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~Napoleon Bonaparte

Friday, 16 December 2011

Minotaur, labyrinth

In Greek mythology, the Minotaur , was a creature with the head of a bull on the body of a man or, as described by Roman poet Ovid, "part man and part bull". He dwelt at the center of the Cretan Labyrinth, which was an elaborate maze-like construction designed by the architect Daedalus and his son Icarus, on the command of King Minos of Crete. The Minotaur was eventually killed by the Athenian hero Theseus.
The term Minotaur derives from the Ancient Greek Μῑνώταυρος, a compound of the name Μίνως (Minos) and the noun ταύρος "bull", translating as "(the) Bull of Minos". In Crete, the Minotaur was known by its proper name, Asterion, a name shared with Minos' foster-father.

After he ascended the throne of Crete, Minos competed with his brothers to rule. Minos prayed to Poseidon to send him a snow-white bull, as a sign of support. He was to kill the bull to show honor to Poseidon but decided to keep it instead because of its beauty. He thought Poseidon would not care if he kept the white bull and sacrificed one of his own. To punish Minos, Aphrodite made Pasiphaë, Minos' wife, fall deeply in love with the bull from the sea, the Cretan Bull. Pasiphaë had the archetypal craftsman Daedalus make a hollow wooden cow, and climbed inside it in order to copulate with the white bull. The offspring of their coupling was the monstrous Minotaur. Pasiphaë nursed him in his infancy, but he grew and became ferocious; being the unnatural offspring of man and beast, he had no natural source of nourishment and thus devoured man for sustenance. Minos, after getting advice from the oracle at Delphi, had Daedalus construct a gigantic labyrinth to hold the Minotaur. Its location was near Minos' palace in Knossos.

Pasiphaë and the Minotaur, Attic red-figure kylix found at Etruscan Vulci (Cabinet des Médailles, Paris)
 George Watts, Monotaur

Androgeus, son of Minos, had been killed by the Athenians, who were jealous of the victories he had won at the Panathenaic festival. Others say he was killed at Marathon by the Cretan bull, his mother's former taurine lover, which Aegeus, king of Athens, had commanded him to slay. The common tradition is that Minos waged war to avenge the death of his son and won. Catullus, in his account of the Minotaur's birth, refers to another version in which Athens was "compelled by the cruel plague to pay penalties for the killing of Androgeos." Aegeus must avert the plague caused by his crime by sending "young men at the same time as the best of unwed girls as a feast" to the Minotaur. Minos required that seven Athenian youths and seven maidens, drawn by lots, be sent every ninth year (some accounts say every year) to be devoured by the Minotaur.
When the third sacrifice approached, Theseus volunteered to slay the monster.

The contest between Theseus and the Minotaur was frequently represented in Greek art. A Knossian didrachm exhibits on one side the labyrinth, on the other the Minotaur surrounded by a semicircle of small balls, probably intended for stars; one of the monster's names was Asterion ("star").
 Theseus battles the bull-headed Minotaur in the heart of the labyrinth. The hero is about to strike the beast down with a club. C2nd - C3rd AD

Some modern mythologists regard the Minotaur as a solar personification and a Minoan adaptation of the Baal-Moloch of the Phoenicians. The slaying of the Minotaur by Theseus in that case indicates the breaking of Athenian tributary relations with Minoan Crete.

 Theseus grasps the Minotaur by the arm as he prepares to kill it with his sword.C5th BC 
 Theseus wrestles the bull-headed Minotaur, surrounded by the fearful, sacrificial Athenian youths and maids. The ground is littered with the bones of the victims of the beast. Imperial Roman
Theseus fighting the Minotaur by Jean-Etienne Ramey, marble, 1826, Tuileries Gardens, Paris
 Antoine-Louis Barye
 The sacrificial youths and maids offer their thanks to Theseus as he emerges victorious from the labyrinth. The bull-headed Minotauros lies dead by the gate. C1st AD
 Theseus victor of the Minotaur, Charles-Édouard Chaise
                                                       Yorkshire Sculpture Park
 Cover of the pulp magazine Weird Tales (January 1945, vol. 38, no. 3) featuring Priestess of the Labyrinth by Edmond Hamilton. 

The Minotaur, the infamia di Creti, appears briefly in Dante's Inferno, Canto 12,11-15, where, picking their way among boulders dislodged on the slope and preparing to enter into the Seventh Circle, Dante and Virgil, his guide, encounter the beast first among those damned for their violent natures, the "men of blood", though the creature is not actually named until line 25.
 William Blake's image of the Minotaur to illustrate Inferno XII
 Gustave Doré illustrating Canto XII of Divine Comedy, Inferno
                                               Launch of the Minotaur 1
 Launch of the first Minotaur-IV-Lite rocket
 The Minotaur in the Labyrinth, engraving of a 16th-century gem in the Medici Collection in the Palazzo Strozzi, Florence.

