In Greek mythology, the
Cretan Bull (Greek: Κρὴς ταῦρος)
was the bull
Pasiphaë fell in love with, giving birth to the
1.2 The Seventh Labour of Heracles
1.3 Capture by Theseus
3 In popular culture
4 See also
6 External links
Minos was King in Crete. In order to confirm his right to rule, rather
than any of his brothers, he prayed Poseidon send him a snow white
bull as a sign. Poseidon sent
Minos the bull, with the understanding
that it would be sacrificed to the god. Deciding that Poseidon's bull
was too fine a specimen to kill,
Minos sent it to his herds and
substituted another, inferior bull for sacrifice. Enraged, Poseidon
had Aphrodite cause Pasiphaë, wife of Minos, to fall in love with the
bull. She subsequently gave birth to the half-man, half-bull,
Minotaur. Poseidon passed on his rage to the bull, causing it lay
waste the land.
After consulting the oracle at Delphi,
Labyrinth to hold the Minotaur.
The Seventh Labour of Heracles
Heracles performing one of his labors as he forces the
Cretan Bull to
the ground. The engraving was created by
B. Picart in 1731.
Heracles was sent to capture the bull by
Eurystheus as his seventh
task. He sailed to Crete, whereupon
Heracles permission to
take the bull away  as it had been wreaking havoc on
uprooting crops and leveling orchard walls.
Heracles captured the
bull, and then shipped it to
Eurystheus in Tiryns. The bull later
broke loose and wandered into Marathon, becoming known as the
Eurystheus then sent
Heracles to bring back the
Mares of Diomedes
Mares of Diomedes (the next task).
Capture by Theseus
Androgeus, a son of
Minos and Pasiphaë, competed in the games held by
Aegeus, King of Athens. He won all the games, so angering
he had the young man killed (some legends claim that he was sent to
confront the bull itself). Devastated,
Minos went to war with Athens
and won. As punishment, the Athenians had to send several youths every
9 years to be devoured by the Minotaur.
Theseus set to try to capture the bull. On the way to Marathon,
Theseus sought shelter from a storm in the shack owned by an old lady
named Hecale. She swore to make a sacrifice to
successful in capturing the bull.
Theseus did capture the bull, but
when he returned to Hecale's hut, she was dead.
Theseus built a deme
in her honour. He then dragged the bull to
Athens where he sacrificed
Athena and/or Apollo.
Theseus then went to
Crete where he killed
Minotaur with the help of Minos' daughter Ariadne.
According to Jeremy McInerney, the iconography of the bull permeates
Minoan culture. The cult of the bull was also prominent in
southwestern Anatolia. Bernard Clive Dietrich notes that the most
important animal in the Neolithic shrines at
Çatalhöyük was the
bull. The bull was a chthonic animal associated with fertility and
vegetation. It figured in cave cults connected with rites for the
The palace at Knossos displays a number of murals depicting young men
and women vaulting over a bull. While scholars are divided as to
whether or not this reflects an actual practice, Barry B. Powell
suggests it may have contributed to the story of the young Athenians
sent to the Minotaur. McInerney observes that the story of
Pasiphaë and the
Cretan Bull were not written until after
come under Greek control. Emma Stafford notes that the story of the
Cretan Bull does not appear before the Hellenistic period and suggests
the connection between
Athens is the result of the
development of the myth of the
Theseus cycle in late sixth century
In popular culture
Taurus is one of the oldest observed constellations, and has been
variously connected with the abduction of Europa, the seduction of Io,
and the Cretan Bull. The Taurid meteor shower is named after the
radiant point in the constellation Taurus, from where they are seen to
come. Occurring in late October and early November, they are sometimes
called "Halloween fireballs".
Charles Bertram Lewis sees the episode of the Monstrous Herdsman in
Chrétien de Troyes' Yvain, the Knight of the Lion, essentially a
re-telling of the story of "
Theseus and the Minotaur".
Mary Renault's historical novel, The Bull from the Sea, recounts the
Theseus after he returns from Crete.
In the 2005 Hercules miniseries, the bull is portrayed as a Antaeus.
Donn Cuailnge, the Brown Bull of Cooley
^ Buenger, Theodore Arthur.
Crete in the Greek Tradition, University
of Pennsylvania, 1915
^ "The Cretan Bull", The Perseus Project, (Gregory R. Crane, ed.),
^ a b Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2.5.7
^ McInerney, Jeremy. "Bulls and Bull-leaping in the Minoan World",
^ Dietrich, Bernard Clive. "Some Older Traditions in Minoan Crete",
The Origins of Greek Religion, Walter de Gruyter, 1974
^ Powell, Barry B., "Cretan Mythology", The Oxford Encyclopedia of
Greece and Rome, Vol. 7, Oxford University Press, 2009
^ Stafford, Emma. "The Cretan bull", Herakles, Routledge, 2013
^ Falkner, David E., "Winter constellations", The Mythology of the
Night Sky, The Patrick Moore Practical Astronomy Series, 2011
^ Lewis, Charles Bertram. Classical Mythology and Arthurian Romance,
Media related to
Cretan Bull at Wikimedia Commons
Twelve Labours of Heracles
Mares of Diomedes
Girdle of Hippolyte
Cattle of Geryon
Apples of the H