A Mythical Monday: The Minotaur’s Origin

Since Erik posted about Moonface’s Album of Songs about the Minotaur, I have been listening to it while driving my children to school. (They love it. They keep asking to listen to it. I think I have ruined them). The actual material about the Minotaur from ancient remains is mostly about Theseus. Here are some passages about Pasiphae and the Minotaur.

Hesiod, Fr. 145.13–17

“When he looked in her eyes he longed for her
[and she gave herself over to the bull]
After she was impregnated, she gave birth to a powerful son to Minos,
A wonder to see: for he had the appearance of man
Down to his feet, but a bull’s head grew on top.”

τῆς δ’ ἄρ’ [ἐν ὀ]φθαλμοῖσιν̣ ἰ̣δὼν ἠράσ̣[σατο
†ταύρωι̣.[…]ρ̣ι̣μενησ̣κ̣α̣μ̣ε̣ρ̣μ̣ιδαο̣τα̣[†
ἣ δ’ ὑποκ̣[υσα]μένη Μίνωι τέκε κα[ρτερὸν υἱόν,
θαῦμα ἰ[δεῖν·] σ̣α μὲν γὰρ ἐπ̣έ̣κ̣λ̣ι̣ν̣[εν δέμας ἀνδρὶ
ἐς πόδα̣[ς], α̣ὐ̣τ̣ὰρ ὕ̣π̣ε̣ρθε κάρ̣η τ̣α̣[ύροιο πεφύκει

Suda, Epsilon 1421

“In every myth there is also Daidalos’ corruption”: People say that because Pasiphae lusted after a bull, she begged Daidalos to make her a wooden cow and, once he had set it up, to put her in it. When the bull mounted her as a cow he made her pregnant. The Minotaur was born from this. For certain reasons Minos was angry at the Athenians and he took from them seven maidens and the same number of youths. They were thrown to the beast. Since origin and responsibility for these evils were attributed to Daidalos and he was hated for them, this was translated into the proverb.”

᾿Εν παντὶ μύθῳ καὶ τὸ Δαιδάλου μύσος· Πασιφάην φασὶν ἐρασθεῖσαν ταύρου Δαίδαλον ἱκετεῦσαι ποιῆσαι ξυλίνην βοῦν καὶ κατασκευάσαντα αὐτὴν ἐνθεῖναι· ἣν ἐπιβαίνων ὡς βοῦν ὁ ταῦρος ἐγκύμονα ἐποίησεν. ἐξ ἧς ἐγεννήθη ὁ Μινώταυρος. Μίνως δὲ διά τινας αἰτίας ὀργιζόμενος τοῖς ᾿Αθηναίοις ἑπτὰ παρθένους καὶ ἴσους νέους ἐξ αὐτῶν ἐδασμολογεῖτο· οἳ παρεβάλλοντο τῷ θηρίῳ. εἰς Δαίδαλον οὖν ἀρχηγὸν τούτων τῶν κακῶν καὶ αἴτιον γενόμενον καὶ μυσαχθέντα ἐξηνέχθη εἰς παροιμίαν.

Heraclitus the Paradoxographer, 7 Concerning Pasiphae

“People claim that [Pasiphae] lusted after the Bull, not, as many believe, for an animal in a herd—for it would be ridiculous for a queen to desire such uncommon intercourse—instead she lusted for a certain local man whose name was Tauro [the bull]. She used as an accomplice for her desire Daidalos and she was impregnated. Then she gave birth to a son whom many used to call “Minos” but they would compare him to Tauro because of his similarity to him. So, he was nicknamed Mino-tauros from the combination.”

Περὶ Πασιφάης.
Ταύτην φασὶν ἐρασθῆναι Ταύρου, οὐχ, ὡς πολλοὶ
νομίζουσι, τοῦ κατὰ τὴν ἀγέλην ζῴου (γελοῖον γὰρ
ἀκοινωνήτου συνουσίας ὠρέχθαι τὴν βασίλισσαν), ἑνὸς
δέ τινος τῶν ἐντοπίων, ᾧ Ταῦρος ἦν ὄνομα. συνεργῷ
δὲ χρησαμένη πρὸς τὴν ἐπιθυμίαν Δαιδάλῳ καὶ γεγο-
νυῖα ἔγγυος, ἐγέννησε καθ’ ὁμοιότητα τοῦ Ταύρου
<υἱόν>, ὃν οἱ πολλοὶ Μίνω μὲν ἐκάλουν, Ταύρῳ δὲ
εἴκαζον· κατὰ δὲ σύνθεσιν Μινώταυρος ἐκλήθη.

