StMU Research Scholars

Making a Monster: The Birth of the Minotaur

When people talk about the ancient mythological creature Minotaur, a ferocious beast immediately comes to mind and perhaps the infamous myth of the labyrinth as well. What people may not know, though, are the interesting details of the events that lead up to the birth of the mighty Minotaur. What is universally recognized as a feared creature of unusual birth was actually created from unfortunate actions between a selfish king and a vengeful god.

King Minos and his wife Queen Pasiphae led a good life ruling over the island of Crete. Minos held power over multiple islands of Greece and was recognized for his success and power by many. In an attempt to prove his rightful claim as King of Crete, Minos had sworn to locate the best bull he could find among his cattle, one that would be very favorable to its intended receiver. Minos would then take this great bull and sacrifice it to Poseidon, god of the seas, as he did each year in order to secure his ownership of the throne. One year in particular, among King Minos’ herd, there birthed a magnificent bull, one that possessed a unique kind of beauty that King Minos had never seen before. Minos truly was in awe of this magnificent bull, so much so that he found himself captivated by its beauty, and he realized that this bull was something he did not want to give up to the promised Poseidon. In fact, Minos purposefully chose to overlook the magnificent bull when making his decision, and settled on a less attractive bull to sacrifice to Poseidon.1

A sculpture of Minotaur bust | Courtesy of Wikipedia.com and National Archaeological Museum of Athens

Watching him and his deceitful actions very closely, Poseidon took notice of King Minos’ plan in sacrificing a lesser bull to keep the best for himself. This made Poseidon very angry, and he immediately began thinking about how to discipline Minos for his selfishness. Poseidon saw that Minos loved his wife Pasiphae immensely, and with this knowledge, constructed a plan that would leave Minos and Pasiphae in the presence of a monster. 2

Poseidon cast a curse upon Queen Pasiphae, one of love, which she could not escape. Her love was not for her husband; instead, she felt love for his magnificent bull. Pasiphae would be found swooning over the magnificent bull as if it were a handsome and powerful man ready to take her into his strong arms. Alas, she was so utterly infatuated with the magnificent bull that she constructed a plan to lure the bull towards her, and hopefully lay with her romantically.3

Queen Pasiphae instructed a craftsman of the island, Daedalus, and his son, Icarus, to build her a wooden structure that represented a near-perfect body form of a female bull. She insisted that the piece be built as realistically as possible and large enough for herself to comfortably fit inside without revealing that she was human. In spite of her odd orders, Daedalus and Icarus did what the Queen asked of them. As a finishing touch, Queen Pasiphae placed a large cow hide over the structure so that the magnificent bull would notice the structure and take it as a female looking to mate. The Queen rolled the structure out to the field where she would often see the magnificent bull grazing day after day. She strategically placed herself in the view of the magnificent bull, stepped inside the structure, and waited patiently for the bull’s approach.4

An artistic depiction of Queen Pasiphae readying her fake bull with Daedalus | Courtesy of mrpsmythopedia.wikispaces.com

After grazing for a bit, the magnificent bull caught sight of what it thought was the beautiful female and approached it. Before long, the Queen’s plan worked, as the magnificent bull fastened itself upon her and together, engaged in sexual and intimate relations. As a result of this, Queen Pasiphae became pregnant with the baby of the bull and upon its birth realized she was carrying something horrific inside of her.5

Just as Poseidon intended, Pasiphae had relations with the bull she loved and later birthed an unusual creature, born half-bull, half-human to be known as the Minotaur. 

