Minos (/ˈmaɪnɒs/ or /ˈmaɪnəs/; Greek:
Μίνως, Minōs) was the first King of Crete, son of
Europa. Every nine years, he made King
Aegeus pick seven young boys
and seven young girls to be sent to Daedalus's creation, the
labyrinth, to be eaten by the Minotaur. After his death,
a judge of the dead in the underworld.
Minoan civilization of
Crete has been named after him by the
archaeologist Arthur Evans.
By his wife,
Pasiphaë (or some say Crete), he fathered Ariadne,
Androgeus, Deucalion, Phaedra, Glaucus, Catreus, Acacallis and
By a nymph, Pareia, he had four sons, Eurymedon, Nephalion, Chryses
and Philolaus, who were killed by
Heracles in revenge for the murder
of the latter's two companions.
By Dexithea, one of the Telchines, he had a son called Euxanthius.
By Androgeneia of
Phaestus he had Asterion, who commanded the Cretan
contingent in the war between
Dionysus and the Indians. Also given
as his children are Euryale, possibly the mother of Orion with
Poseidon, and Pholegander, eponym of the island Pholegandros.
Minos, along with his brothers, Rhadamanthys and Sarpedon, were raised
Asterion (or Asterius) of Crete. When
Asterion died, his
throne was claimed by Minos who banished
Sarpedon and, according to
some sources, Rhadamanthys too.
2 The literary Minos
2.1 Later rationalization
2.2 Possible historical element
3 The mythological Minos
Daedalus and Pasiphaë
3.5 The death of Minos
Minos in art
4.1 In poetry
4.2 In books
6 See also
9 External links
"Minos" is often interpreted as the Cretan word for "king", or, by
a euhemerist interpretation, the name of a particular king that was
subsequently used as a title.
There is a name in Minoan
Linear A mi-nu-te that may be related to
According to La Marle's reading of Linear A, which has been heavily
criticised as arbitrary, we should read mwi-nu ro-ja (
king) on a
Linear A tablet.
The royal title ro-ja is read on several documents, including on stone
libation tables from the sanctuaries, where it follows the name of the
main god, Asirai (the equivalent of
Sanskrit Asura, and of Avestan
La Marle suggests that the name mwi-nu (Minos) is expected to mean
Sanskrit muni, and fits this explanation to the legend
Minos sometimes living in caves on Crete.
If royal succession in Minoan
Crete descended matrilinearly— from
the queen to her firstborn daughter— the queen's husband would have
become the Minos, or war chief.
Some scholars see a connection between
Minos and the names of other
ancient founder-kings, such as
Menes of Egypt,
Mannus of Germany, and
Manu of India, and even with Meon of Phrygia and Lydia (after
him named Maeonia),
Mizraim of Egypt in the
Book of Genesis
Book of Genesis and the
Canaanite deity Baal.
The literary Minos
17th-century engraving of Scylla falling in love with Minos
Minos appears in Greek literature as the king of
Knossos as early as
Iliad and Odyssey.
Thucydides tells us
Minos was the most
ancient man known to build a navy. He reigned over
Crete and the
islands of the
Aegean Sea three generations before the Trojan War. He
Knossos for periods of nine years, where he received
Zeus in the legislation which he gave to the island.
He was the author of the Cretan constitution and the founder of its
On the Athenian stage
Minos is a cruel tyrant, the heartless
exactor of the tribute of Athenian youths to feed to the Minotaur; in
revenge for the death of his son
Androgeus during a riot (see
To reconcile the contradictory aspects of his character, as well as to
Crete over a period spanning so many
generations, two kings of the name of
Minos were assumed by later
poets and rationalizing mythologists, such as Diodorus Siculus and
Plutarch— "putting aside the mythological element", as he claims—
in his life of Theseus.
According to this view, the first King
Minos was the son of
Europa and brother of Rhadamanthys and Sarpedon. This was the 'good'
king Minos, and he was held in such esteem by the Olympian gods that,
after he died, he was made one of the three 'Judges of the Dead',
alongside his brother Rhadamanthys and half-brother Aeacus. The wife
of this '
Minos I' was said to be Itone (daughter of Lyctius) or Crete
(a nymph or daughter of his stepfather Asterion), and he had a single
son named Lycastus, his successor as King of Crete.
Lycastus had a son named Minos, after his grandfather, born by
Lycastus' wife, Ida, daughter of Corybas. This '
Minos II'— the 'bad'
king Minos— is the son of this Lycastus, and was a far more colorful
character than his father and grandfather. It would be to this Minos
that we owe the myths of Theseus, Pasiphaë, the Minotaur, Daedalus,
Glaucus, and Nisus. Unlike
Minos II fathered numerous
children, including Androgeus, Catreus, Deucalion, Ariadne, Phaedra,
Glaucus — all born to him by his wife Pasiphaë. Through
Deucalion, he was the grandfather of King Idomeneus, who led the
Cretans to the Trojan War.
