King Minos (mythical figure)

The Founding Father

Perhaps, King Minos is the most famous Cretan of all times. And probably, he never even existed. Or, if we believe some of the ancient myths, he might not have been one person, but two!

The scholars dispute whether Minos was a personal name or a title, the Cretan word for 'king'. Some suggest that it was the name of a particular king that went on to be used as a title.

But according to the Greek mythology, Minos was a king of Crete, the founding father of the ancient Cretan civilisation and son of Zeus and Europa. After his death, Minos became a judge of the dead in the underworld, Hades. According to others parts of the mythology, however, he was the cruel ruler, who fed Athenian youths to the Minotaur. The monster that dwelled in the labyrinth in Knossos.

Therefore, later mythologists tried to overcome the contradiction between this great king who on one hand was held in such esteem, that he was appointed judge of the dead by the gods and on the other hand was an evil tyrant. They therefore wrote about two kings called Minos. The good founder-king and the evil successor.

The earlier Greek myths describes the first, good king Minos as a beneficent ruler and an important legislator. Numerous of the most colourful Greek myths deals with the second 'evil' King Minos. Most well-known, probably, is the story about how Theseus killed the Minotaur.

Minos had a son, Androgeus, who won every game in a contest hosted by king Aegeas of Athens. When the other contestants killed Androgeus out of jealousy, Minos declared war on Athens. But he offered the Athenians peace if they would send him seven young men and seven virgins to feed the Minotaur every nine years. This continued until Theseus killed the Minotaur with the help of Minos' daughter Ariadne, who had fallen in love with Theseus.

The evil King Minos himself met a cruel death at Camicus in Sicily, when the daughter of the king of Agrigentum poured boiling water over him while he was taking a bath.

Much later when the ruins at Knossos were excavated, King Minos inspired the name that was given to the ancient Cretan civilisation which remains were uncovered. The Minoans.

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