Wikipedia made is not Minotaur but Centaur. 

 The baroque-style Minotaur Fountain, built in 1635, topped by a heraldic minotaur, standing in Piazza Duomo square at Taormina (Sicily). Picture by Giovanni Dall'Orto.

But it is not a minotaur either. LOL!
 The same fountain, picture by Giovanni Dall'Orto,

Pasiphaë had the archetypal craftsman Daedalus make a hollow wooden cow, and climbed inside it in order to copulate with the white bull.
Let's look at white bull.
                                                            God Shiva
The myth's outline is that Zeus had seduced Io when Hera arrived on the scene. Zeus transformed Io into a cow to hide his infidelity. Argus myth from Narcissus, Argus, Jason and Argonauts blog.

Let's look at labyrinth.

Pliny's Natural History mentions four ancient labyrinths: the Cretan labyrinth, an Egyptian labyrinth, a Lemnian labyrinth and an Italian labyrinth.
Labyrinth is a word of pre-Greek (Minoan) origin absorbed by Classical Greek and is perhaps related to the Lydian labrys ("double-edged axe", a symbol of royal power, which fits with the theory that the labyrinth was originally the royal Minoan palace on Crete and meant "palace of the double-axe"), with -inthos meaning "place" (as in Corinth). A lot of these symbols were found in the Minoan palace and they usually accompanied female goddesses. It was probably the symbol of the arche (Mater-arche:matriarchy). This theory is confirmed by the worship of Zeus Labraundos (Ζεύς Λαβρυάνδις) in Caria of Anatolia, where also existed a sacred site named Labraunda. Zeus is depicted holding a double-edged axe. In classical Greece the priests at Delphi were called Labryades (Λαβρυάδες ) - the men of the double axe.- The complex palace of Knossos in Crete is usually implicated, though the actual dancing-ground, depicted in frescoed patterns at Knossos, has not been found. Something was being shown to visitors as a labyrinth at Knossos in the 1st century AD (Philostratos, De vita Apollonii Tyanei iv.34). A palace of similar complicated structure was discovered at Beycesultan in Anatolia, on the headwaters of Meander river.

Greek mythology did not recall, however, that in Crete there was a Lady or mistress who presided over the Labyrinth, although the goddess of mysteries of Arcadian cults was called Despoine (miss). A tablet inscribed in Linear B found at Knossos records a gift "to all the gods honey; to the mistress of the labyrinth honey." All the gods together receive as much honey as the Mistress of the Labyrinth alone. The Mycenean Greek word is potnia. "She must have been a Great Goddess," Kerényi observes. It is possible that the Cretan labyrinth and the Lady were connected with a cult which was transmitted later to the Eleusinian mysteries. 

 The tablet, the earliest datable representation of the 7-course classical labyrinth, was recovered from the remains of the Mycenaean palace of Pylos, destroyed by fire ca 1200 BCE

Medieval labyrinths and turf mazes

When the early humanist Benzo d'Alessandria visited Verona before 1310, he noted the "Laberinthum which is now called the Arena"; perhaps he was seeing the cubiculi beneath the arena's missing floor.
The full flowering of the medieval labyrinth came about from the twelfth through fourteenth centuries with the grand pavement labyrinths of the gothic cathedrals, notably Chartres, Reims
and Amiens in northern France. These labyrinths may have originated as symbolic allusion to the Holy City; and some modern thinkers have theorized that prayers and devotions may have accompanied the perambulation of their intricate paths.

There are examples of labyrinths in many disparate cultures. The symbol has appeared in various forms and media (petroglyphs, classic-form, medieval-form, pavement, turf, and basketry) at some time throughout most parts of the world, from Native North and South America to Australia, Java, India, and Nepal.

 Amiens Cathedral, France, Labyrinth
 Walking the labyrinth at the Chartres Cathedral

9/11 memorial labyrinth, Boston College, USA.
 Carving showing the warrior Abhimanyu entering the chakravyuhaHoysaleswara temple, Halebidu
 A depiction of the Padmavyuha or Chakravyuha formation as a labyrinth.

Chakravyuha, a threefold seed pattern with a spiral at the centre, one of the troop formations employed at the battle of Kurukshetra, as recounted in the Mahabharata.

I'itoi, the "Man in the Maze", a popular design in Native American basketry.

Turf maze at Wing in Rutland, UK.
 Stone labyrinth on Blå Jungfrun (Blue Virgin) island, Sweden
 National Theater (Budapest)
  VanDusen Botanical Garden in Vancouver