King of Crete whose insult to the gods eventuated in the birth of the Minotaur. The Greek gods (or the ancients who made up myths about them) sometimes showed a strange sense of justice. King Minos did a number of things which - one would have thought - disqualified him for a distinguished career in the afterlife. When challenged to prove his right to the Cretan throne, Minos asked the gods to send him a sign. The deities instantly obliged, causing a beautiful white bull to emerge from the sea. Minos was so delighted that he decided not to offer the bull for sacrifice as was expected. Instead he substituted another bull from his herd. This displeased the sea god Poseidon so much that he made Minos' wife fall in love with the bull from the sea. The Minotaur was born as a result.|
When Minos besieged Megara, its princess fell in love with him. Learning that the town's safety depended on an immortal lock of hair which grew from the head of her father the king, she was driven to treachery by her passion for Minos. She cut the hair and Megara fell. It may well be that Minos encouraged the princess in this act. In any case, he was so ungrateful that he spurned her love and allowed her to drown - or he drowned her himself.
According to the Athenians, Minos was a supremely wicked king. But others considered him wise and just. It is certain that the gods rewarded him in the afterlife, making him one of three great judges of the dead.
Minos figures significantly in the myth of Theseus. In one incident, he challenges the hero to retrieve a ring thrown into the sea. Later, he throws Theseus to the Minotaur.
|Minos challenges Theseus to retrieve a ring thrown into the sea. (zoom)|