Readings for reflection: Pasiphae

Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses 41
Prokris forsook Kephalos and went off as a fugitive to Minos the king of Crete. She found on arrival that he was afflicted by childlessness and promised a cure, showing him how to beget children. Now Minos would ejaculate snakes, scorpions and millipedes, killing the women with whom he had intercourse. But his wife Pasiphae, daughter of Helios the Sun, was immortal. Prokris accordingly devised the following to make Minos fertile. She inserted the bladder of a goat into a woman and Minos first emitted the snakes into the bladder; then he went over to Pasiphae and entered her. And when children were born to them, Minos gave Prokris his spear and his dog. No animal could escape these two and they always reached their target.

Apollodoros, Bibliotheka 1.80
The Colchians who were ruled by Aeëtes, the son of Helios and Perseis, and brother of Circe and Minos’ wife Pasiphae.

Apollodoros, Bibliotheka 3.7-11
Minos, residing in Crete, passed laws, and married Pasiphae, daughter of Helios and Perseis. He begat sons, to wit, Katreus, Deukalion, Glaukos, and Androgeus: and daughters, to wit, Akalle, Xenodike, Ariadne, Phaidra. Minos aspired to the throne, but was rebuffed. He claimed, however, that he had received the sovereignty from the gods, and to prove it he said that whatever he prayed for would come about. So while sacrificing to Poseidon, he prayed for a bull to appear from the depths of the sea, and promised to sacrifice it upon its appearance. And Poseidon did send up to him a splendid bull. Thus Minos received the rule, but he sent the bull to his herds and sacrificed another. Poseidon was angry that the bull was not sacrificed, and turned it wild. He also devised that Pasiphae should develop a lust for it. In her passion for the bull she took on as her accomplice an architect named Daidalos. Daidalos built a wooden cow on wheels, skinned a real cow, and sewed the contraption into the skin. And then, after placing Pasiphae inside, set it in a meadow where the bull normally grazed. The bull came up and had intercourse with it, as if with a real cow. Pasiphae gave birth to Asterios, who was called Minotauros. He had the face of a bull, but was otherwise human. Minos, following certain oracular instructions, kept him confined and under guard in the labyrinth.

Diodoros Sikeliotes, Library of History 4.77.1
Now according to the myth which was handed down to us Pasiphae, the wife of Minos, became enamoured of the bull, and Daidalos, by fashioning a contrivance in the shape of a cow, assisted Pasiphae to gratify her passion. In explanation of this the myths offer the following account: before this time it had been the custom of Minos annually to dedicate to Poseidon the fairest bull born in his herds and to sacrifice it to the god; but at the time in question there was born a bull of extraordinary beauty and he sacrificed another from among those which were inferior, whereupon Poseidon becoming angry at Minos, caused his wife Pasiphae to become enamoured of the bull. And by means of the ingenuity of Daidalos Pasiphae had intercourse with the bull and gave birth to the Minotauros, famed in the myth. This creature, they say, was of double form, the upper parts of the body as far as the shoulders being those of a bull and the remaining parts those of a man. As a place in which to keep this monstrous thing Daidalos, the story goes, built a labyrinth, the passageways of which were so winding that those unfamiliar with them had difficulty in making their way out; in this labyrinth the Minotaur was maintained and here it devoured the seven youths and seven maidens which were sent to it from Athens, as we have already related. But Daidalos, they say, on learning that Minos had made threats against him because he had fashioned the cow, became fearful of the king and departed from Krete, Pasiphae helping him and providing and vessel for his escape . . . But certain writers of myths have the following account: Daidalos remained a while longer in Krete, being kept hidden by Pasiphae, and king Minos, desiring to wreak bengeance upon him and yet being unable to find him, caused all the boats which were on the island to be searched and announced that he would give a great sum of money to the man who should discover Daidalos. Thereupon Daidalos, despairing of making his escape by any boat, fashioned with amazing ingenuity wings which were cleverly designed and marvellously fitted together with wax.

Euripides, Cretans Fr. 472e
[. . .] She alone dared this crime

My Lord, you must think:
how can you hide it,
cover up these horrors

There is nothing to gain now by deceiving you;
what has happened is already too well known.
But consider:
If I had sold the gifts of Kypris,
given my body in secret to some man,
you would have every right to condemn me
as a whore. But this was no act of the will;
I am suffering from some madness brought on
by a god.

It’s not plausible!
What could I have seen in a bull
to assault my heart with this shameful passion?
Did he look too handsome in his robe?
Did a sea of fire smoulder in his eyes?
Was it the red tint of his hair, his dark beard?
His body, so [different] from my husband’s? [. . .]
Are these the things that drew me to lie
in his bed, in my cowskin [. . .]?
I did not imagine that my lover
could give me children [. . .]
What diseased my mind?

Minos’ god afflicted me,
and Minos is more [guilty in this affair than I am.]
He prayed to his god of the sea, and swore
to sacrifice that portentous bull
and then he spared it from the slaughter.

[to Minos]

No wonder Poseidon sought you out:
to punish you through this sick passion
in my heart.

