Minotaur’s Labyrinth At Knossos

Greek history has always been fused with mythology, creating a unique culture. The existing myths and legends weave together an incredible story. Today we will tell you the legend of the Knossos labyrinth, also known as the Minotaur labyrinth.

Are you ready to jump in to this magnificent legend? Get ready to discover all the details of the Minotaur Labyrinth of Knossos!

THE PALACE OF KNOSSOS

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Let’s start with recent history: the Knossos Labyrinth was excavated at the beginning of the 1900s by the English archeologist Sir Arthur Evans. He uncovered an immense palace dating back to 2000 BC totaling 22,000 square meters, with more than 1300 rooms. The palace was used as the center of Minoan life. Unfortunately it was destroyed in about 1628 BC following an earthquake caused by the volcanic eruption of Thera, or Santorini. It was then rebuilt in the following years on the same foundations as the ancient palace. Probably the legend of the Minotaur doesn’t refer to a labyrinth outside of the palace, but rather to the palace itself, because its rooms and corridors were so dense that it seemed like a labyrinth.

The Palace of Knossos sits on Kephala hill, a few kilometers from Heraklion. It is one of the main tourist attractions on the island of Crete. It has not just the remains of structures, but also magnificent mosaics and frescoes of Minoan civilization.

THE LEGEND

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The story of the Minotaur begins when Minos, King of Crete, asked Poseidon, god of the sea, to give him a large white bull. Minos was to sacrifice the bull in order to show citizens of Crete his worth as King, and how much the gods esteemed him. But when Minos received the bull, he decided to keep it for himself. This annoyed Poseidon, and so he made Minos’s wife Pasiphae fall in love with the bull. The Minotaur was born from their union: an insatiable beast who soon would eat only human flesh. To contain the Minotaur’s violence, Minos closed him inside the famous Labyrinth. It was built by Daedalus and Icarus, who remained trapped inside and escaped by building wax wings.

It happened that Minos’s son Androgeus was killed by Athenian warriors, jealous of his strength and athletic ability which led him to win every competition. In revenge, Minos forced Athens to send seven young men and seven maidens every year to be fed to the Minotaur.

Theseus, son of Aegeus, King of Athens, decided to put an end to this punishment and leave along with the children sent to Crete, in order to kill the Minotaur. When Theseus arrived in Crete, Ariadne, daughter of Minos, fell immediately in love with him and asked Daedalus to help her find the Minotaur in the Labyrinth. Daedalus showed Ariadne the way and suggested she give Theseus a red thread to unwind when setting out in the labyrinth in order to find the way back (“Ariadne’s thread”). Theseus found the Minotaur and killed him after a violent battle, and also saved the other children. He prepared to return to Athens, bringing with him Ariadne and her younger sister Phaedra.

From this point on, there are many existing versions of the story that tell of Ariadne being abandoned on the island of Naxos, that she fell asleep when they stopped to rest. Some say that Dionysus, god of music and wine, forced Theseus to leave Ariadne there so that he could marry her himself. Others say that Theseus forgot about her, and when Dionysus saw Ariadne so upset, he decided to marry her to end her suffering. In any case, the legend of Theseus, the Minotaur and Ariadne ends in tragedy: Theseus had promised his father Aegeus that if he succeeded in his endeavor he would change the sails on his ship from black to white. But on his way home, Theseus forgot to change the sails. When Aegeus saw the ship with black sails on the horizon, in despair he threw himself in the sea and died. That sea was named after him and became the Aegean Sea.