Minos, Pasiphae, and the Minotaur (page 261 with art)

Chapter 8: Minos and Krete

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♠ POxy 2461 – Papyrus fragment from Oxyrhynchus, as published in the Oxyrhynchus Papyri series, Vol. XXVII

same as

♠ Euripides fr 81 Aus – Recently discovered fragments of Euripides, cited according to Austin, ed. C. Austin. 1968.

♠ PergBerol 13217

same as

♠ Euripides fr 82 Aus – Recently discovered fragments of Euripides, cited according to Austin, ed. C. Austin. 1968.

Isocrates 10. Helen 27

At about the same time appeared the monster reared in Crete, the offspring of Pasipha, daughter of Helius, to whom our city was sending, in accordance with an oracle’s command, tribute of twice seven children. When Theseus saw these being led away, and the entire populace escorting them, to a death savage and foreseen, and being mourned as dead while yet living, he was so incensed that he thought it better to die than to live as ruler of a city that was compelled to pay to the enemy a tribute so lamentableGreek Text

Pal 2 – Palaiphatos, Peri Apiston (On Incredible Things) Mythographi Graeci 3 pt. 2, pp. 5-8, ed. N. Festa. Leipzig 1902.

This is the myth about Pasiphae: that she fell in love with a grazing bull and that Daedalus made a cow out of wood and closed her up inside it.  The bull then mounted and copulated with Pasiphae, who became pregnant and bore a child with the body of a man and the head of a bull.  Greek Text

Munich, Antikensammlungen 2243: Attic black-figure cup made by Archikles and Glaukytes, with Theseus and Minotaur


A. Furtwaengler and K. Reichhold, Griechische Vasenmalerei: Auswahl hervorragender Vasenbilder (Serie III, 1932), pl. 153.1




E. Gerhard, Auserlesene Griechische Vasenbilder, hauptsächlich Etruskischen Fundorts (Band 3): Heroenbilder, meistens homerisch (1847), pls. 235-6 (details)

Perseus Art & Archaeology Artifact Browser

Beazley Archive Pottery Database

Paris, Musée du Louvre F18: Chalcidian black-figure hydria with Theseus and Minotaur

louvref18moninedvol6pl15Monumenti inediti pubblicati dall’Instituto di corrispondenza archeologica vols. 6-7 (Roma, 1857-63), pl. 15

Philochoros 328F17 FGrH Die Fragmente der griechischen Historiker pt. 3 B, pp. 103-4, ed. F. Jacoby, 2d ed. Leiden 1957.

Greek Text

Kallimachos, Hymn to Delos 4.311

Having escaped the cruel bellowing and the wild son of Pasiphae and the coiled habitation of the crooked labyrinth, about thine altar, O lady, they raised the music of the lute and danced the round dance, and Theseus led the choirGreek Text

DS 4.77.1-4 – Diodoros Siculus, Library of History

Afterwards Daedalus made his escape out of Attica to Crete, where, being admired because of the fame of his art, he became a friend of Minos who was king there. Now according to the myth which has been handed down to us Pasiphaê, the wife of Minos, became enamoured of the bull, and Daedalus, by fashioning a contrivance in the shape of a cow, assisted Pasiphaê to gratify her passion. [2] In explanation of this the myths offer the following account: Before this time it had been the custom of Minos annually to dedicate to Poseidon the fairest bull born in his herds and to sacrifice it to the god; but at the time in question there was born a bull of extraordinary beauty and he sacrificed another from among those which were inferior, whereupon Poseidon, becoming angry at Minos, caused his wife Pasiphaê to become enamoured of the bull. [3] And by means of the ingenuity of Daedalus Pasiphaê had intercourse with the bull and gave birth to the Minotaur, famed in the myth. This creature, they say, was of double form, the upper parts of the body as far as the shoulders being those of a bull and the remaining parts those of a man. [4] As a place in which to keep this monstrous thing Daedalus, the story goes, built a labyrinth, the passage-ways of which were so winding that those unfamiliar with them had difficulty in making their way out; in this labyrinth the Minotaur was maintained and here it devoured the seven youths and seven maidens which were sent to it from Athens, as we have already related.  Greek Text

