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The Bull of Minos: The Great Discoveries of Ancient Greece

The Bull of Minos: The Great Discoveries of Ancient Greece


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Having visited the Peloponese and just half-filled a suitcase of books on ancient Greece, I saw this at the airport on the way home. It turned out to be the best of the lot. Schliemann and Evans - two of the most controversial archaeologists - and their efforts to prove their theories of the existence of Troy and a sophisticated Mediterranean culture centuries before mainland Greece make for a gripping story indeed. Mixed in with the author's own journey to the sites, these two adventurers are presented in a favourable light for once. Yes, they might not have been as careful as modern archaeologists when excavating in their quest to prove their theories but without them would we today know these sites and treasures existed? First published in the 1950's, well-written and very readable, this is a great book to introduce the reader to early Mediterranean civilization. There are 50 b&w photos included. Sadly, there is no contemporary update for this edition on the current thinking on Troy and Crete. Neverthless, a great book.

About the Reviewer

Mark is a history writer based in Italy. His special interests include pottery, architecture, world mythology and discovering the ideas that all civilizations share in common. He holds an MA in Political Philosophy and is the Publishing Director at WHE.


The name Pasiphae may be literally translated as ‘light for all’. This name is apt, considering that she was the daughter of Helios, the god and personification of the Sun in Greek mythology. Her mother was Perseis, one of the Oceanids, i.e. the three thousand water nymphs who were the daughters of the Titans Oceanus and Tethys.

Pasiphae had several siblings. One of them was Circe, best known for her appearance in Homer’s Odyssey. She also had two brothers, Aeetes the king of Colchis and guardian of the Golden Fleece, and Perses. Whilst Aeetes and Perses were mortals, Pasiphae and Circe were both immortal.


The Maze, The Monster And The King Minos Ring

In Greek mythology, King Minos was the son of Zeus, the sky and thunder god who was himself the king of the gods of Mount Olympus . King Minos’ mother, Europa, was the female personification of the continent of Europe.

As the first ruler of Crete, King Minos ordered King Aegeus to select seven young boys and an equal number of young girls, once every nine years, who were sent into Daedalus’ death maze at Knossos, where they would be eaten by the Minotaur.

Greek folkloric and mythological texts recount that Minos obtained the throne of Crete with help from the god Poseidon. He colonized many of the Aegean islands after winning several fierce battles with pirates. King Minos then married Pasiphae, the daughter of Helios and mother of the Minotaur, and together they had three children: Androgeos, Ariadne, and Phaedra. After King Minos died he became the high judge of human souls in the Greek underworld.

The story of the King Minos Ring has its origins in mythology when King Minos hurled the sacred artifact into the Aegean Sea. It was discovered again by Theseus, the hero who killed the Minotaur in the Knossos labyrinth. The ring vanished from history at this point. Its last known location was somewhere in the palaces of Knossos.

In 1878, another Minos, Minos Kalokairinos, a Cretan merchant and amateur antiquarian, discovered the ruins of the ancient city Knossos, which is often referred to as Europe's oldest city. On March 16, 1900, British archaeologist Arthur Evans privately purchased the Knossos site and excavated the site for the next 20 years. Evans is credited with the discovery of the “lost” civilization of Minoan culture.


The Legend of King Minos


Bacchus and Ariadne

Back in the distant past, when the ancient Minoan Civilisation flourished on the island of Crete, there lived a great king known as Minos. Historians believe that 'Minos' may actually have been a title given to all Minoan kings, but to the early Greeks, Minos appears as one single, powerful figure. Many fantastical stories were woven around him, and he has come to hold an important place in classical Greek mythology.

According to legend, Minos was a mighty king and a great warrior, rumoured to be a son of the Greek god Zeus and the mortal woman Europa. He had a wife, Pasiphae, and three children: Androgeus, Ariadne and Phaedra. His splendid labyrinthine palace at Knossos was built for him by the great genius Daedalus. He was a strong character, but he was also very harsh, and not well liked. As the ruler of one of the most powerful nations of the ancient world, he was greatly feared and respected by all the neighbouring kingdoms.

One of his most famous conquests was against King Nisus of Megara. At first victory against Nisus seemed impossible. The king of Megara had a magical lock of purple hair, and as long he had it in his possession, his city could not be conquered. However, one day his daughter Scylla saw Minos from the city walls and fell desperately in love with him. She stole her father's magical hair and sneaked out of the city to give it to her beloved. In the end, Minos won the battle and killed Nisus, but he was so sickened by Scylla's treachery that he sailed away without her. She tried to swim after him, but her father's ghost swooped down as an eagle and drowned her.

Although he was a great man, Minos was also flawed. One day a magnificent white bull appeared in his kingdom. The god Poseidon demanded that the bull be sacrificed to him, but Minos thought it was such a fine creature that he decided to keep it for himself and sacrifice another animal in its place. The gods were angry, and decided to punish Minos by making his wife Pasiphae fall in love with the bull. Mad with desire, she sought the help of Daedalus, who created a mechanical cow in which she could hide and approach the bull. As a result of her union with the animal, she gave birth to a monstrous creature with the head of a bull and the body of a man - the Minotaur.

Minos was horrified, and in fury he imprisoned Daedalus in a tower. Keeping the brilliant genius captive proved impossible, however. Using wax, wood and feathers, Daedalus created two pairs of wings - one for himself and one for his son, Icarus. They used these wings to escape the tower and fly away over the sea. However, Icarus became too bold in his excitement, and despite his father's warning, he flew too close to the sun. The sun's heat melted the wax which held his wings together, and he plummeted to his death in the sea. The grief-stricken Daedalus made his way to the Greek mainland, where he quickly hid himself.

Dismayed that his prisoner had escaped, Minos devised a plan to recapture him. He issued a challenge to the Greeks, to see if any of them could pass a string through a Triton shell. This task was thought to be impossible, due to the spiral shape of the shell, but Minos knew that if anyone could do it, it was Daedalus. He was right, of course - Daedalus rose to the challenge and solved it. He tied the thread to an ant, which then crawled through the shell, drawing the string along behind it. However, although the genius had revealed himself to Minos once again, he still managed to evade capture.

