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Useful weblinks: Theseus and the Minotaur


Greek Gods and Goddesses

Dionysus and Ares are both mentioned in this myth. Here are some sites about the Gods and Goddesses of Mount Olympus in general:

  • The Theoi greek mythology website is the Mount Olympus of all websites about the Greek gods. Everything you ever wanted to know with terrific illustrations from ancient Greece & Rome.
  • The Ancient Greece website is illustrated with objects from the British Museum. Check out symbols, objects, places and festivals of each god or goddess.

The Labyrinth

Since Daedalus the motif of the labyrinth has been used and reused many times over. We cannot know the first exact design of the labyrinth but now labyrinths and mazes come in many different forms.

  • For instance, Mark Wallinger created a different labyrinthine design for every stop on the tube map! “The tactile quality of the artwork’s surface invites the viewer to trace the route with a finger, and to understand the labyrinth as a single meandering path into the centre and back out again – a route reminiscent of the Tube traveller’s journey.”
  • Pilgrims used to walk the labyrinth design on the floor of Chartres Cathedral.
  • Hever Castle, Kent, has a maze/labyrinth made out of high-grown hedges in its extensive gardens.  This was a fashion at one point and often rich houses or castles had ‘labyrinths’/mazes.
  • In the half-acted, half-animated film Labyrinth (starring David Bowie), the teenage girl protagonist Sarah has to find her way through a large and confusing labyrinth that has the ability to change its own paths!

Minotaur

  • In other versions of the tale, which teachers should be aware of in terms of appropriateness for their learners, Pasiphae conceives her Minotaur baby through having sexual relations with a bull. Poseidon was angry at her husband and cursed her with an unnatural desire for a bull that couldn’t be denied. Daedalus helps her here by creating a wooden cow-costume for her to hide inside and so trick the bull into mating with her! This version is alluded to in this description of Pasiphae. It is also the version adopted by Ovid since in book VIII Scylla insults Minos’ wife Pasiphae and her unnatural union.
  • Here is a modern statue of Theseus fighting the Minotaur by Jean-Etienne Ramey, c. 1826. It is currently displayed in the Tuileries Gardens, Paris. The way the head of the bull ‘attaches’ onto the human body from this angle looks grotesque and unnatural, with saggy skin at odds with the outlined muscles of his arms and torso. But look at how small his horns are! Questions for students: How threatening does the Minotaur look here? What do you feel when you look at this sculpture? Are you happy that Theseus is winning or do you feel sorry for The Minotaur?
  • Modern drawings/representations of the Minotaur focus heavily on his musculature and the wild, beast-like qualities of his horns and bull-face. E.g. 1 and 2. Questions for students:
    • How much of a monster do you think the Minotaur was?
    • How human was he?
    • When he is being killed, the Minotaur wants to beg for mercy – but he doesn’t have the human words to do so. Actaeon suffers a similar death. Is Actaeon more or less human than the Minotaur? What difference does it make that Actaeon used to be fully human whereas the Minotaur has always been a half-breed?

Ariadne

  • Titian painted the scene where Bacchus (the Roman name for Dionysus) swoops down to rescue Ariadne and make her his queen after she has been abandoned by Theseus. In the top left of the painting you can see the new constellation – the corona borealis – shining in the sky even though it is day time!
  • Ariadne is not the only girl who betrays her family to help a foreign stranger. Scylla (at the beginning of book VIII of Ovid’s Metamorphoses) betrays her father and her kingdom to King Minos whom she has fallen in love with whilst watching the battle from a high tower. Minos is disgusted with her act and abandons her to the wrath of her father. Medea falls in love with Jason and helps him to steal the golden fleece, running away with him. Although she becomes his wife, their matrimony doesn’t last forever as Jason eventually takes a new bride (Glauce) and Medea, in a fit of rage, kills both Glauce, her father Creon and Jason's (and Medea’s!) children! For these acts, she is forced to run away and live as an exile.
  • Questions for students: Bearing these other women in mind, do you think Ariadne was at fault for what she did? Do you think she deserved the punishment she received?

Dionysus

Popular Culture

  • In an episode in Batman: The Animated Series titled 'If You're So Smart, Why Aren't You Rich?', the Riddler recreates the Minotaur's labyrinth as one of his riddles to be solved by Batman and Robin for saving a businessman's life. The maze has a robotic Minotaur in its centre, which provides the final riddle for solving the maze.
  • The Minotaur appears in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians books The Lightning Thief and The Last Olympian and also the first book's film adaption Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis includes a race of Minotaurs who are followers of the White Witch.
  • The popular series The Hunger Games has a similar system sending youths every year to their deaths. Katniss, the female protagonist, volunteers herself just as Theseus does!
  • The novel The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break by Steven Sherill depicts the Minotaur five thousand years after leaving the Labyrinth. The Minotaur is now in the American South, living in a trailer park, and working as a line cook at a steakhouse!
  • A 2006 horror movie entitled ‘Minotaur’ follows a group of tributes as they fight against the Minotaur. Although the names are different, it is clearly based on the Theseus myth. Take a look at the trailer.
  • The Minotaur also features in ‘the earth bull’ episode of the Atlantis TV show.
  • The Greek Myth Comix website features a Theseus and the Minotaur comic:

    part one
    part two
    part three