The daughter of Helios and Perse, wife of the Cretan king Minos and by him the mother of Acalle, Androgeus, Ariadne, Catreus, Deucalion, Glaucus, Phaedra, and Xenodice.

Her husband 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. 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.

Later Pasiphaë, angered by Minos' constant affairs, cast a spell on him so that he gave a painful disease to the women he made love with, of which he was eventually cured by Procris.


She is portrayed as a solemn, pensive woman and can be found on several Pompeian frescoes, such as at the Casa dei Vettii and the Casa della Caccia. Several Etruscan reliefs depict her with Minos and the Minotaur.



  • Aken, Dr. A.R.A. van. (1961). Elseviers Mythologische Encyclopedie. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
  • Apollonius Rhodius. Argonautica iii, 999 ff.
  • Cicero. On the Nature of the Gods iii, 19.
  • Ovid. Metamorphoses xv, 501.
  • Pausanias. Description of Greece v, 25.9.
  • Pseudo-Apollodorus. The Library i, 9.1; iii, 1.2.
  • 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.