Theseus and the Minotaur (page 263 with art)

Chapter 8: Minos and Krete

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Thes 15 – Plutarch, Theseus

Not long afterwards there came from Crete for the third time the collectors of the tribute. Now as to this tribute, most writers agree that because Androgeos was thought to have been treacherously killed within the confines of Attica, not only did Minos harass the inhabitants of that country greatly in war,1 but Heaven also laid it waste, for barrenness and pestilence smote it sorely, and its rivers dried up; also that when their god assured them in his commands that if they appeased Minos and became reconciled to him, the wrath of Heaven would abate and there would be an end of their miseries, they sent heralds and made their supplication and entered into an agreement to send him every nine years a tribute of seven youths and as many maidens. [2] And the most dramatic version of the story declares that these young men and women, on being brought to Crete, were destroyed by the Minotaur in the Labyrinth, or else wandered about at their own will and, being unable to find an exit, perished there; and that the Minotaur, as Euripides says, was

A mingled form and hybrid birth of monstrous shape,

and that

Two different natures, man and bull, were joined in him.  Greek Text

♠ ApB 3.15.7 – Apollodoros, Bibliotheke (Library

But he himself came to Athens and celebrated the games of the Panathenian festival, in which Androgeus, son of Minos, vanquished all comers. Him Aegeus sent against the bull of Marathon, by which he was destroyed. But some say that as he journeyed to Thebes to take part in the games in honor of Laius, he was waylaid and murdered by the jealous competitors. But when the tidings of his death were brought to Minos, as he was sacrificing to the Graces in Paros, he threw away the garland from his head and stopped the music of the flute, but nevertheless completed the sacrifice; hence down to this day they sacrifice to the Graces in Paros without flutes and garlands.  Greek Text

Paus1.27.9 – 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

Hellanikos 4F164 FGrH Die Fragmente der griechischen Historiker 1, p. 145, ed. F. Jacoby, 2d ed. Leiden 1957.

