7. Since ‘Pasiphaë’, according to Pausanias (iii. 26. 1), is a title of the Moon; and ‘Itone’, her other name, a title of Athene as rain-maker (Pausanias: ix. 34. 1), the myth of Pasiphaë and the bull points to a ritual marriage under an oak between the Moon-priestess, wearing cow’s horns, and the Minos-king, wearing a bull’s mask (see 76. 1). According to Hesychius (sub Carten), ‘Gortys’ stands for Carten, the Cretan word for a cow; and the marriage seems to have been understood as one between Sun and Moon, since there was a herd of cattle sacred to the Sun in Gortys (Servius on Virgil’s Eclogues vi. 60). Daedalus’s discreet retirement from the meadow suggests that this was not consummated publicly in the Pictish or Moesynoechian style. Many later Greeks disliked the Pasiphaë myth, and preferred to believe that she had an affair not with a bull, but with a man called Taurus (Plutarch: Theseus 19; Palaephatus: On Incredible Stories ii). White bulls, which were peculiarly sacred to the Moon (see 84. 1), figured in the annual sacrifice on the Alban mount at Rome, in the cult of Thracian Dionysus, in the mistletoe-and-oak ritual of the Gallic Druids (see 50. 2) and, according to the Book of the Dun Cow, in the divinatory rites which preceded an ancient Irish coronation.
8. Minos’s palace at Cnossus was a complex of rooms, ante-rooms, halls, and corridors in which a country visitor might easily lose his way. Sir Arthur Evans, suggests that this was the Labyrinth, so called from the labrys, or double-headed axe; a familiar emblem of Cretan sovereignty –shaped like a waxing and a waning moon joined together back to back, and symbolizing the creative as well as the destructive power of the goddess. But the maze at Cnossus had a separate existence from the palace; it was a true maze, in the Hampton Court sense, and seems to have been marked out in mosaic on a pavement as a ritual dancing pattern – a pattern which occurs in places as far apart as Wales and North-eastern Russia, for use in the Easter maze-dance. This dance was performed in Italy (Pliny: Natural History xxxvi. 85), and in Troy (Scholiast on Euripides’s Andromache 1139), and seems to have been introduced into Britain, towards the end of the third millennium B.C., by neolithic immigrants from North Africa. Homer describes the Cnossus maze (Iliad xviii. 592):
Daedalus in Cnossus once contrived
A dancing-floor for fair-haired Ariadne
and Lucian refers to popular dances in Crete connected with Ariadne and the Labyrinth (On the Dance 49).
9. The cult of Rhadamanthys may have been brought from Boeotia to Crete, and not contrariwise. Haliartus, where he had a hero-shrine, was apparently sacred to the ‘White Goddess of Bread’, namely Demeter; for Halia, ‘of the sea’, was a title of the Moon as Leucothea, ‘the White Goddess’ (Diodorus Siculus: v. 55), and artos means ‘bread’. Alcmene (‘strong in wrath’) is another Moon-title. Though said to be a Cretan word, Rhadamanthys may stand for Rhabdomantis, ‘divining with a wand’, a name taken from the reed-bed at Haliartus, where his spirit stirred the tops oracularly (see 83. 3). If so, the tradition of his having legislated for all Crete and the islands of Asia Minor will mean that a similar oracle in Crete was consulted at the beginning of each new reign, and that its pronouncements carried authority wherever Cretan weights, measures, and trading conventions were accepted. He is called a son of Zeus, rather than of Hephaestus, doubtless because the Rhadamanthine oracles came from the Dictaean Cave, sacred to Zeus (see 7. b).
10. At Petsofa in Crete a hoard of human heads and limbs, of clay, have been found, each with a hole through which a string could be passed. If once fixed to wooden trunks they may have formed part of Daedalus’s jointed dolls, and represented the Fertility-goddess. Their use was perhaps to hang from a fruit-tree, with their limbs moving about in the wind, to ensure good crops. Such a doll is shown hanging from a fruit-tree in the famous gold ring from the Acropolis Treasure at Mycenae. Tree worship is the subject of several Minoan works of art, and Ariadne, the Cretan goddess, is said to have hanged herself (Contest of Homer and Hesiod 14), as the Attic Erigone did (see 79. a). Artemis the Hanged One, who had a sanctuary at Condyleia in Arcadia (Pausanias: viii. 23. 6), and Helen of the Trees, who had a sanctuary at Rhodes and is said to have been hanged by Polyxo (Pausanias: iii. 19. 10), may be variants of the same goddess.