The Minotaur as a child, in the lap of its mother, Pasipahe, wife of King Minos and Queen of Crete | Courtesy of ClassicalWisdom.com

The creation and birth of the Minotaur, as well as other monsters, typically is done in response to acts of sin. In this particular case, King Minos’ egotistical actions led him to break a promise made to a god, and in return, that god made Minos’ wife feel the same love that her husband did for the magnificent bull, giving in to her abnormal fascination and eventually birthing an infamous monster of ancient Greece.6

  1.  UXL Encyclopedia of World Mythology, 2009, s.v. “Minotaur.”
  2. UXL Encyclopedia of World Mythology, 2009, s.v. “Minotaur.”
  3. Christian Moevs, “Centaurs, Spiders and Saints,” in Vertical Readings in Dante’s Comedy: Volume 2, edited by Corbett George and Webb Heather (Cambridge, UK: Open Book Publishers, 2016), 14-17. http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1sq5vb5.7.
  4. UXL Encyclopedia of World Mythology, 2009, s.v. “Minotaur.”
  5. Christian Moevs, “Centaurs, Spiders and Saints,” in Vertical Readings in Dante’s Comedy: Volume 2, edited by Corbett George and Webb Heather (Cambridge, UK: Open Book Publishers, 2016), 14-17. http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1sq5vb5.7.
  6. George Palmer Garrett,  “The Function of the Pasiphae Myth in Brother to Dragons,” Modern Language Notes 74, no. 4 (1959): 311-13. doi:10.2307/3040070.

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134 Responses

  1. As second time reading the article, it still become very interesting to read it! The pictures at the beginning truly engages the minotaur as a fear monster. I am still shock by the way a woman ended up being pregnant by a bull. The Greek mythology is very interesting and weird to understand. Great information and keep it up with the good work!

  2. The more I read this article, the more I find it all disturbing. The outcome of how much Poseidon wanted to have revenge on King Minos is what makes it disturbing. When you start reading the article, you assume one thing is going to happen because I thought the story was predictable, but it was not predictable whatsoever. It just goes to show that the Greek gods, though very powerful and intelligent, had very twisted minds.

  3. Great article! This is the second time I am reading this article and I really loved it. The origin of the Minotaur is a most interesting part I like in this article. It is always strange to read that Minotaur was born from the relations of a human queen and a bull. I really loved the pictures you have used in this article, they really support the writing in the article. To sum it up, it was a good read.

  4. This is a really great article. Reading it for the second time I still cannot believe the history behind the creation of the Minotaur. To think that Minos was so selfish his wife had to pay the price is sad. It is very strange that the gods punished king Minos by making his wife fall in love with a bull. It is a very interesting article to read. It was written very well and it captures the attention of the readers very well.

  5. This was a very interesting article. I had little knowledge prior about the Minotaur, but after reading this I gained a lot of information. I really enjoyed the story and how you included a lot of details. I found it interesting about how the Minotaur came to be, and the reasons such as Poseidon not approving or believing he wasn’t offered the best bull.

  6. Being someone who was so fascinated by Greek mythology when I was younger, it is astonishing to have never come across such a weird story especially one concerning the birth of a Minotaur. Plus, I don’t understand why Poseidon would punish the wife of the King just because it was the kings selfishness that the bull was not initially sacrificed. Also, what happened to the Minotaur after it was born and how was he connected to the labyrinth?

  7. I have to say that I found this story very strange and never before had heard of it, yet the plot was easy to follow and understand. I am surprised that I was never curious before as to know what ancient mythological explained on how minotaurs were created. It was sad that the wife had to suffer when it was her husband who upset Poseidon. Altogether very well written and intriguing article.

  8. This article is very strange yet fascinating. Greek Mythology has always been interesting, and i think it is because of stories like this. The fact that a woman actually fell in love and became pregnant with a baby bull is outrageous. I think that all the stories in Greek Mythology have a deeper lesson to them. This was a very well written article, that told a wonderful story.

  9. This has been the craziest article I’ve read so far. I can not believe how Minotaur came to be. It’s crazy to think Poseidon made King Mino’s wife to be attracted to bulls. I don’t understand why no one questioned her when she specifically asked to build her a female bull that could fit a person inside of it. I also don’t know why King Mino didn’t try to contain her from having sexual relations with the bulls.

  10. I have honestly always loved mythology, and have heard many storys including the minotaur. However I never know the story behind it, as to how it was created. This story was very interesting in my opinion, in the since of the length queen Pasiphae was willing to go for her “love”, even if it was the doing of an ancient god. In the end this was a very weird and unusual story, however at the sometime it was also very captivating, great job.

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