Bacchylides, Dith. 26 (P.Oxy. 2364 fr. 1)

“[in] Pasiphae
The Kyprian goddess [sewed]
Longing [….]
To the son Eupalamos
The wisest of the craftsmen
She told Daidalos [about]
Her sickness. Credible oaths
She ordered him to make [so that]
So that she might have sex with the bull
But keep it secret from her husband
Minos, the oppressive-archer,
The general of the Knossians.
But when he learned of the tale,
He was overtaken by worry and
[about his] wife….

[ ]θεα̣ καὶ γ[.].[ ]
φρα.[ ]
Πασι[φ]ά̣[α]
εν Κύπ[ρις]
πόθον [ ]
Εὐπαλά[μοι’] υἱε[ῖ]
τεκτόν[ω]ν σοφω̣[τάτῳ]
φράσε Δαιδάλῳ ά.[ ]
νόσον· ὅρκια πισ[τ]
[ τ]ε τεύχειν κέλευ[σε]
μ̣είξειε ταυρείῳ σ[ ]
κρύπτουσα σύννο̣[μον]
Μίνωα [τ]οξοδάμαν[τα]
Κνωσσίων στρατα[γέταν·]
ὁ δ’ ἐπεὶ μάθε μῦθο[ν]
σχέτο φροντίδι· δε[ ]
[ ]ἀλόχου[ ]

Image result for greek minotaur vase baby

This is the most superior image of the Minotaur by far. Pasiphae’s expression is perfect.

 

Homer’s Name and the Cause of His Blindness

(This is the second half of the so-called Roman Life of Homer)

“Concerning the dates for Homer’s life, the following is reported. Heraclides argues that he is older than Hesiod; Pyrander and Hypsicrates of Amisos claim he was the same age. Krates of Mallos says that he was full-grown sixty years after the end of the Trojan War; but Eratosthenes says it was a hundred years after the Ionian migration; Apollodorus makes it eighty years.

From birth Homer was called Melesigenes or Melesagoras. Later he was called Homer in the Lesbian dialect because of the harm that came to his eyes–the Lesbians call the blind Homeroi. Another account is that the name came because he entrusted to the king as a hostage (Homeros can mean a guarantee).

They say that he was blinded in the following way. When he came to the tomb of Achilles he prayed that he might see the hero as he was when he went into battle arrayed with his second set of arms. When Achilles appeared to him, Homer was blinded by the weapons’ gleam. Because Thetis and the Muses took pity on him, they endowed him with the poetic art.

Others say that he suffered this thanks to to the rage of Helen who was angry at him because he claimed that she abandoned her first husband to follow Alexander. For this reason, the ghost of Helen appeared to him at night and advised him to burn his poems to make himself safe. He could not make himself do this.

People say that he died on the island of Ios when he found himself undone because he could not solve the riddle of the fishing boys. The riddle was: “We left whatever we caught and carry whatever we didn’t”. On his tomb the following epigram is inscribed:

“Here the earth covers the sacred head
of divine Homer, the artist of heroic men”

[For the answer to the Riddle, see below]

περὶ δὲ τῶν χρόνων καθ’ οὓς ἤκουεν ὧδε λέγεται. ῾Ηρακλείδης μὲν οὖν αὐτὸν ἀποδείκνυσι πρεσβύτερον ῾Ησιόδου, Πύρανδρος δὲ καὶ ῾Υψικράτης ὁ ᾿Αμισηνὸς ἡλικιώτην. Κράτης δ’ ὁ Μαλλώτης μεθ’ ἑξήκοντα ἔτη τοῦ ᾿Ιλιακοῦ πολέμου φησὶν ἀκμάσαι, ᾿Ερατοσθένης δὲ μεθ’ ἑκατὸν τῆς ᾿Ιώνων ἀποικίας, ᾿Απολλόδωρος δὲ μετ’ ὀγδοήκοντα.

ἐκαλεῖτο δ’ ἐκ γενετῆς Μελησιγένης ἢ Μελησαγόρας, αὖθις δ’ ῞Ομηρος ἐλέχθη κατὰ τὴν Λεσβίων διάλεκτον, ἕνεκεν τῆς περὶ τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς συμφορᾶς, οὗτοι γὰρ τοὺς τυφλοὺς ὁμήρους λέγουσιν, ἢ διότι παῖς ὢν ὅμηρον ἐδόθη βασιλεῖ, ὅ ἐστιν ἐνέχυρον.

