The Minotaur in Greek Mythology — The Story of Theseus and the Minotaur

The Minotaur in Greek Mythology — The Story of Theseus and the Minotaur

Who was the Minotaur In Greek Mythology?

The Minotaur was the monstrous son of a white bull, which was sent by the sea god Poseidon, and Pasiphae, the wife of King Minos of Crete. When the child was born, it had the head of a bull and the body of a man and was given the name Minotaur, meaning Minos’ Bull. The creature fed on seven boys and seven girls sent annually as tribute by the Athenians.

The Minotaur—a popular figure In Greek Mythology—a half-bull half-human that resides in the Labyrinth of Crete. But how did the Minotaur come to exist, and what is the story behind the beast?

The Origin of the Minotaur

Minos, the future king of Crete, was embroiled in a fierce competition of his brothers as to who would rule the island. In his desperation, Minos prayed to Poseidon, the god of the sea, to send him a snow-white bull as a sign, for no one would dare go against the word of the gods. In return, Minos was to sacrifice the Beast to honour Poseidon for his gift.

However, Minos had grown attached and could not do such a thing. Instead, he sacrificed one of his Bull in the hopes that Poseidon would not notice the difference. This only served to anger Poseidon. As punishment, Poseidon made Minos’ wife, Pasiphae, fall in love with the Beast that he could not come to kill.

Pasiphae a hollow wooden cow

Pasiphae’s love for the animal only grew as each day passed. She had Daedalus, the master craftsman, build a hollow wooden cow that she then climbed inside to mate with the Beast, and thus, the Minotaur was born.

Pasiphae tried her best to nurse the monstrous offspring, but it became more ferocious and uncontrollable as it grew older. Its only form of sustenance came from devouring humans.

The Minotaur’s Labyrinth

The Minotaur’s Labyrinth

Unable to contain the Minotaur and in fear for his kingdom, king Minos travelled to the Oracle of Delphi to seek advice. King Minos was told to build a Labyrinth underneath his palace to contain the Minotaur.

In Greek Mythology, the Labyrinth was an elaborate, confusing structure designed and built by the legendary artificer Daedalus for King Minos of Crete at Knossos. Its function was to hold the Minotaur.

Upon his return, King Minos asked Daedalus and his son, Icarus, to build a Labyrinth capable of holding the Beast.

The Death of King Minos’ Son

King Minos’ only son travelled to Athens to take part in Athenian games—there are some who believe he was killed during the games, as the Athenians were jealous of his skill and prowess. There are others who believe that King Aegeus of Athens ordered the boy to kill the Minotaur, and as a result of his failure, he was killed by his half-brother.

Upon hearing the news that he had just lost his only male heir, Minos was furious and waged war with Athens. Upon consulting the Oracle, King Aegeus of Athens gave in to the demands of King Minos: “Every year, Athens would send seven boys and seven girls to be sacrificed at the Minotaur as punishment for the death of his son.”

Theseus and the Minotaur

The Assassination of the Minotaur

During the third year of tribute, King Aegeus’ son, Theseus, volunteered to go to Crete and kill the Minotaur himself, ending the plague brought upon Athens. Theseus promised his father that on return, he would hoist white sails if he was successful, and the crew would fly black sails if he had been killed.

Upon arrival, both of Minos’ daughters, Ariadne and Phaedra, fell deeply in love with Theseus. Unable to deal with the idea that her half-brother could kill Theseus, Ariadne went to Daedalus and begged and pleaded for him to tell her how to escape the Labyrinth.

Before entering the Labyrinth, Ariadne hands Theseus a ball of string to find his way back after killing the Minotaur.

Theseus and the Minotaur

After searching for some time, Theseus found the beast and awoke him from his slumber. Eventually, he managed to overpower the Beast and stab him in his throat, fatally wounding him. In some variations of the tale, Theseus killed the Beast with his bare hands.

Once the beasts had been slain, Theseus used the ball of the string given to him to find his way out of the Labyrinth and returned to Phaedra and Ariadne. They soon left and set sail for Athens.

In Hesiod and most other versions, as they journey back to Athens, Theseus abandons Ariadne on the island of Naxos, as it was always his intention to marry Phaedra and not Ariadne—I call that betrayal after she saved his life out of the Labyrinth.

Ariadne being abandoned by Theseus
Ariadne being abandoned by Theseus. Angelica Kauffmann, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Dionysus, the god of wine, eventually finds Ariadne, and the two married.

Close to Athens and with his new wife, Phaedra, Theseus could not contain his joy. However, because of this absent-mindedness, he forgot to change his sails from black to white.

Upon arriving, King Aegeus sees the black sails raised on his son’s ship. Overcome with grief, he leaps off the cliff, killing himself. Theseus is now set to become the new Athenian King, which then concludes the story of Theseus and the Minotaur.

Minotaur Q&A

What is a Minotaur, Greek mythology?

The Minotaur was the monstrous son of a white bull, which was sent by the sea god Poseidon, and Pasiphae, the wife of King Minos of Crete. When the child was born, it had the head of a bull and the body of a man and was given the name Minotaur, meaning Minos’ Bull.


Who were the parents of the Minotaur?

The parent of the Minotaur was the Cretan Bull (sent by Poseidon) and Pasiphae, the wife of King Minos of Crete.


Why didn’t Minos kill the Minotaur?

Minos had grown attached with the Minotaur and could not do such a thing as killing it. Instead, he sacrificed one of his other Bull, hoping that Poseidon would not notice the difference.


Who Killed the Minotaur?

Theseus killed the Minotaur, according to Greek mythology. Theseus managed to overpower the Beast and stab him in his throat, fatally wounding him. In some variations of the tale, Theseus killed the Beast with his bare hands.

Image Sources: EdiktArt, Sinakasra, IgorKieryluk.

Scroll to Top