THE LOVES OF MINOS
MINOS lay with the nymph Paria, whose sons colonized Paros and were later killed by Heracles; also with Androgeneia, the mother of the lesser Asterius,1 as well as many others; but especially he pursued Britomartis of Gortyna, a daughter of Leto. She invented hunting-nets and was a close companion to Artemis, whose hounds she kept on a leash.2
b. Britomartis hid from Minos under thick-leaved oak-saplings in the water meadows, and then for nine months he pursued her over craggy mountains and level plains until, in desperation, she threw herself into the sea, and was hauled to safety by fishermen. Artemis deified Britomartis under the name of Dictynna; but on Aegina she is worshipped as Aphaea, because she vanished; at Sparta as Artemis, surnamed ‘the Lady of the Lake’; and on Cephallonia as Laphria; the Samians, however, use her true name in their invocations.3
c. Minos’s many infidelities so enraged Pasiphaë that she put a spell upon him: whenever he lay with another woman he discharged, not seeds, but a swarm of noxious serpents, scorpions, and millepedes, which preyed on her vitals.4 One day, Procris, daughter of the Athenian King Erechtheus, whom her husband Cephalus had deserted, visited Crete. Cephalus was provoked to this by Eos, who fell in love with him. When he politely refused her advances, on the ground that he could not deceive Procris, with whom he had exchanged vows of perpetual faithfulness, Eos protested that Procris, whom she knew better than he did, would readily forswear herself for gold. Since Cephalus indignantly denied this, Eos metamorphosed him into the likeness of one Pteleon, and advised him to tempt Procris to his bed by offering her a golden crown. He did so, and, finding that Procris was easily seduced, felt no compunction about lying with Eos, of whom she was painfully jealous.
d. Eos bore Cephalus a son named Phaëthon; but Aphrodite stole him while still a child, to be the night-watchman of her most sacred shrines; and the Cretans call him Adymnus, by which they mean the morning and the evening star.5
e. Meanwhile, Procris could not bear to stay in Athens, her desertion being the subject of general gossip, and therefore came to Crete, where Minos found her no more difficult to seduce than had the supposed Pteleon. He bribed her with a hound that never failed to catch his quarry, and a dart that never missed its mark, both of which had been given him by Artemis.6 Procris, being an ardent huntress, gladly accepted these, but insisted that Minos should take a prophylactic draught – a decoction of magical roots invented by the witch Circe –to prevent him from filling her with reptiles and insects. This draught had the desired effect, but Procris feared that Pasiphaë might bewitch her, and therefore returned hurriedly to Athens, disguised as a handsome boy, having first changed her name to Pterelas. She never saw Minos again.
f. Cephalus, whom she now joined on a hunting expedition, did not recognize her and coveted Laelaps, her hound, and the unerring dart so much that he offered to buy them, naming a huge sum of silver. But Procris refused to part with either, except for love, and when he agreed to take her to his bed, tearfully revealed herself as his wife. Thus they were reconciled at last, and Cephalus enjoyed great sport with the dog and the dart. But Artemis was vexed that her valuable gifts should thus be bandied from hand to hand by these mercenary adulterers, and plotted revenge. She put it into Procris’s head to suspect that Cephalus was still visiting Eos when he rose two hours after midnight and went off to hunt.
g. One night Procris, wearing a dark tunic, crept out after him in the half light. Presently he heard a rustle in a thicket behind him, Laelaps growled and stiffened, Cephalus let fly with the unerring dart and transfixed Procris. In due course the Areiopagus sentenced him to perpetual banishment for murder.7
h. Cephalus retired to Thebes, where King Amphitryon, the supposed father of Heracles, borrowed Laelaps to hunt the Teumessian vixe
n which was ravaging Cadmeia. This vixen, divinely fated never to be caught, could be appeased only by the monthly sacrifice of a child. But, since Laelaps was divinely fated to catch whatever he pursued, doubt arose in Heaven as to how this contradiction should be resolved: in the end, Zeus angrily settled it by turning both Laelaps and the vixen into stone.8
i. Cephalus next assisted Amphitryon in a successful war against the Teleboans and Taphians. Before it began, Amphitryon made all his allies swear by Athene and Ares not to hide any of the spoils; only one, Panopeus, broke this oath and was punished by begetting a coward, the notorious Epeius.9 The Teleboan king was Pterelaus, on whose head Poseidon, his grandfather, had planted a golden lock of immortality. His daughter Comaetho fell in love with Amphitryon and, wishing to gain his affections, plucked out the golden lock, so that Pterelaus died and Amphitryon swiftly conquered the Teleboans with the help of Cephalus; but he sentenced Comaetho to death for parricide.