Possible historical element
Palace of Minos
Doubtless there is a considerable historical element in the legend,
perhaps in the Phoenician origin of Europa; it is possible that not
only Athens, but
Mycenae itself, were once culturally bound to the
kings of Knossos, as Minoan objects appear at Mycenaean
Minos himself is said to have died at Camicus in Sicily, whither he
had gone in pursuit of Daedalus, who had given
Ariadne the clue by
which she guided
Theseus through the labyrinth. He was killed by the
daughter of Cocalus, king of Agrigentum, who poured boiling water over
him while he was taking a bath. Subsequently his remains were sent
back to the Cretans, who placed them in a sarcophagus, on which was
inscribed: "The tomb of Minos, the son of Zeus."
The earlier legend knows
Minos as a beneficent ruler, legislator, and
suppressor of piracy. His constitution was said to have formed the
basis of that of Lycurgus for Sparta. In accordance with this,
after his death he became judge of the shades in the underworld.
In later versions,
Rhadamanthus were made judges as well,
Minos leading as the "appeals court" judge.
The mythological Minos
Asterion, king of Crete, adopted the three sons of
Zeus and Europa,
Sarpedon and Rhadamanthus. According to the
Odyssey he spoke
Zeus every nine years or for nine years. He got his laws straight
Zeus himself. When Minos' son Androgeos had won the Panathenaic
Games the king, Aegeus, sent him to Marathon to fight a bull,
resulting in the death of Androgeos. Outraged,
Minos went to
avenge his son, and on the way he camped at Megara where
Learning that Nisos' strength came from his hair,
Minos gained the
love of Scylla and her aid in cutting off her father's hair so that he
could conquer the city. After his triumph, he punished Scylla for her
treachery against her father by tying her to a boat and dragging her
until she drowned. On arriving in Attica, he asked
Zeus to punish the
city, and the god struck it with plague and hunger. An oracle told the
Athenians to meet any of Minos' demands if they wanted to escape the
Minos then asked
Athens to send seven boys and seven girls
Crete every nine years to be sacrificed to the Minotaur, the
offspring from the zoophilic encounter of Minos' wife
Pasiphaë with a
certain bull that the king refused to sacrifice to Poseidon, which he
had placed within a labyrinth he commanded his architect
Minotaur was defeated by the hero
Theseus with the help of
Minos' daughter Ariadne.
Glaucus (son of Minos)
Glaucus was playing with a ball or mouse and suddenly
disappeared. The Curetes told the Cretans "A marvelous creature has
been born amongst you: whoever finds the true likeness for this
creature will also find the child."
Polyidus of Argos observed the similarity of a newborn calf in Minos'
herd, colored white and red and black, to the ripening of the fruit of
the bramble plant, and so
Minos sent him to find Glaucus.
Searching for the boy,
Polyidus saw an owl driving bees away from a
wine-cellar in Minos' palace. Inside the wine-cellar was a cask of
Glaucus dead inside.
Glaucus be brought
back to life, though
Polyidus up in the
wine-cellar with a sword. When a snake appeared nearby, Polyidus
killed it with the sword. Another snake came for the first, and after
seeing its mate dead, the second serpent left and brought back an herb
which brought the first snake back to life. Following this example,
Polyidus used the same herb to resurrect Glaucus.
Minos refused to let
Crete until he taught
art of divination.
Polyidus did so, but then, at the last moment
before leaving, he asked
Glaucus to spit in his mouth.
Glaucus did so,
and forgot everything he had been taught.
Daedalus and Pasiphaë
Minos justified his accession as king and prayed to
Poseidon for a
Poseidon sent a giant white bull out of the sea.
committed to sacrificing the bull to Poseidon, but then decided to
substitute a different bull. In rage,
Poseidon cursed Pasiphaë,
Minos' wife, with a mad passion for the bull.
Daedalus built her a
wooden cow, which she hid inside. The bull mated with the wooden cow
Pasiphaë was impregnated by the bull, giving birth to a horrible
monster, again named Asterius, the Minotaur, half man half bull.
Daedalus then built a complicated "chamber that with its tangled
windings perplexed the outward way" called the Labyrinth, and
Minos put the
Minotaur in it. To make sure no one would ever know the
secret of who the
Minotaur was and how to get out of the Labyrinth
Daedalus knew both of these things),
his son, Icarus, along with the monster.
Daedalus and Icarus flew away
Daedalus invented, but Icarus' wings melted because he flew
too close to the sun. Icarus fell in the sea and drowned.
Theseus slaying the Minotaur, 460 BC. Ref:1837,0609.57
Androgeus won every game in a contest hosted by
Athens. Alternatively, the other contestants were jealous of Androgeus
and killed him.
