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King Minos

King Minos of Crete

The most important king of the Cretan civilization was King Minos, for whom the civilization was named. Minos ruled during the peak of the Minoan civilization, and the city of Knossos was the largest city during that era. Knossos has been discovered, and visitors can now enjoy its glory 3.5 millennia later.

King Minos was one of 3 children born from the union between the god Zeus and Europa, the daughter of the Phoenician king Aginoras. In order to make Europa love him, Zeus transformed himself into a handsome bull and seduced her into riding him. He then began to run very fast, flying over the sea and land and arriving in Crete where he resumed his real appearance. There—in the Dikteon Cave , upon the highest mountain of Crete where myth claims that Zeus was born hiding from Cronus—he loved Europa and she gave birth to Minos, Rhadamanthus and Sarpedon. Then Zeus left Europa in order to go to mount Olympus, but before doing so gave her three weapons: a bow that could never miss its target, a guard dog named Lelepa from whom no one could escape, and the mythical metallic being Talos.

Minos became the king of Knossos and remained in direct contact with Zeus, discussing new laws with him about every nine years. His name is a title which in the ancient Cretan language meant ‘governor’. He united all the cities of Knossos under one kingdom and became the supreme naval power in the area. According to the great Greek historian Thucydides, Minos was the first ancient ruler known to have built a navy, and managed to expand his kingdom all over the Mediterranean, promoting the just laws that Zeus had given him. It is also said that he ruled in such a righteous way that he later became the chief judge of Hades, judging the actions of the dead. The legend continues by mentioning how Minos made the god Poseidon angry, resulting in the story of the Minotaur, the half bull, half human son of Minos’s wife, Pasiphae. The Minotaur was fed with human blood, and Minos obliged the city of Athens to send young boys and girls to be sacrificed to it. Archaeologists for some reason distinguish between the historical Minos and the mythological Minos, obviously ‘choosing’ which parts of the mythology are true—or verified by archaeology—and which parts are false. It seems rather arrogant to consider people of such great civilizations to be non-civilized and their stories to be myths.

Once again with Minos, we have a story of a demigod/god in contact with other gods, possessing super weapons, creating an advanced civilization that became a great power in the civilized world,  and for whom many supernatural ‘myths’ are associated. Is it possible for supreme beings to have indeed interfered and help him, or is it just the ‘vivid’ imagination of a primitive civilization as most archaeologists suggest?

By John Black

Related Links

Myths Encyclopedia

The Myths of Knossos

Apollodorus Library

Minotauros

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