In the meantime the Minotaur had grown into a fearsome flesh-eating monster, and Minos wisely had it imprisoned in the maze beneath his palace. When his only son, Androgeus, was killed in a battle against Athens, he was so eaten up with grief and hatred that he demanded a terrible tribute - every nine years, fourteen young Athenians were to be sent to Crete to be fed to the Minotaur. The son of King Aegeus of Athens, Prince Theseus, was so appalled that he volunteered to go as one of the fourteen and try to slay the monster himself. Of course, King Aegeus was very afraid for his son. Before the black-sailed ship carrying the youths left for Crete, he told the sailors that when they returned, they were to hoist white sails if Theseus had survived, and to keep them black if he had been killed.

When Theseus arrived in Crete, Minos' daughter Ariadne saw him among the victims and fell in love with him. She said she would help him defeat the Minotaur if he would promise to take her home and marry her. He agreed, and she gave him a magical ball of twine to guide him through the maze where the Minotaur lurked. With the help of the twine, which unwound before him to show him the way, he soon found the beast, and after a long and fierce battle he finally killed it. Following the path marked by the magic twine, he led the other young Athenians out of the maze, to safety.

They escaped the island by boat, taking Ariadne with them. However, on their way back to Athens they stopped off at the island of Naxos, where the ungrateful Theseus abandoned her. Realising she had been deceived, the young woman cried to the gods for vengeance. She was heard by the god Dionysus, who instantly fell in love with her and made her his wife. With the help of her husband, Ariadne got her revenge on Theseus by making him forget to change the sails from black to white as he returned home. King Aegeus saw the black-sailed ship and was consumed by grief, thinking his son was dead. In his despair he threw himself into the sea and drowned. Today, the stretch of water where he killed himself is still known as the Aegean Sea.

Theseus' troubles did not end there. After the death of his first wife, Hippolyte, he married Phaedra, the second daughter of King Minos. Phaedra was very jealous of the love he bore his son by Hippolyte, Hippolytus. She accused Hippolytus of attacking her, and Theseus was so angry that he asked Poseidon to punish the young man. One day when Hippolytus was driving his chariot along the beach, Poseidon sent a great wave which terrified the horses into bolting. The chariot crashed and Hippolytus was killed. When Theseus then discovered that Phaedra had lied to him, he was furious. The terrified woman hanged herself to escape his wrath.

Although it is not known what eventually became of King Minos himself, or whether he ever had time to visit Makrigialos, his legend lives on to this day. Visitors to Crete can still visit Knossos, the fabulous Minoan palace where these fantastic adventures are said to have taken place.


The Bull of Minos

Cotrell&aposs book reads rather like a hagiography of the two great venerable figures of modern Greek archaeology, Arthur Evans and Heinrich Schliemann. While both deserve praise and gratitude, both have likewise earned a degree of criticism for their impatience, gradiosity, runaway imaginations, and lack of intellectual discipline that arguably led to as much harm as good. One reads with a sense of agony of Schliemann burrowing hastily through and destroying entire levels of Troy, now lost to us fo Cotrell's book reads rather like a hagiography of the two great venerable figures of modern Greek archaeology, Arthur Evans and Heinrich Schliemann. While both deserve praise and gratitude, both have likewise earned a degree of criticism for their impatience, gradiosity, runaway imaginations, and lack of intellectual discipline that arguably led to as much harm as good. One reads with a sense of agony of Schliemann burrowing hastily through and destroying entire levels of Troy, now lost to us forever, out of his pressing desire to discover evidence that matched his vision of Homer's Troy. And who can read without sighing with exasperation, his declaration upon discovering a gold mask in a Mycenaean shaft grave, that he has looked upon the face of Agamemnon?

Cottrell can do so, apparently, enamored as he is with the romanticism of the daring archaeology of spade and shovel. Unfortunately, the archaeology of the adventurer leaves fragments behind that the archaeology of scholarship must then try to piece back together.

Even as a matter of enthusiastic biography Cottrell might have paused to consider how Evans got custody of the site of Knossos in the first place, when Greek archaeologists were also poised to dig at the spot. And Schliemann's discovery of Troy was surely as much dumb luck as deduction - his reasoning was as often wrong as right.

I write this review as an admirer of Schliemann and Evans, but no on is served by hero-worship, and Cottrell, I fear, is as drawn to their excesses as to their gifts. So, in this popular survey of their discoveries, he rhapsodizes in a matter I find old fashioned and unengaging, suffused with nostalgia and gloss. . more

First off, I must say I flat-out adored the writing style. A tale of early archaeological studies, done by the wealthy and obsessed amateurs Heinrich Schliemann (Troy) and Arthur Evans (Minos), this book was exactly that - a wildly improbable tale, Boys Own style.

Written in 1953, it really is a great read. The author traveled in the footsteps of these two, and it&aposs as much a travel adventure as a scholarly piece and all to the good, I say. I can&apost imagine how many young people this book must ha First off, I must say I flat-out adored the writing style. A tale of early archaeological studies, done by the wealthy and obsessed amateurs Heinrich Schliemann (Troy) and Arthur Evans (Minos), this book was exactly that - a wildly improbable tale, Boys Own style.

Written in 1953, it really is a great read. The author traveled in the footsteps of these two, and it's as much a travel adventure as a scholarly piece and all to the good, I say. I can't imagine how many young people this book must have inspired. Footnotes are highly overrated, IMHO. . more

Desde la escuela primaria que he alucinado con la Historia antigua y con Grecia, especialmente. Es uno de los países más bellos, interesantes y alucinantes que he tenido la fortuna de visitar y recorrer. Este libro me llenó de una curiosidad enorme, de ganas infinitas de regresar. La influencia, el nivel de desarrollo alcanzado y el poder que alguna vez tuvo la civilización minoica es impresionante. Lo pude ver en Akrotiri, en la isla de Fira (mar Egeo). Quedé sin aliento. El sitio arqueológico Desde la escuela primaria que he alucinado con la Historia antigua y con Grecia, especialmente. Es uno de los países más bellos, interesantes y alucinantes que he tenido la fortuna de visitar y recorrer. Este libro me llenó de una curiosidad enorme, de ganas infinitas de regresar. La influencia, el nivel de desarrollo alcanzado y el poder que alguna vez tuvo la civilización minoica es impresionante. Lo pude ver en Akrotiri, en la isla de Fira (mar Egeo). Quedé sin aliento. El sitio arqueológico era impresionante, parecía una ciudad moderna, con casas modernas. Quiero recorrer Creta (no conozco la isla), el país entero más bien. Qué así sea, amén, aleluya.

Aquí un ejemplo de lo avanzada de esta civilización (el trono de Cnosos es al menos dos mil años más antiguo que cualquier otro de Europa, imagínense). Sobre las letrinas, el periodista Leonar Cottrell y el arqueólogo Arthur Evans nos dicen que:

"Es característico de nuestra época tecnológica que a la mayor parte de los profanos que visitan el Palacio de Cnosos, más que ninguno de sus tesoros estéticos les impresione esta letrina de hace 3600 años. Es el paraíso del plomero. Grandes ductos de piedra conducen el agua desde el tejado hasta unos drenajes subterráneos que estaban bien ventilados por medio de respiraderos dotados de registros para su inspección. (. ) Las tuberías de terracotas, con sus secciones de una forma estudiada científicamente, perfectamente empalmadas, que datan de los primeros tiempos del edificio, son comparables a sus equivalentes modernos".

Pero según Cottrell, el ejemplo más notable de la ingeniería hidráulica minoica se encontraba en los canales que transportaban el agua de lluvia en el mencionado palacio. A través del manejo de cálculo matemático, lograron dar con los ángulos precisos para reducir la velocidad de la caída del agua y que así esta bajara por la pendiente de manera controlada, dando exitosamente la vuelta en cada esquina sin que se desbordara en los rellanos (este sistema de canales estaba instalado en las escalinatas del palacio).

Quite an interesting summary of archaeological investigations at Troy, Mycenae and of the Minoan civilization on Crete. There are drawbacks to Cottrell&aposs presentation, but it was quite easy reading and quite informative. The problems arise from the relationship between this readability and informativeness. The book operates on three levels, each with a different degree of interconnection between subject matter and informative value.

On the simplest level, the story describes Cottrell&aposs travels to Quite an interesting summary of archaeological investigations at Troy, Mycenae and of the Minoan civilization on Crete. There are drawbacks to Cottrell's presentation, but it was quite easy reading and quite informative. The problems arise from the relationship between this readability and informativeness. The book operates on three levels, each with a different degree of interconnection between subject matter and informative value.

On the simplest level, the story describes Cottrell's travels to Turkey to view the sights of Schliemann's excavations that uncovered the ruins of Troy, proving his fundamental assertion that the Homeric epics were based on actual, not fictional history. Then, the author travelled to Mycenae on the Greek peninsula and finally to the island of Crete. At each stop off, he describes the people he meets, the inns he stays at, and his personal impression of the ruins he inspects. This is all quite engaging, and quite easily understood. But like most travelogues, we learn as much if not more about the traveller doing the observing than we do about what he or she is actually encountering.

At a higher level, Cottrell does an incredible job describing the life and work of Schliemann and Sir Arthur Evans, the man who coined the term term 'Minoan' (from King Minos) to describe the entire new civilization he discovered and spent the better part of a half century investigating and writing about. Both these individuals were as idiosyncratic as they were forceful in their pursuit of what they were after. Schliemann made a ton of money as a merchant before giving himself over to archaeology, while Evans was, fortunately for him and his investigations, born into a large private fortune, which allowed him to finance extensive years of work among the ruins.

The story of Schliemann's abandoning his attempts to purchase the lands on which the palace of Knossus were located due to a deliberate over-statement of the number of olive trees is inadvertently hilarious, while his passionate love for two different women at different points in his life made him quite a sympathetic figure. Evans' disability (he was extremely short-sighted) is shown to have worked out with quite fortuitous results when it came to his inspection of the seals and beads from Mycenae. His earlier fascination with Bosnian independence, his characteristic walking stick (named Prodger) and his willingness to take on the entire British university and/or government apparatus was astounding. These two men were truly amazing figures, without whom we would know so much less about the times before 1000 B.C. This part of the book was much more informative and was also quite easy to digest.

The third and final level of the work I found the most frustrating. Rather than a straightforward summary of what we know now about these ancient civilizations and their cultures, Cottrell introduces each piece separately as it was uncovered by the archaeologists who first brought it to light. After unearthing several different levels at Troy and not being certain at to which of them represented the one which the Greeks managed to destroy in the Trojan war, Schliemann went on and found seven shaft graves at Mycenea. They containing wonders of gold and silver jewellry and were thought to possibly be the remains of Agamemnon whom Clytemnestra and her lover so brutally murdered on his return from Troy. Evans discovered the palace of Knossus, which was just one of several Minoan palaces spread throughout the island of Crete, and a civilization which seem to have practised a strange sport of leaping over bulls as well as being benefited by the luxury of indoor plumbing. All very well and good, but these are highlights: almost picture postcard types of tourist-trap hot spots, and hardly the description of an ancient culture and society I wanted to come to understand. Thus, when the work finally got to the most important part for my interest, it seemed to lose its overall thrust of engaging interpretation.

One interesting thing, or actually two, although they are somewhat similar. The Greeks were mad at the Trojans for controlling the eastern Mediterranean trade. So Agamemnon hatched up the story of Helen's kidnapping by Paris to justify a war of the Achaeans against the Trojans. Similarly, the story of Greeks having to send seven young men and women each year to be sacrificed to the Minotaur in the labyrinth until Theseus. aided by Ariadne, overcame the monster was just another such piece of propaganda for the colonial Minoan states to justify their rebellion against the rule of Knossus. The labyrinth is nothing more than the intricate network of plumbing around the palace which allowed for indoor plumbing!

Still, an interesting read, although maybe my expectations of what I would finally achieve were a touch unrealistic. After all, these cultures existed over three thousand years ago. . more

Sucede en ocasiones que comenzamos a leer cierto libro sin tener de él grandes expectativas, acaso cierta curiosidad porque el tema que trata nos interesa o porque conocemos al autor por otros libros, pero conforme vamos adentrándonos en la lectura, ésta nos revela tesoros completamente inesperados y su encanto sorpresivo llega a envolvernos por entero antes de haber podido darnos cuenta.

Ya en un par de ocasiones había yo vist

Sucede en ocasiones que comenzamos a leer cierto libro sin tener de él grandes expectativas, acaso cierta curiosidad porque el tema que trata nos interesa o porque conocemos al autor por otros libros, pero conforme vamos adentrándonos en la lectura, ésta nos revela tesoros completamente inesperados y su encanto sorpresivo llega a envolvernos por entero antes de haber podido darnos cuenta.

Ya en un par de ocasiones había yo visto este libro en los estantes de la biblioteca, me había guiñado el ojo pero yo, atenta entonces a otras cosas, no le había hecho mucho caso sólo me había llamado la atención el título. Esta vez, sin embargo, al volvérmelo a topar de frente decidí traérmelo a casa junto con un librito sobre Eurípides que, ése sí, ya tenía tiempo que quería leer.