And you would testify before the gods,
when your misdeeds have led to my disgrace.
As the innocent mother of this monster,
I tried to conceal the god’s assault;
but in your cruelty you put
your wife’s humiliation on display,
as if you’d have no share in it.
It is your fault, and my sickness,
my destruction, the result of your sin.
If you intend me to be killed at sea,
kill me now: you are an expert
in human sacrifice and acts of blood.
Do you crave the taste of my flesh?
Then prepare the feast, you cannibal!
Though I am free from all wrongdoing,
let my death pay your penances.

Surely this was brought about by the gods;
[do not indulge] your anger, my lord.

Is she muzzled yet? She bellows [. . .]

Come, [. . . weapons . . .]
Seize that thing — let her die miserably [. . . ]
Bring her accomplice as well — take them both
into the palace, cage them in the cells below
where they’ll never see the light of day again.

My lord, please reconsider this judgment;
mercilessness is never admirable.

My justice is resolved and cannot be postponed.

Hyginus, Fabulae 40
Pasiphae, daughter of Sol and wife of Minos, for several years did not make offerings to the goddess Venus. Because of this Venus inspired in her an unnatural love for a bull. At the time when Daedalus came there as an exile, he asked her to help him. For her he made a wooden heifer, and put in it the hide of a real heifer, and in this she lay with the bull. From this intercourse she bore the Minotaur, with bull’s head but human body. Then Daedalus made for the Minotaur a labyrinth with an undiscoverable exit in which it was confined. When Minos found out the affair he cast Daedalus into prison, but Pasiphae freed him from his chains.

Pausanias, Description of Greece 3.26.1
From Oitylos to Thalamai in Lakonia the road is about eighty stades long. On it is a sanctuary of Ino and an oracle. They consult the oracle in sleep, and the goddess reveals whatever they wish to learn, in dreams. Bronze statues of Pasiphae and of Helios stand in the unroofed part of the sanctuary. It was not possible to see the one within the temple clearly, owing to the garlands, but they say this too is of bronze. Water, sweet to drink, flows from a sacred spring. Pasiphae is a title of Selene, and is not a local goddess of the people of Thalamai.

Philostratus the Elder, Imagines 1.16
Pasiphae is in love with the bull and begs Daidalos to devise some lure for the creature; and he is fashioning a hollow cow like a cow of the herd to which the bull is accustomed. What their union brought forth is shown by the form of the Minotauros, strangely composite in its nature. Their union is not depicted here, but this is the workshop of Daidalos; and about it are statues, some with forms blocked out, others in a quite complete state in that they are already stepping forward and give promise of walking about [i.e. Daidalos was a crafter of animate statues]. Before the time of Daidalos, you know, the art of making statues had not yet conceived such a thing. Daidalos himself is of the Attic type in that his face suggests great wisdom and that the look of the eye is so intelligent; and his very dress also follows the Attic style; for he wears this dull coarse mantle and also he is painted without sandals, in a manner peculiarly affected by the Athenians. He sits before the framework of the cow and he uses Erotes as his assistants in the device so as to connect with it something of Aphrodite. Pasiphae outside the workshop in the cattlefold gazes on the bull, thinking to draw him to her by her beauty and by her robe, which is divinely resplendent and more beautiful than any rainbow. She has a helpless look–for she knows what the creature is that she loves –and she is eager to embrace it, but takes no notice of her and gazes at its own cow. The bull is depicting with proud mien, the leader of the herd, with splendid horns, white, already experienced in love, its dewlap low and its neck massive, and it gazes fondly at the cow; but the cow in the herd, ranging free and all white but for a black head, disdains the bull. For its purpose suggests a leap, as of a girl who avoids the importunity of a lover.

Seneca, Phaedra 112 ff
Phaedra, daughter of Pasiphae, laments: I recognize my wretched mother’s fatal curse; her love and mine know how to sin in forest depths. Mother, my heart aches for thee; swept away by ill unspeakable, thou didst boldly love the wild leader of the savage herd. Fierce was he and impatient of the yoke, lawless in love, leader of an untamed herd; yet he did love something. But as for me, what god, what Daedalus could ease my wretched passion? Though he himself should return, mighty in Attic cunning, who shut our monster in the dark labyrinth, he could afford no help to my calamity. Venus, detesting the offspring of the hated Sol, is avenging through us the chains that bound her to her loved Mars, and loads the whole race of Phoebus with shame unspeakable.

Seneca, Phaedra 687 ff
O thou, Phaedra, who hast outshined the whole race of women, who hast dared a greater evil than thy monster-bearing mother, thou worse than she who bore thee! She did but pollute herself with her shameful lust, and yet her offspring by its two-shaped infamy displayed her crime, though long concealed, and by his fierce visage the hybrid child made clear his mother’s guilt. That was the womb that bore thee.

Suidas s.v. Pasiphae
Pasiphae : Name of a goddess.

Vergil, Aeneid 6.24
Crete rising out of the waves; Pasiphae, cruelly fated to lust after a bull, and privily covered; the hybrid fruit of that monstrous union–the Minotaur, a memento of her unnatural love