Tuesday, December 30, 2008


According to Greek myth, there was only one Minotaur - the child of Pasiphae, Queen of Crete and wife of King Minos, and a white bull sent by the sea god Poseidon.
The Minotaur had the body of an enormous human, with the head and shoulders of a bull. His body - particularly the animal parts - was covered in brown hair, and his horns were wickedly sharp, with a span wider then a man's outstretched arms. Given his fearsome reputation, it seems likely that he measured around 10 ft (3 m) high.

King Minos trapped his stepson in the great Labyrinth below the palace of Knossos and kept the Minotaur satisfied by feeding him 14 young men and women exacted as tribute from the Athenians. According to one version of legend, this tribute was made every nine years, suggesting the Minotaur could live off stockpiled nutrient reserves for long periods of time. However, other versions suggest the tribute was annual, or that Minoans were slaughtered instead of Athenians eight years out of nine.
The Minotaur was probably about 30 when the Athenian hero Theseus came to Knossos, entered the maze-like Labyrinth where the Minotaur lived and killed it, and was at his physical prime. This suggests a total lifespan of around 50 years.
Many observers said that the Minotaur was invulnerable to any weapon but his own horn driven through his brain. This is probably an exaggeration, although a Minotaur's size, speed, strength and ferocity, combined with a pair of deadly horns, must have made it a formidable adversary.

Knosses was destroyed by some form of cataclysm around 1450 BCE. Barbarian invasion from the mainland was once the favored explanation, but now a volcanic eruption and subsequent tidal wave are thought to have been responsible. By 1100 BCE, the Minoan civilization had faded.
In art and mythology, at least, the Minotaur lives on. Theseus and the Minotaur were favorite subjects for painters and craftsmen of ancient Greece. The tale continues to be one of the most popular of ancient legends. In the Middle Ages, Dante imagined the Minotaur as the brutal guardian of the Seventh Circle of Hell, a symbol of perversion.

No comments: