Crete is the biggest island of Greece. It is a region with a rich history, famous not only for its amazing landscapes, the local food, and the authentic hospitality and culture, but also for the Greek Mythology that is connected to it and has influenced the art and literature worldwide.
Let’s clear up how the story goes!
Zeus was one of the children of Kronos and Rea. He was the one who survived from his father’s cruelty (he ate his children because he was afraid of a prophecy telling that one of them would dethrone him), as Mother Earth hide him at Diktaio Andro, the plateau in Lasithi, Crete. There he was fed by the milk of a goat, Amaltheia and then, he was raised by shepherds into a cave called Idaio Andro, in Rethymno.
Contrary to the rest of the Greek Mythology, the original Cretan tradition says that Zeus was born and died every year. Proof of that is the embossed depiction of his dead head in the slope of a hill in Heraklion, called Giouhtas. This version of the myth it is said that symbolises the circle of nature.
Zeus, Europe and Minoas
Being in love with Europe, Zeus was transformed into a beautiful, white bull in order to seduce her. He made it, as Europe was delighted by its beauty. At the time she jumped on her back, the bull started running away and he finally reached Crete’s seashores, having travelled the whole ocean. There, Europe gave birth to three boys -Minoas, Rodamanthis, and Sarpidonas.
As Zeus was not a faithful man, one day he left Europe. Afterwards, she married Asterias who adopted her 3 sons. After his death, Minoas became the new king of Crete. He was the lord of Crete for many many years and he managed to develop the island’s fleet and trade, making it the most powerful and wealthy region throughout the Mediterranean Sea. The tradition says that each year Minoas and his brother Rodamanthis, who was the legislator of Crete, visited the cave of Zeus and took a new law system, aiming to rule Crete with justice.
Minoas’ kingdom was connected to the Minoan Civilisation -the first advanced civilisation in Europe- and the notable Palaces of Knossos and Phaistos.
Minoas and the Minotaur
According to the Greek Mythology, Minoas was worried about his domination in Crete. So, he prayed to Poseidon to send him a sign that his kingdom won’t be defeated by his enemies. The sign Poseidon sent was a white bull that Minoas had to sacrifice. But the king, being enchanted by the bull’s beauty, he decided to not killing him and instead, he sacrificed another one similar to it. The god was offended by Minoas’ behaviour and, in order to take revenge, he made his wife, Pasifai, fall in love with the bull!
Her desire about the bull was so strong, that she invited Daedalus, a famous and talented Athenian handyman that was living in Crete, to help her find a way to couple with the bull. So, Daedalus finally created a wooden, hollow cow carcass ideal for her to get into it and mate with the bull. From their mating, the Minotaur was born: a creature with the head and tail of a bull and the body of a man. Minoas got extremely mad about this! That’s why he came up with the idea of building a giant Labyrinth at Knossos Palace to entrap into it the Minotaur. This construction was made also by Daedalus, and was indeed very difficult for someone to come out of it. The paradox is that Minoas entraped Daedalus also into the Labyrinth together with his son Ikaros, as a punishment for betraying him and helping his wife.
*It worths mentioning that the bull, having a leading role in Ancient Greek Mythology, became the symbol of the Minoan Civilization and Crete, in general.
Minoas and Athens
As the legend has it, when Athenians killed Androgeos, the son of Minoas, the latter opened war against them. After winning the war, he established a repetitive, every 9 years, punishment, according to which 7 young men and 7 young women from Athens were sent to the Knossos Labyrinth to be savaged by the Minotaur.
Theseus, the king of Athens, decided to do something to stop this cruelty. Actually, the next time this punishment was about to be executed, he set sail for Crete together with the young Athenians, determined to kill the Minotaur. At the moment he arrived, he met Ariadne, the daughter of Minoas, who fell in love with him and offered her help. However, in return she asked from Theseus to promise her to take her away from Crete and marry her. So, it happened. Ariadne gave him a ball of thread so as to find his way out of the Labyrinth, and advised him to go down always, never left or right. After a tremendous fight, Theseus killed Minotaur and escaped from the Labyrinth and, together with all the Athenians, Ariadne and her little sister Phaidra, started the journey back to Athens.
The story continues but it is for another article. For now, you can just imagine travelling to Crete and experience the Greek Mythology connected to this amazing island being brought into life via the Greek Mythology Tours. Have a look and book your next trip here.