Una vez en casa, y como hago de ordinario cuando tengo más de una opción en determinado momento, dejé el libro sobre Eurípides (que ya desde antes he decidido que me va a gustar) y me puse tranquilamente a leer El toro de Minos.

¿Cómo decirlo? Desde la introducción misma me intrigó, y conforme fui pasando las páginas me sumí tan de lleno en la narración, que de no haber sido por mis ruidosos intestinos que demandaban alimento, me habría seguramente seguido de largo hasta ya oscurecido.

Es maravillosamente entretenido. Combinando una especie de relato de viaje con biografía, historia y arqueología, su autor, Leonard Cottrell, nos narra la historia de cómo fue descubriéndose la historia de la Grecia y Creta arcaicas, a través de la vida y obra de sus dos principales protagonistas, los por más de una razón admirables Heinrich Schliemann y sir Arthur Evans, y mostrándonos en el ínterin (y al final, en los apéndices) los espectaculares resultados de los esfuerzos de tales hombres, que llevaron al descubrimiento de una compleja civilización hasta entonces perdida, o acaso recordada tan sólo como una época fantástica creada en la imaginación de los poetas.

De Schliemann y Evans ya había yo leído algunas cosas, pero más bien de modo anecdótico y como al margen en otros tantos libros sobre historia y literatura griega nada como aquí se les retrata. La personalidad excéntrica, ávida, incontenible e imaginativa de Schliemann, su vida y peripecias antes y después de haberse convertido (con Ilíada en mano) en arqueólogo improvisado, conforman una auténtica e interesantísima novela y no lo es menos la del aventurero, audaz y miope Arthur Evans, que llevaría aún más allá los asombrosos descubrimientos de Schliemann en Troya, Micenas y Tirinto, trayendo a la luz, luego de más de cuatro mil años olvidada en las sombras, la compleja y rica civilización Minoica que dominó el Egeo antes incluso de la era Micénica que redescubriera el alemán y nos relata Homero en la Ilíada y la Odisea.

Partiendo sobre la base de unas memorias de un viaje reciente a Grecia, el autor sabe armar un relato muy bien articulado y entretenido mientras nos da cuenta de sus paseos y conocimiento propio sobre el tema (incluidos ciertos detalles arqueológicos ajenos al «profano»), nos lleva hacia atrás y adelante en el tiempo, al estado actual (en su momento: 1952) de las investigaciones, y retrospectivamente a las épocas de Schliemann, Evans y demás personas que los acompañaron en esta odisea de descubrimiento, informándonos, acercándonos e interesándonos (aún más) sobre la importancia de estas antiquísimas culturas, Micénica y Minoica, que de no ser por ellos seguirían siendo tal vez consideradas nada más que meros cuentos cantados por aedos ciegos.

A pesar de que la arqueología y la «realidad histórica» nos hacen probablemente ver los relatos épicos con ojos más escépticos y algo desencantados, también es muy cierto que, pasado ese momento de nostalgia, el poder comprobar que mucho de aquellos relatos tuvo una base completamente real y casi palpable, les confiere a final de cuentas un carácter aún más vivo y llamativo en nuestra imaginación además de que, no obstante lo que digan la arqueología y la historia, su encanto literario, que vive en una esfera muy diferente de la realidad, y lo que hacen despertar dentro de nosotros al leerlos, no pueden ni podrán nunca menguar ni evitar que nos enamoremos de su incomparable belleza.

Para neófitos en asuntos arqueológicos como yo, este libro aclara muchas dudas y sabe despertar el interés sobre los asuntos que trata muy recomendable lectura. . more


Bull Leaping in Minoan Crete: 1700 - 1450 BCE

If there is an ancient mystery that still begs to be solved in the 21 st century, none can fire our imagination more than the secrets of the Bronze Age Minoan civilization.

Centred in Crete but living throughout the Aegean Sea, the Minoans lasted some 1500 years, from 2600 to 1100 BCE. These mysterious people have been linked to myths and legends that have been part of humankind’s collective fantasies for centuries, including the lost civilization of Atlantis and the legend of the Minotaur.

Although several major Minoan centres have been discovered, the reason so little is known about them is that their language has yet to be deciphered. This is not unlike the experience with the Mayans, whose hieroglyphs were not decoded until the last part of the 20 th century.

The little knowledge available has been gleaned from archaeological discoveries, primarily frescoes, pottery, and jewelry. Much of this has come from the main palace centres in Crete, namely Phaestos, Malia, Zakros, and that of King Minos at Knossos.

The pinnacle of Minoan civilization was reached during the “second palace period” between about 1700 and 1450 BCE, a time when even Egypt was barely in its prime. During this period, religion, art, and architecture coalesced with the construction of beautiful palaces, works of art, and a fascinating mixture of symbols that still defies a complete explanation.

Some of the most interesting symbols and works of art depict what is known as bull leaping. This was a dangerous athletic activity practiced by both males and females, most appearing very youthful.

I have chosen to include this sport in the compilation of spectacles because it was both unique to the Minoans (although the Myceneans picked it up a bit later), and because it was supposedly practiced as either part of a larger religious/sporting event and as a regular public activity that would attract large portions of the population.

In 1900, British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans excavated a huge complex of palace buildings near the Cretan capital of Heraklion. It turned out to be the palace of Knossos, at 700,000 square metres more than three times the size of Buckingham Palace, and home to the legendary King Minos, from whom the Minoan civilization takes its name, and a central figure in the myth of the Minotaur. [1]

According to Mcinernery and Castleden, it was subsequently found that bulls were “ubiquitous” on Crete and that there was “evidence of a pervasive preoccupation” with them. [2] [3] Some have argued that there was a bull cult, others a religion. Whatever the case, bull leaping was a distinctive part of this. The actual sport was practiced apparently by upper class youth and took place in a large central palace court such as has been found at Knossos, or as some argue, a separate compound close to the palace and designed specifically for it such as at Malia. [4]

We can imagine the scene…

The lithe, tanned young athlete waited nervously at one end of the massive, tiled courtyard, just beneath the large horns of the sacred bull. He hopped from one foot to the other, trying to loosen his legs and arms. He was clad in high sandals, with a blue and red long loincloth and matching arm bracelets and anklets. His dark hair was tied in a topknot and several long strands hung in ringlets down his back.

The king and the entire city were cheering excitedly from the stands surrounding the courtyard. The magnificent palace of Knossos gleamed behind them in the afternoon sun, its red pillars standing out in counterpoint to its whitewashed walls. This was the culmination of the last week’s sacred games and his performance preceded the final sacrifices. He had to get it right. It was the will of the gods.

