Minos, His Loves & His Family

With his wife Pasiphae (the daughter of Helios) Minos had many children, including two daughters, Ariadne and Phaedra, and a son, Androgeus. But Minos was a tireless womanizer, and weary of his infidelities, Pasiphae (an accomplished sorceress) laid a spell on him Henceforth, Minos ejaculated millipedes and scorpions, whose sting caused his lovers unimaginable pain.

Only the Athenian princess Procris knew how to circumvent the curse. A lusty huntress, abandoned by her husband Cephalus (himself once the lover of the goddess of the dawn), she was seduced by Minos’ charms and his gift of the magical hound Laelaps, which never failed to catch its prey. Before succumbing, Procris made Minos use a prophylactic drug to counteract the spell.

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Later, Procris returned with Laelaps to the mainland, where she was first reconciled with Cephalus, then accidentally killed by him. In mourning, Cephalus and Laelaps went to Thebes, which was being plagued by an aggressive vixen, whose fate was never to be caught. The solution seemed clear: set Laelaps to give chase. Such was the conundrum this posed – the inescapable in pursuit of the uncatchable – that the gods resolved it only by turning both creatures to stone.

Bored with Minos’ embraces, Pasiphae lusted after the white bull Poseidon had sent from the sea.

So she commanded the court craftsman Daedalus to build a hollow heifer, crawled inside it and had it taken to the fields. The resultant offspring was a savage hybrid, half-human and half-bull, with a penchant for human flesh. Pasiphae named it after its grandfather Asterius, but we know it better as the Minotaur. Determined to conceal Pasiphae’s unnatural child and protect Crete from its appetites, Minos commissioned Daedalus to build a prison for it, approached by such a maze of corridors that it could never escape. Hidden beneath the palace of Knossos, this was the labyrinth.

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