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Cretan Bull

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Title: Cretan Bull  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Minotaur, Theseus, Heracles, Campana reliefs, Labours of Hercules
Collection: Greek Legendary Creatures, Greek Mythology, History of Crete, Labours of Hercules, Labours of Theseus, Monsters, Mythological Bulls
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Cretan Bull

Cretan Bull
Heracles capturing the Cretan Bull. Detail of a Roman mosaic from Llíria (Spain).
Grouping Legendary creature
Similar creatures Minotaur
Mythology Greek mythology
Country Greece
Region Crete

In Greek mythology, the Cretan Bull (Greek: Κρὴς ταῦρος) was the bull Pasiphaë fell in love with, giving birth to the Minotaur.


  • The Seventh Labour of Heracles 1
  • Capture by Theseus 2
  • Origin 3
  • In popular culture 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

The Seventh Labour of Heracles

This is an engraving of Heracles performing one of his labors as he forces the Cretan Bull to the ground. The engraving was created by B. Picart in 1731.

Whistling merrily at his success so far, Heracles was then sent to capture the bull by Eurystheus as his seventh task. He sailed to Crete, whereupon the King, Minos, gave Heracles permission to take the bull away [1] as it had been wreaking havoc on Crete by uprooting crops and leveling orchard walls. Heracles snuck up behind the bull and then used his hands to strangle it, and then shipped it to Eurystheus in Tiryns. Eurystheus, who hid in his pithos at first sight of the creature, wanted to sacrifice the bull to Hera, who hated Heracles. She refused the sacrifice because it reflected glory on Heracles. The bull was released and wandered into Marathon, becoming known as the Marathonian Bull.[1] Theseus would later sacrifice the bull to Athena and/or Apollo. Eurystheus then sent Heracles to bring back the man-eating Mares of Diomedes.

Capture by Theseus

Androgeus, a son of Minos and Pasiphaë, competed in the games held by Aegeus, King of Athens. He won all the games, so angering Aegeus that he had the young man killed (some legends claim that he was sent to confront the Bull itself). Devastated, Minos went to war with Athens and won. As punishment, the Athenians had to send several youths every 9 years to be devoured by the Minotaur.

Aegeus' own son, Theseus, set to try to capture the Bull. On the way to Marathon, Theseus sought shelter from a storm in the shack owned by an old lady named Hecale. She swore to make a sacrifice to Zeus if Theseus was successful in capturing the bull. Theseus did capture the bull, but when he returned to Hecale's hut, she was dead. Theseus built a deme in her honor. He then dragged the Bull to Athens where he sacrificed it.

Theseus then went to Crete where he killed the Minotaur with the help of Minos' daughter Ariadne.


Some stories in Greek mythology associate the constellation Taurus with a tame white bull. Some associate it with Zeus, who in this disguise seduced Europa and took her to Crete (Minos). Still others associate it with the white bull that fathered the Minotaur. In some accounts the Cretan Bull that fathered the Minotaur was originally a calm beast, and sent from Poseidon; Minos, to whom it was sent, thereafter fell out of favor with Poseidon, and so in these versions, it was Poseidon who angered the beast.

Finally, the tale of Poseidon's sending the bull that seduced Minos' wife may simply be an early version of the myth of Zeus seducing Europa; in earlier Mycenean times, Poseidon had significantly more importance than Zeus. Hence, stories related to Poseidon and Zeus are thought by some to have been the result of the evolution of conceptions of the same original god, in parallel, in separate cultures, e.g., with Poseidon becoming associated more with the sea as a particular culture's dependence on seafaring trade expanded.

In popular culture

In the 2005 Hercules miniseries, the Bull is portrayed as a Antaeus.

See also


  1. ^ a b Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2.5.7

External links

  • Media related to at Wikimedia Commons
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