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Mazes and Labyrinths

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Author Topic: Mazes and Labyrinths  (Read 1878 times)
Kabrina Teppe
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« Reply #15 on: March 18, 2009, 03:15:46 pm »



Fig. 2. Egyptian Labyrinth. Shrine of Amenemhat III. (Flinders Petrie)
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Kabrina Teppe
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« Reply #16 on: March 18, 2009, 03:15:56 pm »

claimed to have established the actual site of the Labyrinth, attaching great importance to a series of brick chambers which they unearthed. The data furnished by this party, however, were not altogether of a convincing character, and it was felt that further evidence was required before their conclusions could be accepted.

G. M. Ebers, a pupil of Lepsius, and one who did much to popularise the study of Egyptology by a series of novels, said that, if one climbed the pyramid hard by, one could see that the ruins of the Labyrinth had a horseshoe shape, but that was all.

The actual site of the Egyptian Labyrinth was finally identified by Professor Flinders Petrie in 1888. He found that the brick chambers which Lepsius took to be part of the Labyrinth were only remains of the Roman town built by its destroyers, the Labyrinth itself being so thoroughly demolished that only a great bed of fragments remained. Even from this dreary waste of stone chips, however, a few items of interest were discovered, including scattered bits of foundations, a great well, two door-jambs--one to the north and one to the south--two granite shrines and part of another, several fragments of statues and a large granite seated figure of the king who is now generally recognised to have been the builder of the Labyrinth, namely Amenemhat (or Amenemhe) III of the XIIth Dynasty (also known as Lampares), who reigned about twenty-three centuries B.C. Fig. 2, which, like the diagram shown in Fig. 4., is reproduced by the kind permission of Professor Petrie from his book "The Labyrinth, Gerzeh and Mazghuneh" (1912), represents one of the shrines dedicated to the founder. Sufficient of the original foundations remained to enable the size and orientation of the building to be roughly determined.

The Labyrinth must have covered an area of about moo feet from east to west by Boo feet from north to south, and was situated to the east of Lake Moeris, opposite the ancient town of Arsinoë (Crocodilopolis),

p. 14

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Kabrina Teppe
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« Reply #17 on: March 18, 2009, 03:16:09 pm »

and just to the south of the pyramid of Hawara, in the district known nowadays as the Fayűm.

The mummified remains of the builder of the Labyrinth, King Amenemhat III, and of his daughter Sebekneferu, have been discovered in this pyramid, which is symmetrical about the same N.--S. meridian as the Labyrinth.

Professor Petrie reviewed all that the classic writers had reported concerning the Labyrinth, and concluded that, in spite of their differences, each had contributed some item of value. The discrepancies between the descriptions of Herodotus and Strabo he attributes to the probable decay or destruction of the upper storey in the intervening centuries.

Many attempts have been made to visualise the Labyrinth as it existed in the time of Herodotus. Fig. 3 shows, in plan, one such reconstruction, according to the Italian archaeologist Canina. The actual plan of the Labyrinth would appear to have differed from this in many respects, judging by the indications found by Professor Petrie. The latter drew up a tentative restoration based upon the descriptions of Herodotus and Strabo so far as these tallied with the remains discovered by him.

He suggests that the shrines which he found formed part of a series of nine, ranged along the foot of the pyramid, each attached to a columned court, the whole series of courts opening opposite a series of twenty-seven columns arranged down the length of a great hall running east and west; on the other side of this hall would be another series of columned courts, six in number and larger than the others, separated by another long hall from a further series of six (Fig. 4).

In spite of the scantiness of the present remains and the discrepancies between the various reports that have reached us from ancient times, we can at least be reasonably certain that this, the earliest structure to which the term "labyrinth" (λαβύρινθος) is known to have been applied, did actually exist; that it was of the nature of a

p. 15

stupendous architectural monument, that it is of great antiquity--having been built over 4000 years ago at any rate--and that its site is definitely known.

Its original object is still a matter of conjecture. It is quite possible that it was used as a meeting-place for the

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Kabrina Teppe
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« Reply #18 on: March 18, 2009, 03:17:14 pm »



FIG. 3.--Egyptian Labyrinth. Restored Plan. (Canina.)

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Kabrina Teppe
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« Reply #19 on: March 18, 2009, 03:17:19 pm »

nomes, which would have been about twenty-two in number at the time of the XIIth Dynasty, but it is perhaps more probable that it was intended as a sepulchral monument. In any case it is plain, from the fragments of various gods and goddesses found on the site, that it was a centre of worship of a great variety of deities.