ApB 3.1.3-4 – Apollodoros, Bibliotheke (Library)

Asterius dying childless, Minos wished to reign over Crete, but his claim was opposed. So he alleged that he had received the kingdom from the gods, and in proof of it he said that whatever he prayed for would be done. And in sacrificing to Poseidon he prayed that a bull might appear from the depths, promising to sacrifice it when it appeared. Poseidon did send him up a fine bull, and Minos obtained the kingdom, but he sent the bull to the herds and sacrificed another. [ Being the first to obtain the dominion of the sea, he extended his rule over almost all the islands. ]

[4] But angry at him for not sacrificing the bull, Poseidon made the animal savage, and contrived that Pasiphae should conceive a passion for it. In her love for the bull she found an accomplice in Daedalus, an architect, who had been banished from Athens for murder. He constructed a wooden cow on wheels, took it, hollowed it out in the inside, sewed it up in the hide of a cow which he had skinned, and set it in the meadow in which the bull used to graze. Then he introduced Pasiphae into it; and the bull came and coupled with it, as if it were a real cow. And she gave birth to Asterius, who was called the Minotaur. He had the face of a bull, but the rest of him was human; and Minos, in compliance with certain oracles, shut him up and guarded him in the Labyrinth. Now the Labyrinth which Daedalus constructed was a chamber “ that with its tangled windings perplexed the outward way.   Greek Text

♠ Euripides fr 82.23-24 Aus – Recently discovered fragments of Euripides, cited according to Austin, ed. C. Austin. 1968.

Hesiod, Ehoiai (Catalogue of Women) fr 145.10 MW – Fragmenta Hesiodea, p. 71, ed. R. Merkelbach and M. L. West. Oxford 1967.

for Minos, the much-surging… (Transl. Nick Gardner)

Paus 1.27.9 – Pausanias, Description of Greece

Another deed of Theseus they have represented in an offering, and the story about it is as follows:—The land of the Cretans and especially that by the river Tethris was ravaged by a bull. It would seem that in the days of old the beasts were much more formidable to men, for example the Nemean lion, the lion of Parnassus, the serpents in many parts of Greece, and the boars of Calydon, Eryrmanthus and Crommyon in the land of Corinth, so that it was said that some were sent up by the earth, that others were sacred to the gods, while others had been let loose to punish mankind. And so the Cretans say that this bull was sent by Poseidon to their land because, although Minos was lord of the Greek Sea, he did not worship Poseidon more than any other god.  Greek Text

Fab 40 – Hyginus, Fabulae

PASIPHAE:  Pasiphae, daughter of Sol and wife of Minos, for several years did not make offerings to the goddess Venus. Because of this Venus inspired in her an unnatural love for a bull [corrupt]. At the time when Daedalus came there as an exile, he asked her to help him. For her he made a wooden heifer, and put in it the hide of a real heifer, and in this she lay with the bull. From this intercourse she bore the Minotaur, with bull’s head but human body. Then Daedalus made for the Minotaur a labyrinth with an undiscoverable exit in which it was confined. When Minos found out the affair he cast Daedalus into prison, but Pasiphae freed him from his chains. And so Daedalus made wings and fitted them to himself and to his son Icarus, and they flew away from that place. Icarus flew too high, and when the wax was melted by the sun, fell into the sea which was named Icarian for him. Daedalus flew on to King Cocalus in the island of Sicily. Others say that after Theseus killed the Minotaur he brought Daedalus back to Athens, his own country.  Latin Text

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Edited by Nick Gardner, Graduate Research Assistant, Department of Classics, Univ. of Georgia, April 24, 2016; and by Frances Van Keuren, Prof. Emerita, Lamar Dodd School of Art, Univ. of Georgia, January 2017.

Literary sources updated by Elena Bianchelli, Retired Senior Lecturer of Classical Languages and Culture, Univ. of Georgia, April 2023

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