"Bull of Minos." A monster with the body of a man but with the head of a bull. It is the offspring of Pasiphaë, the wife of King Minos, and a bull. Once, Minos asked Poseidon to give him a divine sign to prove the legitimacy of his rule of Crete and Poseidon sent him a gleaming white bull. Minos had promised to sacrifice the bull to Poseidon but did not keep his word. The angry god inflicted Pasiphaë with an uncontrollable lust for the animal, of which the Minotaur was the result.
The monster ravaged the island until Heracles managed to capture it. Meanwhile, Daedalus had finished constructing a labyrinth to house the creature, and the Minotaur was locked inside. For a period of nine years, seven young men and women from Athens were sacrificed yearly to the Minotaur. When the occasion returned on which the Athenians had to send to Minos their tribute of seven youths and seven maidens, Theseus voluntarily offered himself as one of the youths. Minos' daughter Ariadne, who had become enamored of Theseus, provided him with which he slew the Minotaur, and a clue of thread by which he found his way out of the labyrinth.
The Minotaur is depicted half man half animal on gem stones from Crete and on silver coins from Knossos. The battle between the monster and Theseus is depicted on numerous vases, among which a bowl by Aeson (fourth century BCE; Madrid) which shows the hero pulling the Minotaur by its ear out of the labyrinth. The bull's head and the human arms are already visible.
- Ovid. Metamorphoses vii, 404 ff.
- Pausanias. Description of Greece i, 27.10.
- Plutarch. Theseus, 19.
- Pseudo-Apollodorus. The Library iii, 1.7, 1.9.