Ever got the chance to visit Greece? What’s the first thing that pops in your mind when you think of Greece? For me it is Santorini – an island speckled with cave houses and dome shape edifices. An island covered in hues of only white and blue; concordant with the colours of the flag of Greece. An island overlooking the vast expanse of the mighty Aegean sea. Its one of the most ethereal and harmonious sight this world has to offer.
Very few people know how the sea came to be known as Aegean. And those who do are aware that the sea was named after a very influential figure in the history of Athens. His name was King Aegeus. The city of Athens owes its origins to King Aegeus. There was a chapter in the history of Athens that was marked with both triumph and sadness. Sadness because Athens lost its founding father.
This chapter begins with the years in which under an agreement between Athens and Crete, Athens was supposed to send 6 of their most elite and skilful men and 6 of their prettiest women every year to Crete. Reason for this agreement being an unfateful incident that happened during the games of Athens popularly known as the Panathenaic games. The Panathenaic games were similar to the Olympic games that happen now every four years. Due to its soaring popularity, the son of the King of Crete decided to participate. However, due to some unforeseen incidents, he got involved in a brawl with the men of Athens resulting in his demise. This enraged the King of Crete, declaring war on Athens. But Athens surrendered due to the mighty reputation of the soldiers of Crete. And just when Athens thought it was their end, the King of Crete laid an unusual condition to send 12 people from Athens to Crete. What happened to these 12 chosen people? The very thought sent chills to the spine of every citizen of Athens, including the King. Legend has it that they were taken to a Labyrinth, the most despicable of places on earth in those times.
Most of us tend to confuse a labyrinth with a maze, but the reality is far from it. A labyrinth is a maze-like structure, but unlike a maze that has multiple entrances and exits, a labyrinth has a single path which leads to the centre then back out the same way, with only one entry/exit point.
This labyrinth in Crete had a very dark aura around it; it was as vast as the kings palace; so complex that every brick laid was unsure of its presence; so deceiving that even the air that mistakenly wafted within it failed to find its way out and got trapped for eternity. It is said that even the creator of this structure had lost his way while creating it. But what will really baffle you is the purpose for creating this rabbits hole. Legend has it that this labyrinth was made as a prison for a half human – half demon. A terrifying being with a head of a bull and the body of a human. A creature born out of the curse of the Greek God Poseidon. A half demon that was immortalized by the name of “THE MINOTAUR”(pronounced as my-no-tore).
A year went by and then 2. Six of the most elite warriors and damsels were sent to be sacrificed. A cloud of fear and terror had enveloped Athens. No men felt encouraged to develop skills that put them right with Gods. No women wanted to look like Goddesses anymore. It was the 3rd year now and the Minotaur was waiting for his share of meal. The beast had grown more ferocious and mighty than before. It was a threat even to the people of Crete. The ingenious labyrinth was the only cage that protected the innocents. Was there really no one to put an end to the Minotaur? King Aegeus though had something in mind.
On reaching Crete, the 12 were presented to the congregation of men and women who ruled Crete and then directly taken to the labyrinth. Unwillingly though, all the 12 enter the labyrinth, each one of them walking towards their end. Not very soon enough, everyone began taking turns and were dispersed all over the labyrinth. The more inwards they went, they began seeing the walls smeared with blood. Some witnessed half-eaten corpses. They were inching closer to the monster. But the Minotaur could be anywhere. Soon the labyrinth started echoing with screams. Screams that amplified the fear levels and froze everyone in their places. The screams were followed with what sounded like a roar of a hungry animal. The numbers began to dwindle.
The Minotaurs drive to satiate its hunger made it scurry around the labyrinth, searching every nook and corner for more humans until finally, it found one at a distance. Unusual as this may sound, the human stood still staring back at the beast. Finding an easy prey, the Minotaur stormed the front. Just a few steps away from the human, the beast sensed something very strange and stopped right in its tracks. This human didn’t flinch and stood right where the beast spotted him. His demeanour was so strong, that had the beast taken another step front, it would have been instant death. Who was this human? For the first time, the Minotaur was hesitant to take the next step. The human grinned as if he figured the Minotaurs hesitation. Looking at the Minotaur straight in the eye, he spoke, “Wondering who I am? You have brought a lot of distress to my father and to my people. Your times up!” The Minotaurs temper soared off the roof listening to the tiny human speak more than he should have. It charged with the force and speed that was too quick for any human to defend.
But this was no ordinary human. He was Theseus, son of King Aegeus. Some people also called him as Half human, Half God. Having disguised himself as one of the 6 warriors chosen for sacrifice, Theseus swore to his father that he would end his misery. Stepping slightly to his side, Theseus pirouetted through the body of the beast and pushed the bull with an even greater force in the direction it had charged. The Minotaur rammed towards the wall of the labyrinth with a great force hurting himself very badly. To put an end to its suffering, Theseus pulled out his dagger, ran towards the beast and sprung up in the air while thrusting the dagger right through the neck of the demon. The Minotaur succumbed. But was this the end? In case you have forgotten, Theseus had an even greater challenge. To find his way out of the Labyrinth. Yes the Labyrinth. Theseus had however come fully prepared. With the help of Ariadne, daughter of the King of Crete, who had fallen for the charms of Theseus; she asked the creator of the labyrinth for the solution. And the solution was the ball of thread. Theseus had to tie one end of the thread to the entrance of the labyrinth and unroll the ball wherever he went in the Labyrinth. That way he knew how to return back.
This not only brought an end to the terror of the Minotaur but also marked the beginning of the tales of King Theseus.
This tale is a small drop in the huge ocean of Greek mythology. In case you would like to read more such tales, please mention in the comments section.