Theseus, Ariadne, Minos, Minotaur - Greek mythology

Theseus, Ariadne, Minos, Minotaur - Greek mythology


Theseus on the Minotaur (1781-1783), canova, white marble, Victoria and Albert Museum, London (England)

In a very distant time of which the memory has almost been lost, it is said that while Europa, daughter of Fenice (1) and Telefassa was intent on playing with her maids, a young bull appeared to her as white as snow that others were not. thatZeus. This, after having her mount on his back, took her to Crete where he joined her and shortly after this union they were born Minos, Radamanthus is Sarpedon.

When Zeus left Europa, the latter married Asterion, king of Crete and as their marriage proved sterile, Asterion adopted the three children of Europa and named them his legitimate heirs. Upon Asterion's death, Minos claimed the throne of Crete for himself. declaring that this was the will of the gods and to be sure of succeeding in the enterprise, he begged Poseidon to let something out of the sea with the promise of offering it as a sacrifice to the god as a testimony of the will of the gods.

Poseidonhe accepted the prayers of Minos and brought out from the waves of the sea a magnificent white bull which earned Minos the kingdom of Crete. The latter, however, such was the beauty of the bull, did not have the courage to kill him and in his place sacrificed another bull.

Maze, ancient sculpture

The king of the sea, offended by the insult he suffered, took revenge so cruelly as to remain as a warning for future generations: he gave birth in Pasiphae, wife of Minos, a morbid passion for the white bull so much that, not knowing how to do it to mate with him, he confided his insane passion to Maze, the most famous Athenian architect in exile in Crete, who built for her a wooden cow mounted on four wheels where the woman could enter in order to satisfy her desire. And so it was. From the union of Pasiphae and the bull was born the Minotaur, a creature with the body of a man and the head of a bull that ate only human flesh.

In this way the god of the sea always wanted to remind Minos how crazy the action of a man who rebels against the power of the gods is.

Minos, when he saw the creature, gave Daedalus the task of building a labyrinth so intricate that no one could have come out to lock the Minotaur, so that he would have no chance of escape. Daedalus, hoping to gain the sovereign's trust, built what is known in history as the labyrinth of Knossos.

Thus the legend has it that the Minotaur was locked up in the labyrinth and that every year seven young Athenian girls (who had been defeated by the king of Crete) were sacrificed to the Minotaur to satisfy his hunger for human flesh.

The sacrifice was repeated twice until, on the third expedition, he reached Crete Theseus, son of Etra and Egeo, ruler of Athens, who pretended to be part of the group of sacrifices because he wanted to put an end to those deaths. The enterprise was very difficult not only because he had to kill the Minotaur, but because once he entered the labyrinth, it was impossible to get out. The young man then asked for help from Arianna daughter of Minos and half-sister of the Minotaur, to whom she declared her love and this in turn, falling madly in love with Theseus, advised himself with Daedalus who suggested that he tie a thread to the entrance of the labyrinth that would be unraveled as he proceeded. . In this way on the way back, rewinding it, the exit would be found.

Theseus kills the Monotaur
Attic amphora 5th century B.C

Theseus and the Minotaur(1826)
Étienne-Jules Ramey,
Tuileries Garden, Paris (France)

When it was the turn of Theseus to be sacrificed to the Minotaur, he unraveled the thread along the way and when he arrived in the presence of the monster he killed him and rewinding the thread, he managed to get out of the labyrinth.

Thus ended the horrendous sacrifice that had been imposed by Minos on the Athenians and at the same time Theseus and Ariadne fled together from Crete and landed in today's Naxos (then Dia).

In the morning when Arianna woke up, however, she realized that Theseus had abandoned her.

Dionysus finds Ariadne abandoned by Theseus, Pompeian fresco

G.B. Mariano (Arianna):
«Miserable, and who took it away
my sweet companion?
Lassa, because that good,
that Espero granted me,
Lucifer fura me?
Because how courteous
I was in the dark evening,
so much the clear dawn
did she prove stingy to me?
Say, tell me or rocks,
hard rocks, rough stones,
who is, who has kidnapped me
he who kidnapped me,
from the paternal palace? (...) ».

Ariadne asleep in Naxos
John Vanderlyn, (ca.1808-1812), oil on canvas, Academy of Fine Arts, Pennsylvania

There are several stories about why Theseus abandoned Ariadne. Some say it was because of a new lover, Egle, daughter of Panopoeus; others affirm that he decided to abandon her as returning to Athens with her would have been a scandal; others affirm that Dionysus, who appeared to Theseus in a dream, ordered him to abandon her because he wanted her for himself. Whatever the reason, it is certain that when she awoke Arianna desperately searched for her beloved and wept bitter tears when she realized she was alone. Seen the heartbreaking cry of the girl who was screaming in pain, Dionysus came to her rescue who married her and gave him a beautiful gold crown, studded with rubies, forged by Hephaestus who came to his death changed into a constellation:the constellation of Ariadne. Dionysus and Ariadne had numerous children including Toante, Enopione.

Theseus, after Ariadne's abandonment, returned home to Athens where, after a short time, he became king in place of his father and ruled wisely and his people experienced a long period of peace and prosperity.

Dr. Maria Giovanna Davoli

(1) According to other scholars after Homer of Agenore, king of the Phoenicians and of Telefassa.