τυφλωθῆναι δ’ αὐτὸν οὕτω πως λέγουσιν• ἐλθόντα γὰρ ἐπὶ τὸν ᾿Αχιλλέως τάφον εὔξασθαι θεάσασθαι τὸν ἥρωα τοιοῦτον ὁποῖος προῆλθεν ἐπὶ τὴν μάχην τοῖς δευτέροις ὅπλοις κεκοσμημένος• ὀφθέντος δ’ αὐτῷ τοῦ ᾿Αχιλλέως τυφλωθῆναι τὸν ῞Ομηρον ὑπὸ τῆς τῶν ὅπλων αὐγῆς, ἐλεηθέντα δ’ ὑπὸ Θέτιδος καὶ Μουσῶν τιμηθῆναι πρὸς αὐτῶν τῇ ποιητικῇ.

ἄλλοι δέ φασι τοῦτο αὐτὸν πεπονθέναι διὰ μῆνιν τῆς ῾Ελένης ὀργισθείσης αὐτῷ διότι εἶπεν αὐτὴν καταλελοιπέναι μὲν τὸν πρότερον ἄνδρα, ἠκολου-θηκέναι δ’ ᾿Αλεξάνδρῳ• οὕτως γοῦν ὅτι καὶ παρέστη αὐτῷ φασὶν νυκτὸς ἡ ψυχὴ τῆς ἡρωίνης παραινοῦσα καῦσαι τὰς ποιήσεις αὐτοῦ … εἰ τοῦτο ποιήσοι πρόσχοι. τὸν δὲ μὴ ἀνασχέσθαι ποιῆσαι τοῦτο.

ἀποθανεῖν δ’ αὐτὸν λέγουσιν ἐν ῎Ιῳ τῇ νήσῳ ἀμηχανίᾳ περιπεσόντα ἐπειδήπερ τῶν παίδων τῶν ἁλιέων οὐχ οἷός τ’ ἐγένετο αἴνιγμα λῦσαι• ἔστι δὲ τοῦτο•
ἅσσ’ ἔλομεν λιπόμεσθ’ ἅσσ’ οὐχ ἕλομεν φερόμεσθα.
καὶ αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ τῷ τάφῳ ἐπιγέγραπται ἐπίγραμμα τοῦτο•
ἐνθάδε τὴν ἱερὴν κεφαλὴν κατὰ γαῖα καλύπτει
ἀνδρῶν ἡρώων κοσμήτορα θεῖον ῞Ομηρον.

In case any readers are overwhelmed by the riddle and may suffer faint-hearted Homer’s fate, other Homeric Lives provide an interpretation of the riddle. In the Pseudo-Plutarchean Vita (71) we get the following explanation:

“They were obscuring in riddle the fact they actually had discarded whichever of the lice they had caught and killed; but they would still be carrying the lice they did not catch in their clothing. Because he was not able to interpret this, Homer died because of despair.”

αἰνισσόμενοι ὡς ἄρα οὓς μὲν ἔλαβον τῶν φθειρῶν ἀποκτεί-ναντες κατέλιπον· οὓς δ’ οὐκ ἔλαβον ἐν τῇ ἐσθῆτι φέροιεν. ὅπερ οὐ δυνηθεὶς συμβαλεῖν ῞Ομηρος διὰ τὴν ἀθυμίαν ἐτελεύτησε.

The Vita Herodotea contains a similar explanation but contests the cause of Homer’s death:

“When those who were present were not able to interpret what had been said, the boys explained that they were able to catch nothing while fishing but that they were attacked while sitting on land. And they left behind however many of the lice they caught but were carrying home all those they couldn’t. Homer, when he heard these things, spoke these verses:

You are born from the blood of the kinds of fathers
Who are neither wealthy nor tend numerous flocks.

Then it happened that Homer died because of a sickness on Ios, not because he couldn’t interpret what the children said, as some believe, but because of weakness.”

οὐ δυναμένων δὲ τῶν παρεόντων γνῶναι τὰ ῥηθέντα, διηγήσαντο οἱ παῖδες ὅτι ἁλιεύοντες οὐδὲν ἐδύναντο ἑλεῖν, καθήμενοι δὲ ἐν γῇ ἐφθειρίζοντο, καὶ ὅσους μὲν ἔλαβον τῶν  φθειρῶν κατέλιπον· ὅσους δὲ μὴ ἐδύναντο ἐς οἴκους ἀπεφέροντο. ὁ δὲ ῞Ομηρος ἀκούσας ταῦτα ἔλεξε τὰ ἔπεα τάδε·

τοίων γὰρ πατέρων ἐξ αἵματος ἐκγεγάασθε,
οὔτε βαθυκλήρων οὔτ’ ἄσπετα μῆλα νεμόντων.

