A grandson of Minos I, and a son of Lycastus and Ida, was likewise a king and law-giver of Crete. He is described as possessed of a powerful navy, as the husband of Pasiphaë, a daughter of Helios, and as the father of Catreus, Deucalion, Glaucus, Androgeus, Acacallis (or Acalle), Xenodice, Ariadne, and Phaedra.1 He is said to have been killed in Sicily by king Cocalus, when he had gone thither in pursuit of Daedalus.2 But the Scholiast on Callimachus3 speaks of his tomb in Crete.
The detail of his history is related as follows. After the death of Asterius, Minos aimed at the supremacy of Crete, and declared that it was destined to him by the gods; in proof of it, he said that any thing he prayed for was done. Accordingly, as he was offering up a sacrifice to Poseidon, he prayed that a bull might come forth from the sea, and promised to sacrifice the animal. The bull appeared, and Minos became king of Crete. Others say that Minos disputed the government with his brother, Sarpedon, and conquered.4 But Minos, who admired the beauty of the bull, did not sacrifice him, and substituted another in his place. Poseidon therefore rendered the bull furious, and made Pasiphaë conceive a love for the animal. Pasiphaë concealed herself in an artificial cow made by Daedalus, and thus she became by the bull the mother of the Minotaur, a monster which had the body of a man, but the head of a bull. Minos shut the monster up in the labyrinth.5
Minos is further said to have divided Crete into three parts, each of which contained a capital, and to have ruled nine years.6 The Cretans traced their legal and political institutions to Minos, and he is said to have been instructed in the art of law-giving by Zeus himself; and the Spartan, Lycurgus, was believed to have taken the legislation of Minos as his model.7
In his time Crete was a powerful maritime state; and Minos not only checked the piratical pursuits of his contemporaries, but made himself master of the Greek islands of the Aegean.8 The most ancient legends describe Minos as a just and wise law-giver, whereas the later accounts represent him as an unjust and cruel tyrant.9
In order to avenge the wrong done to his son Androgeus at Athens, he made war against the Athenians and Megarians. He subdued Megara, and compelled the Athenians, either every year or every nine years, to send him as a tribute seven youths and seven maidens, who were devoured in the labyrinth by the Minotaur.10 This practice was put to stop by Theseus, who slayed the Minotaur.
It is possible that "Minos" was a title of the rulers of Crete. The Cretan culture from that time is also called Minoan and excavations have confirmed the power and wealth of the Minoan civilization, which flourished on Crete from around 3,000 to 1,100 BCE.
Coins from Knossos and Phaestos depict Minos as a bearded man wearing a diadem. On Greek vases he appears as on a throne or together with Theseus and the Minotaur.
- Pseudo-Apollodorus. The Library ii, 1.3.
- Herodotus. Histories vii, 170; Strabo. Geography vi, pp. 273, 279; Pausanias. Description of Greece vii, 4.5.
- Hymn to Jupiter 8.
- Herodotus. Histories i, 173.
- Pseudo-Apollodorus. The Library iii, 1.3 ff.
- Homer. Odyssey xix, 178; Strabo. Geography x, pp. 476, 479.
- Pausanias. Description of Greece iii, 4.2; comp. Plato. Minos. p. 319, b.; Plutarch. De sera numinis vindicta, 4; Valerius Maximus, i, 2.1; Athenaeus, xiii, p. 601.
- Thucydides, i, 4; Strabo. Geography i, p. 48; Diodorus Siculus, l.c.
- Philostratus. Life of Apollonius of Tyana iii, 25; Catullus. Epithalamium for Peleus and Thetis, 75; Eustathius on Homer, p. 1699.
- Pseudo-Apollodorus. The Library iii, 15.8; Pausanias. Description of Greece i, 27.9, 44.5; Plutarch. Theseus, 15; Diodorus Siculus. Historical Library iv, 61; Ovid. Metamorphoses vii, 456 ff.
- Aken, Dr. A.R.A. van. (1961). Elseviers Mythologische Encyclopedie. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
- Smith, William. (1870). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. London: Taylor, Walton, and Maberly.
This article incorporates text from Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (1870) by William Smith, which is in the public domain.