Minos was angry and declared war on Athens. He offered
the Athenians peace if they sent
Minos seven young men and seven
virgin maidens to feed the
Minotaur every year (which corresponded
directly to the Minoans' meticulous records of lunar alignments - a
full moon falls on the equinoxes once every eight years). This
Theseus killed the
Minotaur with the help of Ariadne,
Minos' lovestruck daughter.
Minos was also part of the King Nisus story. Nisus was King of Megara,
and he was invincible as long as a lock of crimson hair still existed,
hidden in his white hair.
Minos attacked Megara but Nisus knew he
could not be beaten because he still had his lock of crimson hair.
His daughter, Scylla, fell in love with
Minos and proved it by cutting
the crimson hair off her father's head. Nisus died and Megara fell to
Minos spurned Scylla for disobeying her father. She was changed
into a shearer bird, relentlessly pursued by her father, who was a
The death of Minos
Minos searched for
Daedalus by traveling from city to city asking a
riddle; he presented a spiral seashell and asked for it to be strung
all the way through. When he reached Camicus, Sicily, King Cocalus,
Daedalus would be able to solve the riddle, fetched the old
man. He tied the string to an ant, which walked through the seashell,
stringing it all the way through.
Minos then knew
Daedalus was in the
court of King
Cocalus and demanded he be handed over.
to convince him to take a bath first; then Cocalus' daughters and
Minos trapped in the bath, scalded him to death with
After his death,
Minos became a judge of the dead in
Aeacus and Rhadamanthus.
Rhadamanthus judged the souls of Asians,
Aeacus judged Europeans, and
Minos had the deciding vote.
Minos in art
Minos in The Last Judgement.
On Cretan coins,
Minos is represented as bearded, wearing a diadem,
curly-haired, haughty and dignified, like the traditional portraits of
his reputed father, Zeus. On painted vases and sarcophagus bas-reliefs
he frequently occurs with
Rhadamanthus as judges of the
underworld and in connection with the
Minotaur and Theseus.
In Michelangelo's famous fresco, The Last Judgment (located in the
Minos appears as judge of the underworld, surrounded
by a crowd of devils. With his tail coiled around him and two donkey
ears (symbol of stupidity),
Minos judges the damned as they are
brought down to hell (see Inferno, Second Circle).
Minos depicted by Romantic British artist
William Blake as part of his
illustrations of Dante's Divine Comedy. The original object for this
image is held by the National Gallery of Victoria.
Aeneid of Virgil,
Minos was the judge of those who had been
given the death penalty on a false charge -
Minos sits with a gigantic
urn, and decides whether a soul should go to
the help of a silent jury. Radamanthus, his brother, is a judge at
Tartarus who decides upon suitable punishments for sinners there.
In Dante Alighieri's
Divine Comedy story Inferno,
Minos is depicted as
having a snake-like tail. He sits at the entrance to the second circle
in the Inferno, which is the beginning of Hell proper. There, he
judges the sins of each soul and assigns it to its rightful punishment
by indicating the circle to which it must descend. He does this by
circling his tail around his own body the appropriate number of times.
He can also speak, to clarify the soul's location within the circle
indicated by the wrapping of his tail.
Minos appeared as an antagonist against Percy Jackson in The Battle of
the Labyrinth, the fourth book in the Percy Jackson series by Rick
Minos appeared to be helping the character Nico di Angelo
raise his sister, who died in The Titan's Curse. It was later revealed
that he was working with
Luke Castellan to destroy Olympus. He
revealed that he only helped Nico to trick him into killing Daedalus
so he would come back instead of Bianca.
Minos and the
Minotaur appear in In the Grip of the
Farnham Bishop and Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur, a novel which was
serialized in Adventure magazine in 1916. Set around 1400 B.C., it
tells the story of a group of Northmen who visit the ancient
Mediterranean on a trading mission and become embroiled in intrigues
between the rising power of Troy and the mistress of the
Mediterranean, Crete. Brodeur was a professor at Berkeley who
Prose Edda by
Snorri Sturluson and was a well-known Beowulf
scholar. The novel was printed in book form for the first time in 2010
(ISBN 978-1-928619-98-7) by Black Dog Books.
In Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves, the story of
Minos and the
Minotaur is referenced several times, both accurately and
inaccurately, when Zampanó discusses the thematic similarities
between it and the house's labyrinth.
Minos appears as a sympathetic character in Mary Renault's "The King
Must Die". Slowly succumbing to the rages of leprosy, he hides his
face by wearing a bull mask. Having no heir but an illegitimate
stepson nicknamed "The Minotaur", he sees in captive
Theseus a future
king and husband to his daughter, Ariadne.
Argive genealogy in Greek mythology
Minos, a dialogue attributed to Plato
Menes a pharaoh of the Early Dynastic Period of ancient Egypt
^ Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library 3.1.2.
