Tyrannical, Violent, and Greedy for Tribute

Strabo, Geography 10.4.8

“As Ephoros has claimed, Minos modeled himself after a certain ancient Rhadamanthys, a most just man who had the same name as his own brother and apparently was the first to make Crete more civilized through laws, integrations of cities, and constitutions, insisting that he was simply introducing each of these ideas to the public from Zeus himself.

In imitating him, Minos also, it seems, retreated for nine years into Zeus’ cave and, after he spent time there, came back carrying certain declarations which he composed but he was claiming were established by Zeus. This is the reason why [Homer] has said, “there, for nine years, Minos was ruling as a companion of great Zeus.”

While Ephorus records these things, ancient authors have provided different accounts about him which run against these claims. They say that Minos was tyrannical, very violent, and greedy for tribute. Some put into tragedies the stories about the Minotaur and the Labyrinth along with the events of Theseus and Daidalos. It is hard to say whether things happened that way.

But there is another account which does not agree with the rest: some claim that Minos was an immigrant to the island, while others claim he was a native. Homer certainly seems to argue for the second view when he says that “[Zeus] first fathered Minos as a protector for Crete.”

 

ὡς δ᾽ εἴρηκεν ῎Εφορος, ζηλωτὴς ὁ Μὶνως ἀρχαίου τινὸς ῾Ραδαμάνθυος, δικαιοτάτου ἀνδρός, ὁμωνύμου τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ αὐτοῦ, ὃς πρῶτος τὴν νῆσον ἐξημερῶσαι δοκεῖ νομίμοις καὶ συνοικισμοῖς πόλεων καὶ πολιτείαις, σκηψάμενος παρὰ Διὸς φέρειν ἕκαστα τῶν τιθεμένων δογμάτων εἰς μέσον. τοῦτον δὴ μιμούμενος καὶ ὁ Μίνως δι᾽ ἐννέα ἐτῶν, ὡς ἔοικεν, ἀναβαίνων ἐπὶ τὸ τοῦ Διὸς ἄντρον καὶ διατρίβων ἐνθάδε ἀπήιει συντεταγμένα ἔχων παραγγέλματά τινα, ἃ ἔφασκεν εἶναι προστάγματα τοῦ Διός. ἀφ᾽ ἧς αἰτίας καὶ τὸν ποιητὴν οὕτως εἰρηκέναι· «ἐνθάδε Μίνως ἐννέωρος βασίλευε Διὸς μεγάλου ὀαριστής». τοιαῦτα δ᾽ εἰπόντος, οἱ ἀρχαῖοι περὶ αὐτοῦ πάλιν ἄλλους εἰρήκασι λόγους ὑπεναντίους τούτοις, ὡς τυραννικός τε γένοιτο καὶ βίαιος καὶ δασμολόγος, τραγωιδοῦντες τὰ περὶ τὸν Μινώταυρον καὶ τὸν λαβύρινθον καὶ τὰ Θησεῖ συμβάντα καὶ Δαιδάλωι. ταῦτα μὲν οὖν ὁποτέρως ἔχει, χαλεπὸν εἰπεῖν. ἔστι δὲ καὶ ἄλλος λόγος οὐχ ὁμολογούμενος, τῶν μὲν ξένον τῆς νήσου τὸν Μίνων λεγόντων, τῶν δ᾽ ἐπιχώριον. ὁ μέντοι ποιητὴς τῆι δευτέραι δοκεῖ μᾶλλον συνηγορεῖν ἀποφάσει, ὅταν φῆι ὅτι «πρῶτον Μίνωα τέκε Κρήτηι ἐπίουρον».

Image result for Minos medieval manuscript
King Minos from BL Harley 4431, f. 98

 

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