Suddenly, from the far end of the courtyard, a snort could be heard, followed by the shaking of the ground under his feet. The massive animal began its charge across the open space. Two girls with a similar appearance ran alongside the bull to try to keep him on course. The athlete started a slow run to meet them and with two skips leapt into the air just as he met the bull in the middle of the courtyard. He missed the bull’s deadly horns by inches but executed a perfect vault over them, landing with his arms on the charging animal’s back. In one swift push he was upright on the ground behind the beast and running to the safety of the surrounding fence as his companions guided the bull to its pen.

The entire crowd stood up and cheered him. His face shone as he bowed to the king. He knew what he had accomplished and its importance. The games were now concluded and the taurine gods happily appeased.

See Figure 1 for a depiction of bull leaping, taken from a fresco found in the palace of Knossos. Figure 2 shows the central outdoor court of the palace where the bull leaping may have occurred.


The Bull Of Minos

Cotrell&aposs book reads rather like a hagiography of the two great venerable figures of modern Greek archaeology, Arthur Evans and Heinrich Schliemann. While both deserve praise and gratitude, both have likewise earned a degree of criticism for their impatience, gradiosity, runaway imaginations, and lack of intellectual discipline that arguably led to as much harm as good. One reads with a sense of agony of Schliemann burrowing hastily through and destroying entire levels of Troy, now lost to us fo Cotrell's book reads rather like a hagiography of the two great venerable figures of modern Greek archaeology, Arthur Evans and Heinrich Schliemann. While both deserve praise and gratitude, both have likewise earned a degree of criticism for their impatience, gradiosity, runaway imaginations, and lack of intellectual discipline that arguably led to as much harm as good. One reads with a sense of agony of Schliemann burrowing hastily through and destroying entire levels of Troy, now lost to us forever, out of his pressing desire to discover evidence that matched his vision of Homer's Troy. And who can read without sighing with exasperation, his declaration upon discovering a gold mask in a Mycenaean shaft grave, that he has looked upon the face of Agamemnon?

Cottrell can do so, apparently, enamored as he is with the romanticism of the daring archaeology of spade and shovel. Unfortunately, the archaeology of the adventurer leaves fragments behind that the archaeology of scholarship must then try to piece back together.

Even as a matter of enthusiastic biography Cottrell might have paused to consider how Evans got custody of the site of Knossos in the first place, when Greek archaeologists were also poised to dig at the spot. And Schliemann's discovery of Troy was surely as much dumb luck as deduction - his reasoning was as often wrong as right.

I write this review as an admirer of Schliemann and Evans, but no on is served by hero-worship, and Cottrell, I fear, is as drawn to their excesses as to their gifts. So, in this popular survey of their discoveries, he rhapsodizes in a matter I find old fashioned and unengaging, suffused with nostalgia and gloss. . more

First off, I must say I flat-out adored the writing style. A tale of early archaeological studies, done by the wealthy and obsessed amateurs Heinrich Schliemann (Troy) and Arthur Evans (Minos), this book was exactly that - a wildly improbable tale, Boys Own style.

Written in 1953, it really is a great read. The author traveled in the footsteps of these two, and it&aposs as much a travel adventure as a scholarly piece and all to the good, I say. I can&apost imagine how many young people this book must ha First off, I must say I flat-out adored the writing style. A tale of early archaeological studies, done by the wealthy and obsessed amateurs Heinrich Schliemann (Troy) and Arthur Evans (Minos), this book was exactly that - a wildly improbable tale, Boys Own style.

Written in 1953, it really is a great read. The author traveled in the footsteps of these two, and it's as much a travel adventure as a scholarly piece and all to the good, I say. I can't imagine how many young people this book must have inspired. Footnotes are highly overrated, IMHO. . more

Desde la escuela primaria que he alucinado con la Historia antigua y con Grecia, especialmente. Es uno de los países más bellos, interesantes y alucinantes que he tenido la fortuna de visitar y recorrer. Este libro me llenó de una curiosidad enorme, de ganas infinitas de regresar. La influencia, el nivel de desarrollo alcanzado y el poder que alguna vez tuvo la civilización minoica es impresionante. Lo pude ver en Akrotiri, en la isla de Fira (mar Egeo). Quedé sin aliento. El sitio arqueológico Desde la escuela primaria que he alucinado con la Historia antigua y con Grecia, especialmente. Es uno de los países más bellos, interesantes y alucinantes que he tenido la fortuna de visitar y recorrer. Este libro me llenó de una curiosidad enorme, de ganas infinitas de regresar. La influencia, el nivel de desarrollo alcanzado y el poder que alguna vez tuvo la civilización minoica es impresionante. Lo pude ver en Akrotiri, en la isla de Fira (mar Egeo). Quedé sin aliento. El sitio arqueológico era impresionante, parecía una ciudad moderna, con casas modernas. Quiero recorrer Creta (no conozco la isla), el país entero más bien. Qué así sea, amén, aleluya.

Aquí un ejemplo de lo avanzada de esta civilización (el trono de Cnosos es al menos dos mil años más antiguo que cualquier otro de Europa, imagínense). Sobre las letrinas, el periodista Leonar Cottrell y el arqueólogo Arthur Evans nos dicen que:

"Es característico de nuestra época tecnológica que a la mayor parte de los profanos que visitan el Palacio de Cnosos, más que ninguno de sus tesoros estéticos les impresione esta letrina de hace 3600 años. Es el paraíso del plomero. Grandes ductos de piedra conducen el agua desde el tejado hasta unos drenajes subterráneos que estaban bien ventilados por medio de respiraderos dotados de registros para su inspección. (. ) Las tuberías de terracotas, con sus secciones de una forma estudiada científicamente, perfectamente empalmadas, que datan de los primeros tiempos del edificio, son comparables a sus equivalentes modernos".

Pero según Cottrell, el ejemplo más notable de la ingeniería hidráulica minoica se encontraba en los canales que transportaban el agua de lluvia en el mencionado palacio. A través del manejo de cálculo matemático, lograron dar con los ángulos precisos para reducir la velocidad de la caída del agua y que así esta bajara por la pendiente de manera controlada, dando exitosamente la vuelta en cada esquina sin que se desbordara en los rellanos (este sistema de canales estaba instalado en las escalinatas del palacio).

