When you’re swimming around the beautiful islands of Greece, you’ll find hidden caves, untouched beaches and areas where only a small amount of people have visited. Greece is a wonderful country, rich in culture, history and timeless mythological tales. In this series of blog posts, we’ll take you through the interesting stories that have been told throughout generations, starting with the island of Crete.
The Birth of Zeus
One of the biggest mythological stories to come out of Crete is the fact it is the birthplace of Zeus, arguably the most well-known and most powerful God within Greek mythology. Rea/Rhea, Zeus’ mother very much feared the wrath of her partner, Kronos/Cronus who was “swallowing” his children once born so they could not come to power and overthrow him. Rea/Rhea sought the help of Gaia and Uranus who helped her give birth to her son in a cave. Zeus was raised by Nymphs and once he reached adulthood, successfully beat his father in a fight overthrowing him from his rule. Zeus then drew lots with his brothers Poseidon and Hades, Zeus won the draw making him the supreme ruler of Gods and lord of the sky. Poseidon became ruler of the sea and Hades ruler of the underworld.
Zeus fell in love with a woman known as Princess Europa of Phoenicia. He transformed himself into a white bull and mixed himself in with her Father’s herds. Whilst Europa was gathering flowers she walked over to the bull and eventually go onto his back. Zeus then ran with Europa on his back and brought her to the island of Crete, eventually revealing his true identity. Europa became the first Queen of Crete and Zeus, still very much in love, gave her four gifts. A necklace made by Hephaestus, Talos, Laelaps and a javelin that never missed. They later went on to have three sons together named; Radamanthys, Sarpedon and Minos (later to be known as King Minos.) Mythology states that Zeus later re-created the shape of the white bull in the stars, forming the constellation, Taurus (meaning bull in Greek).
As mentioned above, one of the gifts Zeus gave to Europa was Talos. Talos was described as a huge bronze man who had been built by Hephaestus. He was made to protect Crete from invaders and would march around the island three times a day throwing boulders at any approaching enemy ships or burning them with the bronze on his body. He had a giant tube running from his head to one of his feet that was said to carry the life source of the Gods, known as ichor. Some texts state that Talos was defeated by a sorceress named Medea who removed a bolt from his ankle and let the ichor fluid flow out.
Minos (one of Zeus and Europa’s sons) became the most powerful ruler of Crete ever known throughout its mythology. The Kingdom of Minos united all of the Cretan cities. It was divided into three parts, the first including Knossos, the second Phaestos and the third, Cydonia. Rules were passed down from Zeus to his son Minos who followed his father’s guidance. Possibly the biggest reason as to why Minos is so well known was due to the Labyrinth he ordered Daedalus (one of the greatest inventors and constructors of the era) to create. Poseidon had sent Minos a snow-white bull to sacrifice but instead of doing as Poseidon asked, Minos decided to keep the bull alive. For his treachery Poseidon made Pasiphae (Minos’ wife) fall in love with the bull, and she eventually gave birth to a child which was half-man (body), half-bull (head), known as the Minotaur. Minos was furious at this and had a Labyrinth created to lock the Minotaur away. After his death, Minos became a judge of the dead in the underworld.
The Caves of Crete
In total Crete has around 3,000 caves, several of which can be associated with Greek mythology and can still be visited today.
Diktian Cave - This cave is considered the most famous as it is said to be the birthplace of Zeus.
Cave of Ilithia - Known to be the birthplace of the goddess of birth, Illithia. The ancient Greeks worshipped the goddess in this cave, which is located near the ancient town of Amnissos. Ancient idols of pregnant women or women giving birth have been found within this cave.
Skotino Cave - One of Crete’s largest caves, reaching a depth of 160 metres, Skotino is dedicated to the virgin goddess Britomartis and was later used to worship Artemis, goddess of the hunt.
Dragolaki Cave (Dragon’s Lair) - Neireids (water nymphs who were the daughters of Zeus) are allegedly known to haunt this cave. You can find it near the village of Agios in western Crete.
Melidoni Cave - Home of Talos, the bronze giant the melidoni cave has been used for cult worship during the Neolithic, Minoan and Archaic periods.
Crete truly is such a special place to visit. If you get the opportunity to visit the birthplace of Zeus, the ancient city of Knossos and the supposed area of the labyrinth we would highly recommend you do so. With us, you’ll be able to explore the rich mythological culture of Crete from its warm, crystal clear and calm waters (thank you Poseidon!).
We still have some spaces left for this summer (2021) but we have now opened up next year’s (2022) bookings, so you can take your pick as to when you’re ready to dive in and come with us on a trip of a lifetime. Come and join us on an unforgettable journey!
We can’t wait to see you soon.
28 June 2021