j. Cephalus’s share of the Teleboan dominions was the island of Cephallenia, which still bears his name. He never pardoned Minos for having seduced Procris and given her the fatal dart; nor yet could he acquit himself of responsibility. After all, he had been the first to forswear himself, because Procris’s affair with the supposed Pteleon could not be reckoned as a breach of faith; ‘No, no,’ he grieved, ‘I should never have bedded with Eos!’ Though purified of his guilt, he was haunted by Procris’s ghost and, fearing to bring misfortune on his companions, went one day to Cape Leucas, where he had built a temple to Apollo of the White Rock, and plunged into the sea from the cliff top. As he fell he called aloud on the name of Pterelas; for it was under this name that Procris had been most dear to him.10
1. Apollodorus: ii. 5.9 and iii. 1. 2; Nonnus: Dionysiaca xiii. 222 and xl. 284.
2. Solinus: xi. 8; Callimachus: Hymn to Artemis 189; Euripides: Iphigeneia Among the Taurians 126; Diodorus Siculus: v. 76; Aristohanes: Frogs 1359.
3. Pausanias: ii. 30.3 and iii. 14. 2; Antoninus Liberalis: Transformations 40; Herodotus: iii. 59.
4. Antoninus Liberalis: Transformations 41.
5. Hesiod: Theogony 986; Solinus: xi. 9; Nonnus: Dionysiaca xi. 131 and xii. 217.
6. Apollodorus: ii. 4. 7; Ovid: Metamorphoses vii. 771; Hyginus: Fabula 189.
7. Apollodorus: loc. cit. and iii. 15. 1; Antoninus Liberalis: loc. cit.; Hyginus: Fabulae 125 and 189; Scholiast on Callimachus’s Hymn to Artemis 209.
8. Pausanias: i. 37. 6 and ix. 19. 1.
9. Tzetzes: On Lycophron 933.
10. Apollodorus: ii. 4. 7; Strabo: x. 2. 9 and 14.
1. Minos’s seduction of nymphs in the style of Zeus doubtless records the Cnossian king’s ritual marriage to Moon-priestesses of various city states in his empire.
2. The Moon-goddess was called Britomartis in Eastern Crete. Hence the Greeks identified her with Artemis (Diodorus Siculus: v. 76; Euripides: Hippolytus 145 and Iphigeneia Among the Taurians 127; Hesychius sub Britomartis), and with Hecate (Euripides: Hippolytus 141, with scholiast). In Western Crete she was Dictynna, as Virgil knew: ‘They called the Moon Dictynna after your name’ (Virgil: Ciris 305). Dictynna is connected in the myth with dictyon, which means a net, of the sort used for hunting or fishing; and Dicte is apparently a worn-down form of dictynnaeon – ‘Dictynna’s place’. After the introduction of the patriarchal system a murderous chase of the sacred king by the goddess armed with a net was converted into a love chase of the goddess by the sacred king (see 9. 1 and 32. b). Both chases occur frequently in European folklore (see 62. 1). Minos’s pursuit of Britomartis, which is paralleled in Philistia by Moxus’s, or Mopsus’s, chase of Derceto, begins when the oaks are in full leaf – probably in the Dog Days, which was when Set pursued Isis and the Child Horus in the water meadows of the Nile Delta – and ends nine months later, on May Eve. Zeus’s seduction of Europe was also a May Eve event (see 58. 3).
3. To judge from the ritual of the Celtic North, where the goddess is called Goda (‘the Good’) – Neanthes translates the syllable brito as ‘good’ (Greek Historical Fragments iii, ed. Müller) – she originally rode on a goat, naked except for a net, with an apple in one hand, and accompanied by a hare and a raven, to her annual love-feast. The carved miserere seat in Coventry Cathedral, where she was thus portrayed, recorded the pre-Christian May Eve ceremonies at Southam and Coventry, from which the legend of Lady Godiva has been piously evolved. In Celtic Germany, Scandinavia, and probably England too, Goda had ritual connexion with the goat, or with a man dressed in goat-skins – the sacred king who later became the Devil of the witch cult. Her apple is a token of the king’s approaching death; the hare symbolizes the chase, during which she turns herself into a greyhound; her net will catch him when he becomes a fish; the raven will give oracles from his tomb.
