The Legend Of The Minotaur Explained

In 1995, back when the WWE still went by the WWF, the over-the-top-rope world of herculean behemoths in spandex debuted a sports-entertainment take on the Minotaur myth. Proving that Vince McMahon's creative team has long been an oxymoron, the human-bull hybrid was dubbed "Mantaur" and wore an unwieldy, shaggy bull head that looked like a badly botched attempt at taxidermy. Any kid who witnessed that bovine debacle as their introduction to the Minotaur would have understandably wondered how this walking pile of cow pies didn't simply get laughed to death and promptly forgotten by the ancient Greeks.

Of course, the Minotaur of Greek mythology was a whole different animal. The Ancient History Encyclopedia explains that the term "Minotaur" is a portmanteau derived from "Minos" and "taurus," the Greek word for "bull." Minos was the King of Crete, and his wife, Queen Pasiphae, had a love affair with a bull, resulting in a child with a bull head and human body. It gets crazier.

Poseidon tells a king to kiss his Asterion

For context, King Minos was one of three sons born to Europa, for whom the continent of Europe is named, according to the Ancient History Encyclopedia. Zeus fell in lust with Europa and either disguised himself as a white bull or sent one to whisk her away to Crete, where Zeus raped her. As one of the products of this divine crime, Minos was cared for by the previous king of Crete, Asterion. When that king died, Minos vied with his brothers for the throne. He won this game of thrones by claiming he had the blessing of the gods.

To prove his point, Minos prayed to Poseidon, who created a bull from the sea — not to be confused with a manatee, which is a "sea cow," or with a Mantaur, which is stupid. Minos promised to sacrifice the bull to the sea deity but kept it for himself instead. A pissed-off Poseidon made Queen Pasiphae lust after Minos's prized bovine. She recruited the craftsman Daedalus and his son, Icarus, to build a wooden cow she could hide inside to seduce the animal. In a weird reversal of Zeus and Europa, Pasiphae took the bull by the horn, so to speak, and had an unspeaka-bull child named Asterion.

An unwanted son-set

The mini-Minotaur milked his mommy for all she was worth until he became a big, strong monstrosity. Once he got too big for mother's milk, he began feasting on people. Even though he was literally half the man his father was, Minos obviously didn't have the heart to call the Minotaur out on his bull and apparently didn't have the stomach to keep watching him eat people. So the Cretan king decided to build an elaborate cattle ranch for one — or half of one, depending on how you count it. That enclosure would take the form of a fabled Labyrinth, and Minos had just the right guys to design it.

The Ancient History Encyclopedia explains that Minos enslaved Daedalus and Icarus as revenge for helping his wife cheat on him glorified livestock. This laid the foundation for another famous legend, in which Icarus and Daedalus found themselves fleeing Crete with the aid of wax wings. Icarus flew too close to the sun, and his blunder dawned on him far too late to avert disaster. The wings melted, and he fell into the sea. However, Daedalus would have his own revenge.

The Minotaur gets pounded into ground beef

Minos decided to wield his wife's bullheaded son as a weapon after Minos's only human son, Androgeos, died. Depending on the source, either the Athenians killed him or the King of Athens sent Androgeous to battle the Marathonian bull, which slayed him. According to the Ancient History Encyclopedia, to atone for the death, Athens agreed to send virgins to Crete, which the Minotaur ate in its Labyrinth lair. Eventually, the king of Athens' son, Theseus, volunteered to offer himself to the Minotaur. That didn't sit well with his sister, Ariadne, who hoped to marry her brother.

Ariadne consulted Daedalus on how to navigate the Labyrinth. Following Daedalus's advice, Theseus used a ball of string his sister gave him to trace his steps, which was the best thing since sliced bread crumbs back then. He ultimately found the Minotaur and either punched it to death or stabbed it with a concealed sword. Theseus and his sister didn't exactly sail off into the sunset together, though. Well, they did at first, but then Theseus abandoned his sister on an island and married someone else. Ariadne ended up marrying the god, Dionysos.

A triumphant Theseus sailed home but forgot to actually signal the triumph. He was supposed to convey victory by switching out his black sails for white ones but forgot. King Aegeus assumed his son had died and leaped off a cliff into what would be dubbed the Aegean Sea in his honor.