Quite an interesting summary of archaeological investigations at Troy, Mycenae and of the Minoan civilization on Crete. There are drawbacks to Cottrell&aposs presentation, but it was quite easy reading and quite informative. The problems arise from the relationship between this readability and informativeness. The book operates on three levels, each with a different degree of interconnection between subject matter and informative value.

On the simplest level, the story describes Cottrell&aposs travels to Quite an interesting summary of archaeological investigations at Troy, Mycenae and of the Minoan civilization on Crete. There are drawbacks to Cottrell's presentation, but it was quite easy reading and quite informative. The problems arise from the relationship between this readability and informativeness. The book operates on three levels, each with a different degree of interconnection between subject matter and informative value.

On the simplest level, the story describes Cottrell's travels to Turkey to view the sights of Schliemann's excavations that uncovered the ruins of Troy, proving his fundamental assertion that the Homeric epics were based on actual, not fictional history. Then, the author travelled to Mycenae on the Greek peninsula and finally to the island of Crete. At each stop off, he describes the people he meets, the inns he stays at, and his personal impression of the ruins he inspects. This is all quite engaging, and quite easily understood. But like most travelogues, we learn as much if not more about the traveller doing the observing than we do about what he or she is actually encountering.

At a higher level, Cottrell does an incredible job describing the life and work of Schliemann and Sir Arthur Evans, the man who coined the term term 'Minoan' (from King Minos) to describe the entire new civilization he discovered and spent the better part of a half century investigating and writing about. Both these individuals were as idiosyncratic as they were forceful in their pursuit of what they were after. Schliemann made a ton of money as a merchant before giving himself over to archaeology, while Evans was, fortunately for him and his investigations, born into a large private fortune, which allowed him to finance extensive years of work among the ruins.

The story of Schliemann's abandoning his attempts to purchase the lands on which the palace of Knossus were located due to a deliberate over-statement of the number of olive trees is inadvertently hilarious, while his passionate love for two different women at different points in his life made him quite a sympathetic figure. Evans' disability (he was extremely short-sighted) is shown to have worked out with quite fortuitous results when it came to his inspection of the seals and beads from Mycenae. His earlier fascination with Bosnian independence, his characteristic walking stick (named Prodger) and his willingness to take on the entire British university and/or government apparatus was astounding. These two men were truly amazing figures, without whom we would know so much less about the times before 1000 B.C. This part of the book was much more informative and was also quite easy to digest.

The third and final level of the work I found the most frustrating. Rather than a straightforward summary of what we know now about these ancient civilizations and their cultures, Cottrell introduces each piece separately as it was uncovered by the archaeologists who first brought it to light. After unearthing several different levels at Troy and not being certain at to which of them represented the one which the Greeks managed to destroy in the Trojan war, Schliemann went on and found seven shaft graves at Mycenea. They containing wonders of gold and silver jewellry and were thought to possibly be the remains of Agamemnon whom Clytemnestra and her lover so brutally murdered on his return from Troy. Evans discovered the palace of Knossus, which was just one of several Minoan palaces spread throughout the island of Crete, and a civilization which seem to have practised a strange sport of leaping over bulls as well as being benefited by the luxury of indoor plumbing. All very well and good, but these are highlights: almost picture postcard types of tourist-trap hot spots, and hardly the description of an ancient culture and society I wanted to come to understand. Thus, when the work finally got to the most important part for my interest, it seemed to lose its overall thrust of engaging interpretation.

One interesting thing, or actually two, although they are somewhat similar. The Greeks were mad at the Trojans for controlling the eastern Mediterranean trade. So Agamemnon hatched up the story of Helen's kidnapping by Paris to justify a war of the Achaeans against the Trojans. Similarly, the story of Greeks having to send seven young men and women each year to be sacrificed to the Minotaur in the labyrinth until Theseus. aided by Ariadne, overcame the monster was just another such piece of propaganda for the colonial Minoan states to justify their rebellion against the rule of Knossus. The labyrinth is nothing more than the intricate network of plumbing around the palace which allowed for indoor plumbing!

Still, an interesting read, although maybe my expectations of what I would finally achieve were a touch unrealistic. After all, these cultures existed over three thousand years ago. . more

Sucede en ocasiones que comenzamos a leer cierto libro sin tener de él grandes expectativas, acaso cierta curiosidad porque el tema que trata nos interesa o porque conocemos al autor por otros libros, pero conforme vamos adentrándonos en la lectura, ésta nos revela tesoros completamente inesperados y su encanto sorpresivo llega a envolvernos por entero antes de haber podido darnos cuenta.

Ya en un par de ocasiones había yo vist

Sucede en ocasiones que comenzamos a leer cierto libro sin tener de él grandes expectativas, acaso cierta curiosidad porque el tema que trata nos interesa o porque conocemos al autor por otros libros, pero conforme vamos adentrándonos en la lectura, ésta nos revela tesoros completamente inesperados y su encanto sorpresivo llega a envolvernos por entero antes de haber podido darnos cuenta.

Ya en un par de ocasiones había yo visto este libro en los estantes de la biblioteca, me había guiñado el ojo pero yo, atenta entonces a otras cosas, no le había hecho mucho caso sólo me había llamado la atención el título. Esta vez, sin embargo, al volvérmelo a topar de frente decidí traérmelo a casa junto con un librito sobre Eurípides que, ése sí, ya tenía tiempo que quería leer.

Una vez en casa, y como hago de ordinario cuando tengo más de una opción en determinado momento, dejé el libro sobre Eurípides (que ya desde antes he decidido que me va a gustar) y me puse tranquilamente a leer El toro de Minos.

¿Cómo decirlo? Desde la introducción misma me intrigó, y conforme fui pasando las páginas me sumí tan de lleno en la narración, que de no haber sido por mis ruidosos intestinos que demandaban alimento, me habría seguramente seguido de largo hasta ya oscurecido.

Es maravillosamente entretenido. Combinando una especie de relato de viaje con biografía, historia y arqueología, su autor, Leonard Cottrell, nos narra la historia de cómo fue descubriéndose la historia de la Grecia y Creta arcaicas, a través de la vida y obra de sus dos principales protagonistas, los por más de una razón admirables Heinrich Schliemann y sir Arthur Evans, y mostrándonos en el ínterin (y al final, en los apéndices) los espectaculares resultados de los esfuerzos de tales hombres, que llevaron al descubrimiento de una compleja civilización hasta entonces perdida, o acaso recordada tan sólo como una época fantástica creada en la imaginación de los poetas.