4. It seems that, in Crete, the goat-cult preceded the bull-cult, and that Pasiphaë originally married a goat-king. Laphria (‘she who wins booty’), Dictynna’s title in Aegina, was also a title of the goat-goddess Athene, who is said to have been assaulted by the goatish Pallas, whose skin she flayed and converted into her aegis (see 9. a). ‘Laphria’ suggests that the goddess was the pursuer, not the pursued. Inscriptions from Aegina show that the great temple of Artemis belonged to Artemis Aphaea (‘not dark’, to distinguish her from Hecate); in the myth, Aphaea is taken to mean aphanes, ‘disappearing’.
5. The story of Minos and Procris has passed from myth into anecdote, and from anecdote into street-corner romance, recalling some of the tales in the Golden Ass. Being linked with Minos’s war against Athens, and the eventual downfall of Cnossus, it records, perhaps, the Cretan king’s demand for a ritual marriage with the High-priestess of Athens, which the Athenians resented. Pteleon (‘elm-grove’), the name of Procris’s seducer, may refer to the vine-cult which spread from Crete in the time of Minos (see 88. h), since vines were trained on elms; but it may also be derived from ptelos, ‘wild boar’. In that case, Cephalus and Pteleon will have originally been the sacred king and his tanist, disguised as a wild boar (see 18. 7). Pasiphaë’s witchcrafts are characteristics of an angry Moon-goddess; and Procris counters them with the witchcrafts of Circe, another title of the same goddess.
7. The myth of Comaetho and Pterelaus refers to the cutting of the solar king’s hair before his death (see 83. 3; 91. 1 and 95. 5); but the name Pterelaus suggests that the winged pharmacos flung to his death was originally the king. The syllable elāos, or elaios, stands for the wild olive which, like the birch in Italy and North-western Europe, was used for the expulsion of evil spirits (see 52. 3); and in the Rhodian dialect elaios meant simply pharmacos. But the fates of Pterelaus and Cephalus are mythically linked by Procris’s adoption of the name Pterelas, and this suggests that she was really the priestess of Athene, who launched the feathered Cephalus to his death.
8. The fox was the emblem of Messene (Apollodorus: ii. 8. 5 – see 49. 2 and 146. 6); probably because the Aeolians worshipped the Moon-goddess as a vixen; and the myth of the Teumessian vixen may record Aeolian raids on Cadmeia in search of child sacrifices, to which Zeus-worshipping Achaeans put an end.
9. Phaëthon and Adymnus (from a-dyomenos, ‘he who does not set’) are both allegorical names for the planet Venus. But Phaëthon, son of Eos and Cephalus, has been confused by Nonnus with Phaëthon, son of Helius, who drove the sun-chariot and was drowned (see 42. d); and with Atymnius (from atos and hymnos, ‘insatiate of heroic praise’), a sun-hero worshipped by the Milesians (see 88. b).
10. Epeius, who built the wooden horse (see 1
67. a), appears in early legends as an outstandingly courageous warrior; but his name was ironically applied to boasters, until it became synonymous with cowardice (Hesychius sub Epeius).
THE CHILDREN OF PASIPHAË
AMONG Pasiphaë’s children by Minos were Acacallis, Ariadne, Androgeus, Catreus, Glaucus, and Phaedra.1 She also bore Cydon to Hermes, and Libyan Ammon to Zeus.2
b. Ariadne, beloved first by Theseus, and then by Dionysus, bore many famous children. Catreus, who succeeded Minos on the throne, was killed in Rhodes by his own son. Phaedra married Theseus and won notoriety for her unfortunate love-affair with Hippolytus, her stepson. Acacallis was Apollo’s first love; when he and his sister Artemis came for purification to Tarrha, from Aegialae on the mainland, he found Acacallis at the house of Carmanor, a maternal relative, and seduced her. Minos was vexed, and banished Acacallis to Libya where, some say, she became the mother of Garamas, though others claim that he was the first man ever to be born.3
c. Glaucus, while still a child, was playing ball one day in the palace at Cnossus or, perhaps, chasing a mouse, when he suddenly disappeared. Minos and Pasiphaë searched high and low but, being unable to find him, had recourse to the Delphic Oracle. They were informed that whoever could give the best simile for a recent portentous birth in Crete would find what was lost. Minos made enquiries and learned that a heifer-calf had been born among his herds which changed its colour thrice a day – from white to red, and from red to black. He summoned his soothsayers to the palace, but none could think of a simile until Polyeidus the Argive, a descendant of Melampus, said: ‘This calf resembles nothing so much as a ripening blackberry [or mulberry].’ Minos at once commanded him to go in search of Glaucus.4