Minos").

King Minos ordered Daedalus to construct a palace to hide the Minotaur, and Daedalus built Labyrinth. Because of his meddling Minos imprisoned Daedalus and his son Icarus inside a tower. They escaped by making wings from wax and feathers, but Icarus was killed when he flew to close to the sun.

When Androgeos, the son of King Minos, attended the games in Athens he was victorious in all events, but was murdered through envy by other contestants. Minos then attacked Athens to avenge the death of Androgeos, and, after gaining control of the city he granted Athens peace, but with one condition: that every nine years Athens should send seven of their finest young men and young maidens to Crete, as sacrifice to the Minotaur. When the hero Theseus heard about this practice, he volunteered to be one of the victims, killing the Minotaur, and freeing Athens from this grizzly duty.

Another legend of which King Minos is part, is that of King Nisus of Megara, who to protect his city had to keep a lock of red hair hidden in his own white hair. King Minos besieged Megara, but Nisus knew that all would be well, as long as the lock of red hair was still in place. However, Scylla the daughter of Nisus fell in love with Minos, and to prove her love for him she cut the lock of red hair from her fathers head, which killed Nisus, and Magara fell. When Minos found out that Scylla had been responsible for her father's death he killed her. She was reincarnated as a seabird, to be pursued by her father Nisus, who had been turned into a sea eagle.

Sir Arthur Evans a British archaeologist gave the name "Minoan" to the Cretan civilization, from King Minos' name, (A.D. 1900). Even the name Minos, may not have been the king's real name (and is not Greek in origin) and could have been a hereditary title of Minoan rulers.


Article details:

  • Pronunciation:
    my'-nuhs

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