Greek Text

Bak 17 – Bakchylides, Dithyrambs

A dark-prowed ship, carrying Theseus, steadfast in the din of battle, and twice seven splendid Ionian youths, was cleaving the Cretan sea; [5] for northern breezes fell on the far-shining sail, by the will of glorious Athena, shaker of the aegis. And the holy gifts of Cypris with her lovely headband scratched the heart of Minos. [10] He no longer kept his hand away from the maiden; he touched her white cheeks. And Eriboea cried out [15] to the descendant of Pandion with his bronze breastplate. Theseus saw, and he rolled his dark eyes under his brows; cruel pain tore his heart, [20] and he spoke: “Son of greatest Zeus, the spirit you guide in your heart is no longer pious. Hero, restrain your overbearing force. Whatever the all-powerful fate of the gods [25] has granted for us, and however the scale of Justice inclines, we shall fulfill our appointed destiny when it comes. As for you, hold back from your oppressive scheme. It may be that the dear [30] lovely-named daughter of Phoenix went to the bed of Zeus beneath the brow of Ida and bore you, greatest of mortals, but I too was borne by the daughter of rich Pittheus, [35] who coupled with the sea-god Poseidon, and the violet-haired Nereids gave her a golden veil. And so, war-lord of Knossos, [40] I bid you to restrain your grievous violence; for I would not want to see the lovely immortal light of Dawn if you were to subdue one of these young people against her will. [45] Before that we will show the force of our arms, and what comes after that a god will decide.” So spoke the hero, excellent with the spear; and the sailors were astonished at the man’s extraordinary [50] boldness. The son-in-law of Helios was angered in his heart, and he wove a new scheme, and spoke: “Father Zeus, great in strength, hear me! If indeed the white-armed Phoenician girl bore me to you, [55] now send forth from the sky a fire-haired lightning bolt, a conspicuous sign. And you, if Troezenian Aethra bore you to Poseidon the earth-shaker, [60] bring this splendid gold ornament on my hand back from the depths of the sea, casting your body boldly down to your father’s home. And you shall see whether my prayers are heard [65] by the son of Cronus, lord of the thunder and ruler of all.” And Zeus, great in strength, heard his blameless prayer, and brought about a majestic honor for Minos, wanting it [70] to be seen by all for the sake of his dear son; he sent the lightning. And the hero, steadfast in battle, seeing the marvel which pleased his spirit, stretched his hands to the glorious sky and said, “Theseus, [75] you see Zeus’ clear gifts to me. It is your turn to leap into the loud-roaring sea. And your father lord Poseidon, son of Cronus, will grant you supreme [80] glory throughout the well-wooded earth.” So he spoke. And Theseus’ spirit did not recoil; he stood on the well-built deck, and leapt, [85] and the precinct of the sea received him willingly. And the son of Zeus was astonished in his heart, and gave an order to hold the ornate ship before the wind; but fate was preparing another path. [90] The swift-moving ship hurtled forwards; and the north wind, blowing astern, drove it along. But the … race of Athenian youths was afraid, when the hero jumped into the sea, [95] and they shed tears from their lily eyes, awaiting grievous compulsion. But sea-dwelling dolphins swiftly carried great Theseus to the home of his father, lord of horses; [100] and he came to the hall of the gods. There he saw the glorious daughters of prosperous Nereus, and was afraid; for brightness shone like fire from their splendid limbs, [105] and ribbons woven with gold whirled around their hair. They were delighting their hearts in a dance, with flowing feet. And he saw in that lovely dwelling the dear wife of his father, [110] holy, ox-eyed Amphitrite. She threw a purple cloak around him and placed on his curly hair a perfect wreath, [115] dark with roses, which once deceptive Aphrodite had given her at her marriage. Nothing that the gods will is unbelievable to sensible men. Theseus appeared beside the ship with its slender stern. Oh, [120] from what thoughts did he stop the war-lord of Knossos, when he emerged unwetted from the sea, a marvel to all, and the gifts of the gods shone on his body. [125] The splendid-throned maidens cried out with new-founded joy, and the sea resounded. Nearby the young people sang a paean with lovely voices. [130] God of Delos, may the choruses of the Ceans warm your heart, and may you grant god-sent noble fortune.  Greek Text

Paris, Musée de Louvre G104: Attic red-figure cup by Onesimos with Theseus, Athena and Amphitrite




Beazley Archive Pottery Database

New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art 53.11.4: Attic red-figure cup by the Briseis Painter with Theseus and Amphitrite (interior) and Theseus and Triton (exterior)



Metropolitan Museum

Beazley Archive Pottery Database

Cambridge, Mass., Harvard Art Museums/Sackler Museum 1960.339: Attic red-figure column krater by the Harrow Painter with Theseus, Poseidon and Amphitrite and two other figures


Sackler Museum

Beazley Archive Pottery Database

Perseus Art & Archaeology Artifact Browser

 Paris, Cabinet des Médailles 418: Attic red-figure calyx krater by the Syriskos Painter with Theseus and Poseidon

MonumentiInediti1829pl#52CroppedMonumenti inediti pubblicati dall’Instituto di corrispondenza archeologica  1 (1829-1833), pl. 52



Beazley Archive Pottery Database

Paus 1.17.3 – Pausanias, Description of Greece

[one of wall paintings by Mikon in shrine of Theseus in Athens]

The painting on the third wall is not intelligible to those unfamiliar with the traditions, partly through age and partly because Micon has not represented in the picture the whole of the legend. When Minos was taking Theseus and the rest of the company of young folk to Crete he fell in love with Periboea, and on meeting with determined opposition from Theseus, hurled insults at him and denied that he was a son of Poseidon, since he could not recover for him the signet-ring, which he happened to be wearing, if he threw it into the sea. With these words Minos is said to have thrown the ring, but they say that Theseus came up from the sea with that ring and also with a gold crown that Amphitrite gave him.  Greek Text

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Artistic Sources edited by R. Ross Holloway, Elisha Benjamin Andrews Professor Emeritus, Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World, Brown Univ.; and by Frances Van Keuren, Prof. Emerita, Lamar Dodd School of Art, Univ. of Georgia, March 2017

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

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