That’s No Bull: The Minoans And Their Fascination With Bovines

By | June 13, 2019

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The Toreador Fresco illustrates the Minoan fascination with bulls. Late Bronze Age 1550 1450 BC. Court of the Stone Spout, Knossos, Crete. (Photo by Werner Forman/Universal Images Group/Getty Images)

The Minoan culture controlled Crete, an island in the Mediterranean Sea south of Greece from about 2000 to 1600 BCE. Theirs was a sophisticated and advanced society. One of the earliest European civilizations, the Minoans had running water and paved roads, for instance, long before other cultures. They created beautiful, intricate mosaics, as well as other, pieces of art. For such a cultured group of people, they had one theme that permeated through their entire society…their worship of the bull. Let’s look at how the bull became a symbol of Crete and how the Minoan bull cult led to some enduring myths and legends. 

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King Minos, once a bull himself, ruled over the Minoan people. Source: (

King Minos and the Birth of the Minoan Civilization

According to the Greek myths, Minos was the son of Zeus. Through a series of unfortunate events, Zeus turned Minos into a bull. Europa, a Phoenician princess, found herself oddly smitten with the beautiful white bull. She climbed onto the creature’s back and rode with him all the way to Crete. There, Minos – apparently transformed back into a man – became the king of the island nation, married Europa, and had several kids with him. Under King Minos’s rule, Crete became a political and economic powerhouse and the Minoan navy even defeated Athens in battle.