Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Minos and Bulls

There once was a Phoenician princess from Tyre named Europa. Everyone knew of her extraordinary beauty.

Jupiter also knew of it and lusted for her. Disguising himself as a white bull, Jupiter acted very tamely and drew close to her. Attracted by the bull, Europa first touched him, then made garlands for his horns, and finally got on his back. With that, Jupiter wandered slowly to the sea then swam with her to Crete. There he seduced her. Eventually she gave birth to a son named Minos who became ruler of Knossos. The Roman poet Ovid tells her story in his book Metamorphoses.

When Minos became king, Jupiter taught him how to write just laws. Minos ruled so well that the Olympians honored him after death by naming him the primary judge of the dead in Hades. Lycurgus of Sparta (820-730 BC) later adapted the laws of Minos to Sparta.

The Greek historian Thucydides believed that Minos created the world’s first navy. Minos used it to eliminate the pirates constantly harassing his traders.

Years later another Minos came to rule Knossos. While competing with his brothers for control, Minos prayed to Jupiter for a sign of his pleasure. Jupiter sent him another white bull. Instead of sacrificing it to honor Jupiter, Minos chose to befriend it.

For this Jupiter punished Minos. Because Minos had misplaced his affection, Jupiter would have Pasiphäe, wife of Minos, misplace hers. Jupiter caused her to lust madly for the bull. Pasiphäe ordered Daedalus of Athens to construct a lifelike model of a cow that would allow her, once inside, to copulate with the bull. She later gave birth to a human with the head of a bull and an unquenchable rage.

In a fit of jealousy, Minos killed the bull of Jupiter but too late to serve as a sacrifice. Fearful of both Jupiter and the adult Minotaur, Minos ordered Daedalus to devise some way of keeping the creature alive, free to roam, but safely confined. Beneath the vast mansion of Knossos, Daedalus created an equally massive maze. This allowed the Minotaur to wander endlessly but not threaten the king.

One year Androgeus, son of Minos, dominated the games sponsored by Aegeus the ruler of Athens. Envious, Aegeus goaded Androgeus to rid Athenians of a wild destructive bull. Androgeus quickly agreed. Just as quickly the bull killed him.

Furious at the death of his favorite son, Minos asked Jupiter to curse Athens. Jupiter did. An oracle told Aegeus he would have to obey Minos to lift the plague from the city. Minos demanded that Aegeus send six young men and six young women each year to Knossos. Minos then threw them into the labyrinth where the Minotaur found them and killed them to appease his unending outrage.

Years passed until even Theseus, son of Aegeus, had to go. When Ariadne, daughter of Minos, saw Theseus arrive at Knossos, she loved him intensely. She quickly sought the advice of Daedalus of Athens. To kill the Minotaur, Daedalus gave Theseus a sword. To find his way out of the labyrinth, Daedalus gave Theseus a ball of string.

Theseus tied one end of the string to the doorpost of the labyrinth. He wandered until he found the Minotaur and killed him. He then found his way back to the entrance and escaped.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven Farsaci.
All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.