Metamorphoses

Metamorphoses

by

Ovid

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Metamorphoses: Book 8: The Minotaur and Ariadne Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
When Minos returns to Crete, he makes a sacrifice of 100 bulls to Jupiter. While he was away, his wife Pasiphae gave birth to the Minotaur—half man and half beast—revealing her affair with the bull. To hide her shameful offspring, Minos hires an Athenian craftsman named Daedaulus to build a labyrinth that is impossible to escape from. Minos hides the Minotaur in the labyrinth and feeds him Athenian boys.
Minos’s wife Pasiphae is looked down upon because she gave birth to the Minotaur after having sex with a bull. This recalls when Jupiter disguised himself as a bull in order to have sex with Europa. In this way, Pasiphae seems to model her affair off of Jupiter’s seduction of Europa. However, Pasiphae is seen as deplorable for her action, whereas Jupiter is absolved of all blame. 
Themes
Gods and Humans Theme Icon
One day, Minos’s daughter Ariadne helps Theseus—one of the Minotaur’s victims—escape the labyrinth by giving him a string to follow back to the entrance. Theseus follows it back, kidnaps Ariadne, and escapes to Naxos where he then abandons her. Bacchus takes pity on Ariadne and takes her crown into the sky where it becomes a circle of stars.
Theseus, in abandoning Ariadne after she betrays her father to help him escape, acts just as Minos acted towards Scylla. The similar actions of Minos—the ruler of Crete—and of Theseus—the king of Athens’ son—suggest there is an ambivalent pattern to the behavior of war heroes.
Themes
Love and Destruction Theme Icon
Gods and Humans Theme Icon