In Greek mythology, the Minotaur was a deadly and terrifying monster - indeed, this creature was one of the many dark forces of chaos in ancient legend. The Minotaur was the half human, half bull inhabitant of the Labyrinth. The tale of the Minotaur begins with King Minos, the king of Crete. After he ascended the throne of Crete, Minos struggled with his brothers for the right to rule. Minos prayed to the god Poseidon to send him a snow white bull, as a sign of approval. According to mythology, sent King Minos a stunningly perfect white bull. This bull was meant to be a sacrifice to the great god of the sea. However, The King valued the animal too much to use it as a sacrificial victim.  Poseidon then punished King Minos by making Pasiphae, King  Minos's wife, fall passionately in love with the bull.


This was a powerful curse and Queen Pasiphae had no choice but submit to her lust for the animal, she had Daedalus, the famous architect, make a wooden cow for her. Pasiphae then climbed into the decoy in order to mate with the white bull. The result of this union was the birth of a monster, his lower body was that of a man but it had the head of a bull. He was referred to the 'Minotaur', (the bull of Minos). King Minos then tried to hide this horrible creature in a vast and convoluted maze which he made Daedalus build called the Labyrinth.


The Minotaur survived in the gloom of the labyrinth. Every nine years, seven maidens and seven young men from Athens were offered to appease the appetite of the monster. It was this horrible custom that eventually resulted in the Minotaur's death. For, according to the legend, the Greek hero Theseus  volunteered to go to Crete in place of one of the seven youths. Once in Crete, assisted by King Minos' daughter the princess Ariadne, Theseus defeated the Minotaur and in this way ended the monster's reign of terror.




The most common concept is that of the world famous palace from Knossos that belonging to king Minos of Crete, built by the legendary Daedalus. It was in fact archaeologists that named the palace 'labyrinth' because the building had 1,500 rooms connected through twisted corridors, contorted stairs, fake outdoors and reception halls, where the visitor could get lost easily. 

In fact, the archaeologists are not absolutely sure that the mythological labyrinth would have even been near to the palace itself. However, the palace emerged from the nucleus of the yard and royal rooms, from this other outhouses were added that spread over hectares and rose on 4-5 levels, like a hive.

90 such city-fortresses existed on the island when the Minoan Civilisation existed. The labyrinth-palace of Knossos had a many courts but central court was where the Minoan festivities would take place, including many bull fights. This is what possible generated the legend of the Minotaur, including the wonderful frescoes that decorated the walls of the palace. Although only one Minoan image of a bull-headed man has been found, a tiny seal that is currently held in the Archaeological Museum of Hania.


The roofs were flat, and it had inner drains through which the rainfall was amassed in cisterns during the autumn and winter, as the concern for hygiene was amazing. Even more amazingly in the palace-labyrinth also existed lifts! They were, of course, operated by people, with the help of the winches. The Minoans used columns for sustaining the ceiling of the larger halls. But curiously, the Cretan columns were thicker in the upper part and slimmer in the lower part, giving the impression of an upside down view. 


From the North Entrance, a road led to the harbour of Knossos. The North Entrance is flanked by elevated stoas, the one at the west being decorated with the Bull Hunt fresco. A large, stone-paved processional way, the Royal Road, led from the Small Palace and the city to the North-west corner of the palace, where there was an open-air theatre area. Around the palace extended the Minoan settlement, with the cemeteries on the hills.


The walls of the labyrinth-palace are painted in vivid colours, like blue, depicting dolphins, but also human bodies and weaponry. The labyrinth employs just simple geometrical forms - circles, squares, rectangles and right angles, without steeples, arches or vaults. Few people know that, apart form the Crete's famous labyrinth, there is an ancient Egyptian one. 


The labyrinth is the mortuary temple of the pharaoh Amenemhet III (1860-1814 BC) at Hawara, near Fayum. This labyrinth had 12 covered courts, and two levels, each with 1,500 rooms and a sole entrance. To get out you had to return to the entrance from the labyrinth of rooms. But the building has configured tens of fake bricked exits. As ancient Crete and Egypt were connected by trade, maybe the Cretans of the time borrowed it from the Egyptians! 






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