^ Nonnus, Dionysiaca, 13. 220ff.
^ Hyginus, Poetical Astronomy 2. 34
Stephanus of Byzantium
Stephanus of Byzantium s. v. Pholegandros
^ Apollodorus, Library 3.1.3.
^ "We call him Minos, but we do not know his name, probably the word
is a title, like
Pharaoh or Caesar, and covers a multitude of kings"
(Will Durant, The Life of Greece [The Story of Civilization Part II),
New York: Simon & Schuster), 1939:11).
^ Hubert La Marle, Linéaire A : la première écriture
syllabique de Crete, Geuthner, Paris, 4 volumes, 1997–99 (in vol. 3,
ch. XIV concerns kings and meetings)
^ Younger, John. Critique of Decipherments by Hubert La Marle and
Kjell Aartun. University of Kansas. 15 August 2009; last update: 5
July 2010 (Retrieved 25 August 2011): [La Marle] "assigns phonetic
values to Linear signs based on superficial resemblances to signs in
other scripts (the choice of scripts being already prejudiced to
include only those from the eastern Mediterranean and northeast
Africa), as if "C looks like O so it must be O."
^ La Marle 1997–99.
^ Archivio veneto, Volume 16, 1878, p. 367.
^ Hesperien: zur Lösung des religiös-geschichtlichen Problems der
alten Welt, Joseph Wormstall, 1878, p.73.
^ On the origin and ramifications of the English language: Preceded by
an inquiry into the primitive seats, early migrations, and final
settlements of the principal European nations, Henry Welsford, 1845,
^ a b Thucydides, 1.4.
^ Powell, Barry B. Classical Myth. Second ed. With new translations of
ancient texts by Herbert M. Howe. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey:
Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1998, p. 346.
^ William Godwin (1876). "Lives of the Necromancers".
^ Diodorus Siculus, Library of History, 4. 60. 3
Theseus §16 notes the discrepancy: "on the Attic stage
Minos is always vilified... and yet
Minos is said to have been a king
and a lawgiver..." Lemprière A Classical Dictionary, s.v. "Minos" and
^ Horace, Odes 4.7.21.
^ Diodorus Siculus, 4.79.
^ Pausanias 3. 2, 4.
^ Odyssey, 11.568.
^ Plato, Gorgias; 524
^ Hyginus, Fabula 136.
^ Apollodorus, Library 3.3.1.
^ Bibliotheke 3.1.3; compare
Diodorus Siculus 4.77.2 and John Tzetzes,
Chiliades i.479ff. Lactantius Placidus, commentary on Statius, Thebaid
v.431, according to whom the bull was sent, in answer to Minos's
prayer, not by
Poseidon but by Jupiter.
^ The act would have "returned" the bull to the god who sent it.
^ Bibliotheke 3.1.4.
^ Apparently a quotation, according to Sir James George Frazer,
(Apollodorus, The Library, with an English Translation, 1921),
commenting on Bibliotheke 3.1.4 (.
^ Bibliotheke 3.15.8
^ Plato, Gorgias 523a and 524b ff (trans. Lamb)
^ Morris Eaves, Robert N. Essick, and Joseph Viscomi (eds.).
"Illustrations to Dante's "Divine Comedy", object 9 (Butlin 812.9)
William Blake Archive. Retrieved September 26,
2013. CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)
Aeneid VI, 568–572).
^ Inferno V, 4–24; XXVII, 124–127).
Apollodorus, Apollodorus, The Library, with an English Translation by
Sir James George Frazer, F.B.A., F.R.S. in 2 Volumes, Cambridge, MA,
Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1921.
Herodotus, Herodotus, with an English translation by A. D. Godley,
Cambridge. Harvard University Press. 1920.
Iliad with an English Translation by A.T. Murray, Ph.D. in
two volumes, Cambridge, MA., Harvard University Press; London, William
Heinemann, Ltd. 1924.
Odyssey with an English Translation by A.T. Murray, PH.D.
in two volumes. Cambridge, MA., Harvard University Press; London,
William Heinemann, Ltd. 1919.
Hyginus, Gaius Julius, The Myths of Hyginus. Edited and translated by
Mary A. Grant, Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1960.
Smith, William; Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology,
London (1873). "
Minos 1.", "
Thucydides translated into English; with introduction,
marginal analysis, notes, and indices, Volume 1., Benjamin Jowett.
translator. Oxford. Clarendon Press. 1881.
Minos and the Moderns: Cretan Myth in
Twentieth-century Literature and Art. (Oxford/New York: Oxford
University Press, 2008). Pp. xii, 173 (Classical Presences).
Minos SA: A study of the mind. (
Minos SA University: I
love Greece Club, 2000 BC). Pp. xii, 173 (Classical Presences).
Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article
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