᾿Εκ δὲ τῆς ἀσθενείας ταύτης συνέβη τὸν ῞Ομηρον τελευτῆσαι ἐν ῎Ιῳ, οὐ παρὰ τὸ μὴ γνῶναι τὸ παρὰ τῶν παίδων ῥηθέν, ὡς οἴονταί τινες, ἀλλὰ τῇ μαλακίῃ.

(There are other versions as well, but all variations on the same idea.)

Image result for Medieval manuscript blind homer

Homer and His Guide (1874) by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Three Accounts for the Prophetic Power of Helenos and Kassandra

Schol ad Il. 6.76a ex

“The story goes that Helenos was Kasandra’s twin and that after they were born they were left in the Thumbraion temple of Apollo and that serpents cleaned their ears. [They] got prophetic power from that.”

ex. Πριαμίδης ῞Ελενος: λέγεται τὸν ῞Ελενον δίδυμον εἶναι Κασάνδρας, τεχθέντα<ς> δὲ καταλειφθῆναι μόνους ἐν τῷ τοῦ Θυμβραίου ᾿Απόλλωνος ἱερῷ, καὶ δράκοντας ἀποψῆσαι τὴν ἀκοήν, καὶ τὴν μαντείαν ἐντεῦθεν λαβεῖν. T

Schol. bT ad Il. 7.44-45 ex

“They say that Helenos and Kasandra were twins and that they escaped from their parents one night and he slept in the temple of Thumbraion Apollo, while she slept in the temple of Artemis. At dawn they were discovered with clean ears.”

φασὶ δὲ ῞Ελενον καὶ Κασάνδραν διδύμους εἶναι, λαθόντας δὲ τοὺς γονεῖς ποτε νυκτὸς καταδραθεῖν τὸν μὲν εἰς τὸν τοῦ ᾿Απόλλωνος τοῦ Θυμβραίου ναόν, τὴν δὲ εἰς τὸν τῆς ᾿Αρτέμιδος, ἕωθεν δὲ εὑρεθῆναι †ἐκκαθαριζομένους† τὰς ἀκοάς.b(BCE3)T

Schol. D ad Il. 7.44

“The story goes that Helenos and Kasandra were twins born to Priam from Hecuba. When the infants had grown a little, it is said that they fell asleep in the temple of Thumbraian Apollo after playing there. Because they were drunk, they forgot about their children and went home. When they returned later to the temple they found their children’s senses being cleaned by the tongues of serpents. Because it seemed impossible, the women screamed. The serpents left and retreated into the laurel growing around, giving both children a share in prophetic power as they left. Antikleides tells this story.”

helenus_563

Τῶνδ’ ῞Ελενος Πριάμοιο φίλος παῖς.
Μυθεύεται, τῶν ἐξ ῾Εκάβης γεγονότων
Πριάμῳ παίδων ῞Ελενον καὶ Κασάνδραν
διδύμους γεγεννῆσθαι. Τῶν δὲ γενεθλίων
αὐτοῖς τελουμένων ἐν τῷ τοῦ Θυμβραίου
᾿Απόλλωνος ἱερῷ, λέγεται, τὸν ῞Ελενον
καὶ τὴν Κασάνδραν ἐν τῷ ναῷ παίζοντας
κατακοιμηθῆναι. ῾Υπὸ δὲ μέθης τῶν περὶ
τοὺς παίδας ἐκλαθομένων ἐκείνων, οἴκαδε
χωρισθῆναι. Τῇ δ’ ὑστεραίᾳ ἐλθόντας
εἰς τὸ ἱερὸν θεάσασθαι τοὺς παῖδας ταῖς
τῶν ὄφεων γλώτταις τοὺς πόρους τῶν
αἰσθητηρίων καθαιρομένους. ῾Ως οὖν διὰ
τὸ παράδοξον αἱ γυναῖκες ἀνέκραγον, συν-
έβη ἀπαλλαγῆναι τοὺς ὄφεις, καὶ κα-
ταδῦναι ἐν ταῖς παρακειμέναις δάφναις,
τοὺς δὲ παῖδας ἀμφοτέρους τῆς μαντικῆς
οὕτως μεταλαβεῖν. ῾Ιστορεῖ ᾿Αντικλεί-
δης.

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