King Minos was one of the three sons born to Zeus and Europa. Europa’s husband was the King of Crete, Asterion, who looked over the boys as if they were his own.
When Asterion died, it was unclear which of the three sons should ascend to power. The three sons were Minos, Sarpedon, and Rhadamanthus. Minos declared himself king and appointed his brother Sarpedon as lawmaker of all the islands. Sarpedon questioned his brother’s authority, but Minos said that it was the will of the gods for him to become king. As proof, he sacrificed a bull to the god Poseidon and then asked the god to send a new bull for the same purpose. Poseidon listened to his request and sent a beautiful white bull from the sea. King Minos—as well as the citizens of Crete—was impressed, and because the bull was so beautiful, Minos set it free and sacrificed a different bull.
Minos was married to the goddess Pasiphae. Together they had many children, some of which were Ariadne, Phaedra, Glaucus and Androgeus. When Poseidon realized that Minos didn’t sacrifice the white bull, he caused Pasiphae to fall in love with the animal. Pasiphae—desperate from her love for the bull—asked for help from the sculptor and engineer Daedalus.
Daedalus built her an empty wooden cow. It was so beautiful that the white bull was tricked and fell in love with it. Pasiphae then went inside the wooden cow and loved the white bull. The result of this union was the Minotaur, a powerful beast with a human body and the head of a bull. Upon seeing the infant, King Minos discovered his wife’s bestial affair and as punishment, Minos enslaved Daedalus and Icarus for their parts in the affair, but he left Pasiphae untouched.
Pasiphae cared for Minotaur and was able to nourish Minotaur while he was a bull calf. However, as he grew he became ferocious and monstrous and she was unable to feed or care for him any longer. Minotaur was unable to find a suitable source of food, since he was neither man nor beast, and so he started to eat people.
In order to hide his wife’s disgraceful affair and on the advise of an Oracle, King Minos commanded Daedalus and his Icarus to build a grand Labyrinth in Knossos to house his wife’s son. He built a great labyrinth that the Minotaur, and people who entered it, could never get out of.