De Schliemann y Evans ya había yo leído algunas cosas, pero más bien de modo anecdótico y como al margen en otros tantos libros sobre historia y literatura griega nada como aquí se les retrata. La personalidad excéntrica, ávida, incontenible e imaginativa de Schliemann, su vida y peripecias antes y después de haberse convertido (con Ilíada en mano) en arqueólogo improvisado, conforman una auténtica e interesantísima novela y no lo es menos la del aventurero, audaz y miope Arthur Evans, que llevaría aún más allá los asombrosos descubrimientos de Schliemann en Troya, Micenas y Tirinto, trayendo a la luz, luego de más de cuatro mil años olvidada en las sombras, la compleja y rica civilización Minoica que dominó el Egeo antes incluso de la era Micénica que redescubriera el alemán y nos relata Homero en la Ilíada y la Odisea.

Partiendo sobre la base de unas memorias de un viaje reciente a Grecia, el autor sabe armar un relato muy bien articulado y entretenido mientras nos da cuenta de sus paseos y conocimiento propio sobre el tema (incluidos ciertos detalles arqueológicos ajenos al «profano»), nos lleva hacia atrás y adelante en el tiempo, al estado actual (en su momento: 1952) de las investigaciones, y retrospectivamente a las épocas de Schliemann, Evans y demás personas que los acompañaron en esta odisea de descubrimiento, informándonos, acercándonos e interesándonos (aún más) sobre la importancia de estas antiquísimas culturas, Micénica y Minoica, que de no ser por ellos seguirían siendo tal vez consideradas nada más que meros cuentos cantados por aedos ciegos.

A pesar de que la arqueología y la «realidad histórica» nos hacen probablemente ver los relatos épicos con ojos más escépticos y algo desencantados, también es muy cierto que, pasado ese momento de nostalgia, el poder comprobar que mucho de aquellos relatos tuvo una base completamente real y casi palpable, les confiere a final de cuentas un carácter aún más vivo y llamativo en nuestra imaginación además de que, no obstante lo que digan la arqueología y la historia, su encanto literario, que vive en una esfera muy diferente de la realidad, y lo que hacen despertar dentro de nosotros al leerlos, no pueden ni podrán nunca menguar ni evitar que nos enamoremos de su incomparable belleza.

Para neófitos en asuntos arqueológicos como yo, este libro aclara muchas dudas y sabe despertar el interés sobre los asuntos que trata muy recomendable lectura. . more


Minos Kalokairinos: the man who discovered Knossos

Knossos is the site of the most important and better known palace of Minoan civilisation. It is located in a prominent position on Kefala Hill, 6 km. southeast of Herakleion, surrounded by olive groves, vineyards and cypress trees.

According to tradition, it was the seat of the legendary King Minos. The Palace is also connected with thrilling legends, such as the myth of the Labyrinth with the Minotaur, and the story of Daidalos and Icaros.The site was continuously inhabited from the Neolithic period (7000-3000 B.C.) until Roman times.

Most people believe that Knossos was discovered by Sir Arthur Evans in 1900. In fact, the first excavation took place in 1878, by the Cretan merchant and antiquarian Minos Kalokairinos, but his contribution has been largely overshadowed by that of Evans.

Minos Kalokairinos

Minos Kalokairinos was born in 1843. His father was a rich landowner, who owned the site of the palace of Knossos. As Dr Katerina Kopaka notes, “Kalokairinos tried to combine his responsibilities as an homme d’ affaires with his vision of a man of letters”. He obtained secondary education on the isle of Syros, then enrolled at the law faculty of the University of Athens where he only studied a year, as he was forced to abandon his studies after his father fell seriously ill and died. He then took over, together with his brother Lysimachus, the family-owned business until 1871.

Minos Kalokairinos. Photo: wikipedia

Kalokairinos later went into soap manufacturing, winning awards at world exhibitions. Unfortunately, however, his business enterprises were not destined to be successful to the end in 1895, he was forced to declare bankruptcy and was thus deprived of the right to engage in commerce. In 1903 he decided to resume his legal studies at the university, and was later awarded a degree. In 1878 his passion for archaeology and classical studies led him to attempt the first systematic excavations at Knossos. He bought the site where he wanted to conduct excavations from Zekiris Bey, Ibrahim Efentakis and according to Turkish archaeological law he would be entitled to 1/3 of the findings. The main excavation lasted three weeks and covered different parts of the Royal Palace complex, focusing on its west and south wings.

In 1879, the Christian General Commander of Crete, Fotiadis Pasha, visited Knossos to see the progress of the excavations. With the agreement of the city’s scholars, he decided to stop the excavations in order to protect the findings, because he was afraid that they would be transferred to Istanbul, as Crete was still under Turkish occupation.

Kalokairinos, who wanted to make Knossos broadly known, escorted archaeologists, diplomats, newspaper correspondents and other VIPs at the site and showed them his private collection.

In 1886 he was visited by the German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann, who was famous for the discovery of Troy. Kalokairinos showed him his findings, but he also failed to obtain permission to continue the excavations.

In 1894 it was Evans’ turn to visit Crete and to be informed about the excavations. Sir Arthur Evans was impressed and bought ¼ of the Kephala Hill for 6,000 drachmas. On 23 March, 1900, excavations began. Evans’ most important colleagues were the archaeologist D. Mackenzie, known for his excavation in Melos, who undertook to keep the excavation journal, and the architects C. Doll, F.G. Newton and Piet de Jong.

First came to light the “throne room” and within two years Evans and his team managed to dig Knossos out of the ashes and lava. Kalokairinos had already retired, on account of the dramatic events he’d experienced: during the slaughter of civilians by the Turks on August 25th 1898, his brother Lysimachus was beheaded, his niece had disappeared and his son was murdered. His home was set on fire and the collection of findings from Knossos, destined for the Archaeological Museum of Athens, was destroyed.

In 1903, a new mansion was built by Kalokairinos’ nephew, son of Lysimachus. Today this mansion houses the Historical Museum of Herakleion. Shortly before Minos Kalokairinos’ death, he published the journal “Cretan Archaeological Ephemeris”, much of which was devoted to Knossos.

Kalokairinos had a strong disposition towards ancient Greek literature, especially Homer, Plato, Strabo, Pausanias and their accounts of Cretan antiquity. As he confesses in his book Prolegomena 1893, his strong desire to draw upon these works in order to elucidate the ancient history of Crete, led him to the undertaking of the excavations.

Minos Kalokairinos had found a large collection of objects during his excavations. The findings that survived after the violent events of 25 August, 1898, mostly amphorae found in the western wing of the palace, were donated to museums of Greece, Paris and London in order to promote public interest in Knossos.

