Study Guide

Theseus: The Minotaur and the Labyrinth Minotaur = Moloch

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Minotaur = Moloch

The Minotaur has a whole lot of similarities to Moloch, who was an ancient god from the Near East, who was worshiped in particular by the Phoenicians. Like the Minotaur, Moloch was depicted as having the head of a bull and the body of a man. Also, like the Minotaur, Moloch thought it was fun to eat children. It's said his worshipers sacrificed virgin girls and young boys to the bloodthirsty god. Sometimes this was done by constructing a bronze statue filled with fire, which was made in such a way that it raised its arms to feed the human sacrifices into its flaming mouth.

Moloch is talked about in Judeo-Christian mythology, where he is depicted as an evil demon and a rival for God's power. Worshiping Moloch was a big no-no for the ancient Hebrews. The book of Leviticus actually specifically orders that anybody caught making sacrifices to the bull-god must be put to death. Sometimes, Moloch is also equated with another rival god named Ba'al who was hugely popular in the Near East in biblical time. Like Moloch and the Minotaur, Ba'al was associated with bulls and had a taste for human flesh. Evidently, some of the ancient Hebrews did a little Moloch/Ba'al-worshiping every now and then. Check out this quote from the book of Jeremiah:

And they built the high places of the Ba'al, which are in the valley of Ben-hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire Mo'lech - Jeremiah 32.35

All these similarities between the Minotaur and these Near Eastern gods have lead some to believe that at some point the Cretans might have worshiped some version of Moloch or Ba'al. Could it be that the powerful Minoan civilization of Crete once demanded that ancient Athenians send them human sacrifices?

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