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Travel Guide > Kreeta > Crete mythology

Crete mythology

Several myths have been created during centuries concerning Crete. They used to represent the way people think and how they tried to explain strange phenomena and events. Below the most well-known myths are presented.

The Birth of Zeus in the Diktian Cave:

After Kronos and the other Titans had overthrown their father, Ouranos, they inherited rule of the cosmos. Kronos was much like his father in that he had a very violent side; when he took his sister Rhea as his wife, it was foretold that one of his children would rise up against him and overthrow him, like he had his father. He resorted to a more permanent solution than Ouranos upon hearing this; he swallowed them.

After he had disposed of five children this way, Rhea was absolutely desperate to save her last child. Seeking help from her mother, she devised a plan. When the time came for her to give birth, she fled to Mount Dicte on the fertile island of Crete; then, instead of giving Kronos Zeus, she swaddled a rock in thick blankets and presented it to him; he promptly shoved it down his throat.

About a year later, Kronos finally vomited the children he thought he had permanently disposed of. They joined with Zeus, who had grown up healthy and strong away from his cannibalistic father on the island of Crete. Together they overthrew their father and took over rule over the world. Zeus won control over the skies, his brother Poseidon ruled over the oceans, and Hades ruled over the underworld.

Zeus and Europa:

Zeus was married with the goddess Hera but he also had many loves such as with Europa, the daughter of the King of Phoenicia. Zeus was transformed to a bull and took Europa in Crete in order to get married with her. The famous king Minos that ruled in Knossos is said to be the child of Zeus with Europa.

The Minotaur and the Labyrinth, Theseus and Ariadne:

Before Minos became king, he asked the Greek god Poseidon to assure him that he was to receive the throne. Poseidon sent a white bull on condition Minos would sacrifice the bull back to the god. Indeed, a bull of unmatched beauty came out of the sea. King Minos, after seeing it, found it so beautiful that he instead sacrificed another bull. Poseidon was very angry when he realized what had been done so he caused Minos's wife, Pasiphae, to be overcome with a fit of madness in which she fell in love with the bull. Pasiphae went to Daedalus for assistance, and Daedalus devised a way for her to satisfy her passions. He constructed a hollow wooden cow covered with cowhide for Pasiphae to hide in and allow the bull to mount her. The result of this union was the Minotaur.

The Minotaur had the body of a man and the head and tail of a bull. It was a fierce creature, and Minos, after getting advice from the Oracle at Delphi, had Daedalus construct a gigantic labyrinth to hold the Minotaur. It was located under Minos' palace in Knossos. Now it happened that Androgeus, son of Minos, had been killed by the Athenians, who were jealous of the victories he had won at the Panathenaic festival. To avenge the death of his son, Minos waged war and won. He then demanded that seven Athenian youths and seven maidens be sent every ninth year to be devoured by the Minotaur. When the third sacrifice came round, Theseus volunteered to go to slay the monster. He promised to his father, Aegeus, that he would put up a white sail on his journey back home. Ariadne, Minos' daughter, fell in love with Theseus and helped him get out of the maze by giving him a ball of thread, allowing him to retrace his path. Theseus killed the Minotaur (with a magical sword Ariadne had given him) and led the other Athenians back out the labyrinth. However, Theseus forgot to put up the white sails, so his father started crying and fell into the sea. Then it became known as the Aegean Sea.

Daedalus and Icarus:

Daedalus is said to have created the palace of Knossos and the Labyrinth underneath it. He helped Ariadne and Theseus to escape from it. Because the Minos did not want Daedalus to make elsewhere other palaces such as Knossos called him in his palace, in order to kill him.

However, Deadalus suspected it and decided to leave the island with his son Icarus. They made feathers (with candle they stuck feathers birds in their hands) and flew away from Crete.

Daedalus landed in Sicily but his son Icarus reached so closely to the sun that his feathers melt. So he was killed by falling in the Aegean Sea.

The Drossoulites of Frangokastello:

Drossoulitea are said to be the ghosts of Chatzimichalis Dalianis and his men who were slaughtered by the Turks in the fortress of Frangokastello in the revolution of 1821. They are said to appear every year on the 17th of May walking from the sea towards the fortress of Frangokastello.