Cretan archeology owes a great debt to Kalokairinos for this early exploration of Knossos which highlighted the islands prehistoric past and opened the path for discoveries that surpassed all expectations.


The role of the Minotaur in the Greek Mythology

This hybrid of human and bull – generally depicted as a powerful man’s body with the head of a bull – was said to dwell deep within a labyrinth in the Minoan Palace of Knossos.

This labyrinth was constructed to hide him. He was a voracious creature, much feared. But he was also the offspring of Cretan royalty, so the palace was his home.

The Legend of the Minotaur: The Bull in the Mythology of Crete

The fact that the Minotaur was half bull was extremely significant. Bulls played an important role in the mythology of Crete. These magnificent beasts were a powerful symbol, thought to be the representatives of an earth god, power, and light.

One of the most famous of the images of the Minoan Palace of Knossos is the fresco of the “Bull Jumper”. The original of the fresco is now in the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion. The fresco depicts an enormous bull. On the left, a male figure seizes its horns (possibly the origin of our expression of today – “to grab a bull by the horns”). Another figure is captured mid-jump, hands down on the bull, like a gymnast. A third figure stands ready to catch him, arms outstretched.

Bull-leaping was not only a legendary test of bravery. It was also a significant ritual in the religion of the Minoans, where the bull – as in many ancient societies – was revered. In addition to the famous fresco, there were also other representations of bull-leaping found in the excavation of the Palace of Knossos.

Who are the Parents of the Minotaur?

How did such a creature come to be? As one might guess, the half man/half bull creature was conceived from a union of human and beast.

Some of the story is already in the creature’s name. The Minotaur’s name and his identity are closely linked. You’ll also notice a link to the word “Minoan”. Both of these words derive from “Minos” – Minos was one of the three sons of Zeus and Europa. The other two were Sarpedon and Rhadamanthus. Zeus, in the form of a bull, abducted the Phoenician princess Europa, and conceived Minos.

Europa was brought to Crete and there married Aseterion, King of Crete. He raised these three stepsons as his own. Upon Aseterion’s death, one would ascend the throne. Minos sought advantage over his brothers (Sarpedon and Rhadamanthus) by divine intervention. He made a sacrifice to the god Poseidon, and in doing so asked that a bull appear from the sea, which he promised in turn to also sacrifice to Poseidon. A magnificent white bull then emerged from the sea.

All was going well for Minos. The appearance of the white bull was indisputable proof of the favor of the gods, and the throne of Crete was his. If only he had then kept his promise to Poseidon. But he did not the bull was too glorious. He kept the white bull for himself, and sacrificed another bull in its place.

Poseidon, of course, discovered the deception, and was angered. His revenge was inventive. He did nothing to Minos, and nothing to the bull. What he did, was to ask a favor of Aphrodite, the goddess of love. He wanted her to cause Pasiphae, the wife of Minos, to fall madly in love with the creature, which she did.

Here enters another famous figure of mythology: Daedalus, known perhaps best from the myth of Icarus. Pasiphae persuaded this brilliant architect of the mythological world to construct a cow – covered with real cow hyde – that was believable enough to tempt the white bull. The plan succeeded Pasiphae climbed inside, and so was able to consummate her strange passion.

The Minotaur was the result of this union. And now we visit the second part of his name – ‘taur’ derives from the word for bull, as in the astrological sign “taurus”. The Minotaur is the Bull of Minos. This however was not the name his mother gave him. She called him Asterion, after the stepfather of King Minos. And in this name, too, we see a connection to astrology, as “asteri” is the Greek word for star.

What is the Minotaur Famous for?

The Minotaur began life peacefully enough, but as he left his infancy he became ferocious. King Minos sought the advice of an Oracle, and determined that he must be hidden, for two reasons. One was his monstrous diet – he fed on humans. The other reason was of course to hide the shame of Pasiphae’s unnatural passion.

The Minotaur in books and movies

Naturally, such a strange story and above all such a beast has long captured the human imagination. The Minotaur often is used to express the bestial longings of man, and therefore is a powerful allegorical figure. There are many references to the Minotaur in popular culture throughout the centuries, and into the present time.

He appears in Dante’s Inferno of the 14th century. Here, the Minotaur is guarding the seventh circle of hell, the circle for those of violent natures. An illustration by William Blake of a later period depicts the minotaur with the head and torso of a man and the body of a bull, much more like a centaur.

This is by no means the only such depiction. A famous painting by the 19th-century painter George Frederick Watts shows the Minotaur in a tower, looking out to sea and watching for the ship that will bring him his gruesome feast of innocent victims. In this era, the Minotaur’s bestial nature was also used as an allegory for male lust. The painting was created in the context of the social purity crusades happening at the time, and specifically of campaigns against child prostitution.

It is not at all surprising that this fantastical beast mesmerized the surrealists. Man Ray’s surrealist photo of 1934 leaves the beast’s terrifying head to the shadows of our imagination.

For the Surrealists, too, the depiction of the Minotaur embodied social and political ideas. Most notably, there was a publication called Minotaure in Paris in the 1930’s. For the founders the artist Andre Masson and the writer Georges Bataille, the Minotaur conjured their feelings about the violence of the age. The publication was first launched on the eve of the civil war in Spain, and continued until the eve of WWII.

Picasso became fascinated with the minotaur, representing not only the latent bestiality in men, but also the sexual energy. Here too though, the mounting political tensions of the 1930s were a subtext. Minotaur Ravishing a Female Centaur is one of the more famous of these works.

The Minotaur has also inspired films. A 1960 Italian Film called “The Wild Beast of Crete” relates the journey of Thiseus and his legendary encounter with the Minotaur. More popularly, the Minotaur appears in both the books and film adaptations of the Percy Jackson series, with a particularly thrilling sequence in “The Lightning Thief”.

Not least, the Minotaur also features in fantasy games. The classic “Dungeons and Dragons” has Minotaurs. And “Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey” – a game that derives much from mythology and ancient history – includes a mission to kill the Minotaur in the labyrinth at Knossos.

When in Crete, it is fascinating to visit the mythological dwelling place of this most famous of the beasts of the Ancient Greek world. The labyrinth of the Minotaur was said to be hidden in the Palace of Knossos, which is a fantastic destination where history and fantasy mingle.


Below is a video of the Palace of Knossos as it stands today:


Knossos entry gate with frescoes

Minoan Snake Goddess, Crete