King Minos

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Minoan King of the Labyrinth?

Bull Jumping Fresco from Knossos

King Minos Μίνως

The legends of Crete and Greece are incredibly twisted and convoluted. This is the way of history when the stories started as far back as 2000 BC in Crete.

Minoan Snake Goddess ceramic figuerine from Knossos

The Minoan civilisation of Crete seemed to be a female or matriarchal society. In Minoan art there are many soft images and frescoes that have been discovered of ceremonial processions, flowers and birds. There are also images of powerful female figures such as the Snake Goddess (left).

The legend of the half-man half-bull who was the Minotaur and the dark mysterious cavern under the palace called the Labyrinth seem to be Greek legends concocted well after the Minoan civilisation. Part of these stories is the legend of a King who kept the Minotaur and who ruled at Knossos.

Greek myths tells us that he was the son of Zeus and Europa, and his brothers Rhadamanthys and Sarpedon ruled at the other Minoan palaces on Crete.

His wife was Pasiphaë, his children were Ariadne, Androgeus, Deucalion, Phaedra, Glaucus, Catreus, Acacallis and Xenodike.

Or his wife was Crete, daughter of Asterion, who raised Minos in Zeus' absence, who was a nymph.

The Minotaur was kept by Minos in the Labyrinth, which was built by the architect Daedalus and his son Icarus.

La Parisienne Fresco, Knossos

Was Knossos ruled by a King or perhaps a Queen as depicted in this fresco (right), known as the Minoan Lady or perversely, as 'La Parisienne'.

One thing we do know is that the ruins at Knossos were discovered in 1878 by the Cretan Minos Kalokairinos who began excavations. They were later fully excavated by Sir Arthur Evans.

It is Evans who started to use the term 'Minoan' to describe the society whose palace he had uncovered.

So little is known for sure, and what we do know is skewed by years of stories and half-truths.

We do know that bulls held a prominent place in ancient Crete, as the bull leaping frescoes show us. One of the most beautiful frescoes uncovered at Knossos shows a young man in what could be a ceremonial stance, he is known as the Prince of the Lilies. This is a controversial reconstruction of many shards.

Sir Arthur Evans portrait

Knossos - Home of Minos

More about Knossos Palace here

The artwork of Minoans at Knossos - frescoes

Tips for visiting the Knossos Palace archaeological site

Evans - Amateur Archaeologist

Arthur Evans, archaeologist of Crete

Arthur Evans is credited with discovering, uncovering and rebuilding Knossos Palace and in so doing, unveiling the history of Minoan Crete from 2000 BC, helping to create the story around King Minos.

Biography of Sir Arthur Evans

Video of Knossos
Palace of King Minos

Below is a video of the Palace of Knossos as it stands today:


Knossos entry gate with frescoesKnossos entry gate with frescoes

Snake goddess CreteMinoan Snake Goddess, Crete

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