marathonian bull

Cretan Bull

In Greek mythology, the Cretan Bull was either the bull that carried away Europa or the bull Pasiphaë fell in love with, giving birth to the Minotaur.

Origin

When the sun has reached the constellation of Taurus, it has passed over an area that the ancients referred to as the sea - the region from Capricorn to the region containing Aries. It was referred to as the sea due to the high concentration of constellations identified as sea creatures within it, Aries being identified as a flying ram who flew over the sea. Crete is in a direct line from the natural harbour of Argo, a direction which the shape of Argo's harbour, and surrounding coastline, requires that all ships initially take this course.

Apart from being a bull, Taurus contains a very bright and red star, meaning that many took it to be evil. Some forms of Greek mythology associated the constellation with the tame white bull, in some versions Zeus in disguise, that seduced Europa and took her to Crete (Minos), whereas others associate it with the white bull that fathered the Minotaur. The Cretan Bull which fathered the Minotaur was originally calm and sent from Poseidon, but the king (Minos) whom it was sent to fell out of favour with Poseidon, and so in some versions of the story, Poseidon made the bull angry.

The myth of Poseidon sending the bull (which seduced Minos' wife) may simply be an earlier version of the myth of Zeus seducing Europa, as in earlier Mycenean times, Poseidon had significantly more importance than Zeus. The change of gods was due to the replacement of the Mycenean culture and religion, with a later one favouring Zeus. Poseidon and Zeus, which have the same etymological origin (Poseidon deriving from Posei-Deion which means Lord God, and Zeus deriving from Deus which also means God), may be the result of the parallel evolution of the same original God in separate cultures, one (Poseidon - who is also associated with horses) becoming associated more with the sea (due to change in the main source of trade), and thus eventually becoming noticeably different.

In the stories of Heracules and about Crete (an island of Greece) the minotaur was in the center of a huge maze. The maze was owned by the King of Crete and was used for the prisoners. The prisoners were told if they made it through the maze they would be free. Many took the deal not knowing that a minotaur was waiting to kill them as they passed through the center of the maze.

The Seventh Labour of Heracles

Heracles was compelled to capture the bull as his seventh task. He sailed to Crete, whereupon the King of Crete, Minos, gave Heracles permission to take the bull away, as it had been wreaking havoc on Crete. Heracles used his hands to strangle the bull, and then shipped it back to Athens. Eurystheus wanted to sacrifice the bull to Hera, who hated Heracles. She refused the sacrifice because it reflected glory on Heracles. The bull was released and wandered into Marathon, becoming known as the Marathonian Bull. Some stories say that Heracles, along with Theseus, killed King Minos' Minotaur as the seventh labour.

Capture by Theseus

Androgeus, a son of Minos and Pasiphaë, competed in the games held by Aegeus, King of Athens. He won all the games, so angering Aegeus that he had the young man killed (some legends claim that he was sent to confront the Bull itself). Devastated, Minos went to war with Athens and won. As punishment, the Athenians had to send several youths every year to be devoured by the Minotaur.

Aegeus' own son, Theseus, set to try and capture the Bull. On the way to Marathon, Theseus sought shelter from a storm in the shack owned by an ancient lady named Hecale. She swore to make a sacrifice to Zeus if Theseus was successful in capturing the bull. Theseus did capture the bull, but when he returned to Hecale's hut, she was dead. Theseus built a deme in her honour. He then dragged the Bull to Athens where he sacrificed it.

Theseus then went to Crete where he killed the Minotaur with the help of Minos' daughter Ariadne.

See also

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