A short drive around Crete will unveil a plethora of hotels, restaurants and businesses proudly displaying the name ‘minos’. But where does this curiously Cretan word come from?
Mythology has many stories to tell about Crete, the land where Zeus, king of gods and men, was raised. Zeus’ mother, Rhea, hid her baby on Mount Ida to save him from his father, Cronus, who had devoured all his other children. Later in life, Zeus visited Crete again in pursue of the beautiful Europa, whom he carried away on his back whilst transformed into a beautiful white bull. Zeus and Europa had three sons: Rhadamanthys, Sarpedon and Minos – the famous Cretan king.
King Minos was sent a beautiful snow-white bull by Poseidon, god of the sea. The king was meant to sacrifice the bull to honour the gods, but decided to keep it for himself. To punish Minos, Poseidon made Pasiphae, Minos’ wife, fall deeply in love with the bull, and she later gave birth to the monstrous Minotaur – a terrifying beast with the body of a man and the head of a bull. To keep the bull-man contained, King Minos had a large labyrinth built close to his palace in Knossos.
Prince Androgeos, the son of Minos, had been tricked and killed by the Athenians and so, in payment, the citizens of that city had to send 7 young men and 7 young women to Crete every 9 years, as sacrifice to the Minotaur. Prince Theseus, son of King Aegeus of Athens, volunteered to go with the third group of youths to Crete, promising his father that he would slay the Minotaur. According to the myth, once in Crete Theseus fell in love with Ariadne, the beautiful daughter of King Minos. Ariadne knew the only pathway to escape the labyrinth and gave Theseus a spool of thread in order to help him retrace his steps once inside. Of course, Theseus successfully killed the Minotaur, cutting him down with his father’s sword and escaping back to the outside world.
And so, countless millennia later, Cretans proudly continue to pay homage to their great mythical king, remembering his story through continued use of his great name.