A fictional monster, half-man, half-bull, character from Greek myths.
Country: Greece

  1. Biography of the Minotaur
  2. The Birth of the Minotaur
  3. The Labyrinth
  4. The Death of the Minotaur
  5. Legacy and Interpretations

Biography of the Minotaur

Born on the island of Crete, the Minotaur was a mythical creature, part human and part bull, and a character in Greek mythology. Over time, the term "Minotaur" has become a common noun in modern computer games and fantasy sagas, often representing powerful but not particularly intelligent warriors. However, originally, the Minotaur was a specific monster from the island of Crete.


The Birth of the Minotaur

The Minotaur was born to King Minos and his wife Pasiphaë. After ascending to the throne of Crete, Minos had to compete with his own brothers for the title of true ruler. Minos prayed to Poseidon, asking for a snow-white bull as a symbol of support and patronage. However, Minos felt compassion for the beautiful animal and decided to keep it, sacrificing a regular bull from his own stock instead. Poseidon cruelly punished the deceitful king by causing Pasiphaë to fall in love with the fatal bull. Eventually, Pasiphaë commissioned the skilled craftsman Daedalus to build a wooden cow's body so that she could mate with her "beloved." The monstrous Minotaur was the result of this insane union.


The Labyrinth

For a while, Pasiphaë took care of her child on her own. However, feeding the creature became difficult since it couldn't consume regular food due to its inhuman nature. The Minotaur had to be fed human flesh, and to house the cruel creature, Daedalus constructed the Labyrinth near the palace of Minos in Knossos. The Labyrinth was a twisted underground maze of interconnecting corridors from which escape was nearly impossible.

The Death of the Minotaur

The Minotaur's demise was brought about by a political conflict. The conflict began with the death of Minos' son Androgeus. According to one version, Androgeus was killed by jealous Athenians after his exceptional performances in the Panathenaic games. According to another version, Aegeus, the king of Athens, killed Androgeus with the same bull that had been involved with his mother, which led to the confrontation between Aegeus and Androgeus. In any case, Minos sought revenge for the death of his son by imposing a terrible tribute on Athens. Every year (according to other accounts, every 7 or 9 years), the city had to send seven young men and seven young women to Crete. The fate of these young people was grim – they were sent to the Labyrinth to be devoured by the Minotaur.

Before the third sacrifice, Aegeus' son Theseus volunteered to go. His motive was not to save lives or settle scores; he intended to slay the monster. Before departing, Theseus promised his father that if he triumphed, he would return with white sails on his ship, while black sails would signify his death. Upon arriving in Crete, Theseus found an unexpected ally in Ariadne, the daughter of Minos. It was with Ariadne's help that Theseus managed to navigate the labyrinth. According to most myths, he used a simple ball of thread to find his way. Theseus emerged victorious from the battle with the Minotaur, slaying the creature with his father's sword and leading the remaining prisoners out of the Labyrinth.

Legacy and Interpretations

The subsequent actions of Theseus were far from heroic. He abandoned the lovestruck Ariadne on the island of Naxos and failed to change the sails of his ship to white, causing his father to commit suicide. However, the death of King Aegeus automatically made Theseus the new ruler, leaving the question of the hero's actions open to interpretation.

The true origins of the myth of the Minotaur are difficult to ascertain. References to a Cretan guard named Taurus, who participated in battles with prisoners in the Labyrinth, can be found in the writings of Plutarch. Plutarch, citing Cretan sources, claimed that the Labyrinth was essentially a prison where prisoners were treated humanely. Periodically, Minos organized games in memory of his deceased athlete son, and part of the prize was the captured teenagers from the Labyrinth. One of the first winners of these games was the military commander Taurus, whose historian described as a rude, wild, and cruel man. It is possible that this character later transformed into the image of the bull-headed monster.

Aristotle expressed skepticism about the story of the Minotaur, believing that the captured Athenians would have faced a fate common for slaves at that time, albeit an unpleasant one. Some contemporary historians believe that the Minotaur is a reinterpretation of the Phoenician god Moloch, often depicted with a bull's head and demanding human sacrifices. The victory over the Minotaur, in turn, symbolized the downfall of Moloch's cult. Another theory suggests that the story of Theseus and the Minotaur allegorically describes the conflict between Indo-European peoples and several indigenous cultures that worshipped bulls. As in the legend, in real life, the Indo-Europeans emerged victorious from this conflict.