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An intricate labyrinth, a vicious monster, one courageous prince and a kind princess all help make up one of the most famous myths in Ancient Greece! This is the story of Theseus and the Minotaur.
A long time ago a king named Minos lived on a beautiful island known as Crete. Although King Minos was perfectly content every now and then he would send a fleet of ships to Athens, a small village across the sea, to pass some time. The Athenians knew that albeit (although) their navy was much weaker than that of King Minos if only they had more time they would be able to build a naval army strong enough to defend their village. In a desperate attempt to buy some time the king of Athens, Aegeus, reached out to King Minos offering to send seven Athenian girls and seven Athenian boys to the island of Crete to be devoured by King Minos’ pet monster if only the Cretan king would agree not to attack Athens for nine years. Now King Minos only sent his navy to Athens to pass his time whereas he devoted special attention to his beloved pet monster, the Minotaur, who happily lived in a labyrinth on the island. The Minotaur was a large creature with the head of a bull and the body of a man who thrived on human flesh. The Athenians worked hard to build a defensive navy but after nine years King Minos had not attacked the village and Athens had to keep its promise. When young Prince Theseus found out about the arrangement which was causing great grief to the Athenian people he was outraged! He was aware Athens could not break their part of the deal to King Minos so he decided to go to Crete as one of the seven boys and defeat the monstrous Minotaur himself! His father King Aegeus was very upset to learn the prince would be leaving but made him promise to set off with black sails and, if he were to succeed on his mission, to return with white sails. The prince agreed to do so and on his first night spent in Crete he received a letter from King Minos’ daughter Princess Ariadne who offered her advice on how to defeat the Minotaur. That evening she met Theseus by the gate of the labyrinth and gave him a sword and a ball of yarn. ‘Hide these in the labyrinth. Attach this yarn to the front gate tomorrow morning and unravel it as you move within the maze, it will help you find your way back. Here is a sword, you know what to use it for I’m sure’ she whispered and with a faint smile she was gone.
The following morning prince Theseus followed the advice given by the kind princess as he was pushed into the maze along with the other thirteen Athenians. He instructed them to remain by the gate and check the yarn stayed tied as he ventured into the depths of the labyrinth to find the Minotaur. Theseus heroically killed the Minotaur and began sailing to Athens with Princess Ariadne who was madly in love with him. The problem was that Theseus did not want to marry the princess so as they stopped on the small island of Naxos he decided to leave her there!! The Gods were not happy with the disrespectful attitude Theseus had towards a young lady and decided to punish him. As the prince rushed to leave Naxos and finally set sail towards Athens he forgot to change his sails to white so his father, King Aegeus, thought the young prince was indeed dead! In a moment of pure desperation the king threw himself into the violent sea which, in honour of his death, is still today known as the Aegean Sea.
*Ancient Greek myths have been passed down for centuries and were initially narrated verbally so there are several variants to the story. According to another popular version The Minotaur was not loved and used to protect Crete but was a burden on the poor king. In fact the Gods had decided to punish king Minos for refusing to sacrifice a bull to Poseidon (God of the Sea) by making his wife fall in love with a bull and bear his child: the Minotaur!
Do you think the Minotaur was a burden or a gift for king Minos? Can you think of any other ways Theseus could have killed the monster without getting lost in the labyrinth? Let us know what you think and leave a comment below!