Ancient Origins recently posted a very interesting article about Minos' labyrinth. For those of you not aware of it, the Labyrinth is related to the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. Theseus (Θησεύς) was fathered by Aegeus and Poseidon, whom had both slept with his mother Aethra, and was thus destined to become a hero. When he heard about the Minotaur of Krete, and the nine-yearly sacrifices to it--a punishment by King Minos of Krete for the death of his son Androgeus, at the hands of Athenian assassins--Theseus offered to be one of the youths who sailed for Krete. Once there, Ariadne, daughter of the king, fell for him and offered him a ball of yarn so he would be able to find his way out off the labyrinth that housed the Minotaur the youths would be sacrificed to. With Ariadne's aid, Theseus defeated the Minotaur, and brought the sacrificial children home.

The labyrinth was supposedly located at Knossos. The palace there certainly existed. Knossos was  the capital of Minoan Krete. The ruins of the palace are located about twenty minutes south of the modern port town of Iraklio. Knossos was inhabited for several thousand years, from the neolithic to 1375 BC, when it was abandoned after its destruction. The first palace on the low hill beside the Krairatos river was built around 1900 BC on the ruins of previous settlements. It--and many of the other buildings--were destroyed around 1700 BC by an earthquake or invaders. It was rebuild and destroyed or damaged again and again by earthquakes, volcano eruption, invaders and fires, until its abandonment. With its demise came the demise of the Minoan civilization.

Ancient Origins now discusses the possibility of the Labyrinth not being located at Knossos but on Krete, at Labyrinth Cave. As Ancient Origins reports: the Labyrinth Cave is an ancient quarry-cave located near the town of Gortyn, in the southern part of Krete. In the past, there were three different places speculated to be the ‘true’ Labyrinth. For many of the island’s locals, it was the Labyrinth Cave near Gortyn that was the Labyrinth of the Minotaur myth.

Labyrinth Cave is not a maze but rather, a complex system of corridors which may give a ‘labyrinthine’ impression to those visiting the cave for the first time. Indeed, within the Labyrinth Cave there are tunnels longer than 2.5 km (1.6 miles) and several rooms that led nowhere.These chambers actually served as quarries for the extraction of stone that was then used in the construction of buildings in nearby towns and cities. Constructions believed to have come from this quarry include: Phaestus, a Minoan palace, and the town of Gortyn when the island was under Roman rule.

For more on the cave and many pictures, please visit Ancient Origins. I think the cave is fascinating and it could easily be the birthplace of the myth of the Minotaur.