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Crete features significantly in Greek mythology, being the birthplace of Zeus and land of the Minotaur and Daedalus's labyrinth. The place from where Icarus tried to escape with his waxen wings and where Jason and the Argonauts slew Talos, the giant of Crete. As with all myths that have millennia of history to them Greek mythology has collected a few variants along the way. The many tales and individuals interweave in the fashion of a divine soap opera, with surprisingly generous portions of gratuitous sex and violence.The following text is a brief overview of the generally accepted versions of these myths as they apply to Crete.


zeusUranus was the original ruler of the gods and source of amusement to generations of schoolboys until the BBC changed his pronunciation. He was overthrown by his son Kronos. To stop the same fate happening to himself, Kronos adopted the habit of eating his own children. Assuring his survival by keeping them safely inside of him. His wife Rhea was not unnaturally a little put out by this, so when the sixth child Zeus was expected Rhea went to Kronos’ parents, Uranus and Gaia the earth mother, to seek help. Gaia took Rhea to Crete, where she gave birth to Zeus in the Diktean cave. Gaia then presented Kronos with a rock wrapped in swaddling clothes, which he duly swallowed in the belief that this was his son. europa
Zeus was then secretly raised in the cave, fed by milk from the goat Amaltheia, one of whose horns was later to become Cornucopia, the horn of plenty. To hide the infants cries, the Kouretes, the demons of Crete, danced and beat loudly on their bronze shields. When Zeus had reached maturity he declared war on Kronos and the Titans, and after a protracted  struggle eventually emerged victorious as the supreme ruler of the gods on Mount Olympus. Kronos was banished to the underworld.
    One day Zeus chanced upon the princess Europa, the daughter of the king of Phoenecia, gathering flowers in a meadow by the shore with her friends. With his reputation for sexual prowess and libido it was unsurprising that he should become filled with lust for the beautiful princess. Zeus approached the girls in the guise of a bull. Captivated by his docility Europa petted the beast, and then climbed on its back, whereupon Zeus raced off into the sea carrying off Europa to Crete. On arrival in Crete Zeus and Europa lay in the shade of a plane tree, and as the bible would phrase it, began begatting the Cretan race.




Europa bore Zeus three sons, Minos, Rhadmanthys, and Sarpedon. On coming of age Minos was given a golden sceptre by Zeus with which he ruled Crete from his palace at Knossos, and managed to pacify the over one hundred warring cities.
  Despite this evident success at ruling the island, Minos was sufficiently insecure ask to ask Poseidon to send him a sign that his kingship was the will of the gods. Poseidon responded by sending him a bull leaping from the waves. Minos was so overcome by the beauty of the creature, that instead of sacrificing it to Poseidon as he should, he kept the beast and sacrificed another in its place. Enraged by this deceit Poseidon took revenge on Minos by causing his wife Persiphae to fall in love with a bull. To satiate her desire to mate with the bull, Persiphae had the master craftsman Daedelus create for her a hollow wooden cow, which she duly hid inside to facilitate the coupling. The result of this unwholesome liaison was the Minotaur. To hide his shame of the evidence of his deceit Minos had Daedelus build the labyrinth in which to hide the Minotaur.
  The Minotaur fed on human blood, providing Minos with a practical and convenient means of disposing of some of his more troublesome enemies. In addition to his enemies Minos had seven young men and women sent from Athens every year to be fed to the Minotaur. This was tribute from Athens whom Minos had defeated in war following the death of his son Androgenous there, some years previously.


theseusThe third occasion this tribute was to be paid, Theseus, the son of the Athenian king Aegeus resolved to kill the Minotaur, and journeyed to Crete as part of the sacrificial party. On arrival he and Ariadne, the daughter of Minos fell in love, and Ariadne conspired to help him in his quest. She had Daedelus supply Theseus with a ball of string with which he could lay a trail to escape from the labyrinth in the event he should be successful. History of course records that Theseus was indeed successful and on his return he and Ariadne fled Crete for the island of Naxos to escape the wrath of Minos.




Furious at his part in the killing of the |Minotaur and the desertion of his daughter, Minos had Daedelus imprisoned in his own labyrinth along with his son Icarus. Daedelus and Icarus effected their escape by collecting feathers from the fowls that the Minotaur had eaten, and fashioning them into wings with the aid of wax. They then flew from the island of Crete in search of safe haven. Ignoring the warnings of his father, Icarus flew too close to the sun whose heat melted the wax binding the wings, and he fell to his death. Daedelus flew on to Scicily where he was given the protection of King Kokalos.
   Bent on revenge Minos set about tracking down Daedelus. He set a puzzle so difficult he knew only the mind of Daedelus could solve it, and offered a large reward to anyone completing it. The puzzle was to pass a thread through the shell of a triton.When Minos landed in Scicily he posed the problem to King Kokalos who secretly consulted with Daedelus to solve the puzzle. Daedelus drilled a hole in the point of the shell and then attached the thread to an ant which carried the thread through the shell. When Minos was presented with the solution he knew that Daedelus was in the palace of King Kokalos and demanded that he be handed over. Appearing to acquiesce to this King Kokalos offered Minos his hospitality, during which Minos was scalded to death in his bath by the daughters of Kokalos.



Zeus gave Europa three wedding gifts, a gold dog that could catch all game, a gold quiver with arrows that would never miss their mark, and a bronze giant named Talos that protected all of Crete by hurling rocks at any hostile ship that approached. Talos had one vein that ran the length of his body culminating in a plug at his ankle, which was his only vulnerable point. When Jason and the Argonauts were greeted by the customary hail of rocks they brought about the downfall of Talos. With the aid of the sorceress Medea, they removed the plug in his ankle, allowing the ichor, the divine fluid that gave him life, to drain away.