From an almost illegible inscription on a great weather-beaten block of granite, deciphered, with great difficulty,

p. 16

as a dedication by a King Ptolemy to a Queen Cleopatra, Professor Petrie concluded that as late as the beginning of the second century B.C. the building was still in royal

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Kabrina Teppe
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« Reply #20 on: March 18, 2009, 03:18:07 pm »



Restored Plan of Western Half. (Flinders Petrie.)



care, but not very long afterwards it was considerably despoiled. Whatever may have been its original object, it afforded several generations the advantages of a most convenient stone-quarry.



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Kabrina Teppe
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« Reply #21 on: March 19, 2009, 01:17:21 pm »

p. 17

CHAPTER IV
THE CRETAN LABYRINTH
(i) The Story of Theseus and the Minotaur

CHARLES KINGSLEY in "The Heroes" and Nathaniel Hawthorne in "Tanglewood Tales" have familiarised most English-speaking people with the story of the exploits of Theseus, and doubtless most folk have some acquaintance with the first volume of Plutarch's "Lives," but it will not be out of place here to recall the portions of the legend which are associated with our particular theme, the parts, that is to say, which concern the Labyrinth of Crete. In doing so we will follow the version given by Plutarch.

This Greco-Roman historian flourished in the latter half of the first century of our era. His information as to the deeds of Theseus, already for many centuries a staple ingredient in popular legendry, was drawn from the accounts of the early Greek writers Bacchylides (fifth century B.C.), Cleidemus (circ. 420-350 B.C.), Philochorus (circ. 306-260 B.C.), and others.

The Cretan exploit was perhaps the most romantic of the long series of heroic ads attributed to Theseus. Let us briefly recall it.

Aegeus, the father of Theseus, was King of Athens. At that time there reigned at Knossos, in Crete, a monarch called Minos, who held sway over what was then

p. 18

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Kabrina Teppe
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« Reply #22 on: March 19, 2009, 01:17:33 pm »

the most powerful maritime state in the Mediterranean. Minos had a son named Androgeos, who, during his travels in Attica, was treacherously set upon and slain, or so his father was informed. In consequence of this Minos imposed a penalty on the Athenians in the form of a tribute to be paid once every nine years, such tribute to consist of seven youths and seven maidens, who were to be shipped to Knossos at the appointed periods.

There was at the court of Minos an exceedingly clever and renowned artificer or engineer, Daedalus by name, to whom all sorts of miraculous inventions are ascribed. This Daedalus had devised an ingenious structure, the "Labyrinth," so contrived that if anybody were placed therein he would find it practically impossible to discover the exit without a guide.

The Labyrinth was designed as a dwelling for, or at any rate was inhabited by, a hideous and cruel being called the Minotaur, a monstrous offspring of Queen Pasiphaë, wife of Minos. The Minotaur is described as being half man and half bull, or a man with a bull's head, a ferocious creature that destroyed any unfortunate human beings who might come within its power. According to report, the youths and maidens of the Athenian tribute were periodically, one by one, thrust into the Labyrinth, where, after futile wanderings in the endeavour to find an exit, they were finally caught and slain by the Minotaur.

When Theseus arrived at the court of Aegeus, having been brought up hitherto by his mother in a distant seclusion, he was distressed to find that his father's joy in the reunion was overcast by a deepening sadness. On inquiring the reason for this, he learned of the vindictive tribute laid upon the kingdom, and that the time for the third payment was approaching.

"Let me make one of the fourteen," said the valiant youth. "I will find a way to slay this Minotaur, and then there will be no further need for the tribute."

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Kabrina Teppe
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« Reply #23 on: March 19, 2009, 01:17:57 pm »



Fig. 5. Cretan Labyrinth. (Florentine Picture Chronicle.)
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Kabrina Teppe
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« Reply #24 on: March 19, 2009, 01:18:13 pm »

After various attempts to dissuade him, Aegeus at length consented, but stipulated that if Theseus were successful in his design the tribute ship should, on its return voyage, hoist a white sail in place of the black one which it customarily bore.

In due course Theseus came to Knossos, where, shortly after his arrival, he attracted the attention of Ariadne, the fair-haired daughter of Minos. Youth and love conspired against age and rancour, and the fair damsel arranged to provide the hero with a clue of thread and a sword before he was cast into the Labyrinth. One end of this thread was to be fastened at the entrance and the rest unrolled as he advanced.

Theseus followed his instructions, met the Minotaur in its lair and, after a terrific combat, overcame and slew it, after which he retraced his steps by means of the thread and made his escape from the Labyrinth.

By some means or other he contrived to liberate the other prisoners and to obtain possession of the tribute ship. Then, with the fair Ariadne on board, they set sail for Athens.

They do not appear to have been too eager to reach their destination, however, for the party found time to celebrate their escape with dance and song on the islands en route. It is said that on the island of Delos they performed a peculiar dance called the Geranos, or "Crane Dance," in which they went through the motions of threading the Labyrinth, and that this dance was perpetuated by the natives of that island until fairly recent times.

Theseus seems to have marred his home-coming by two little displays of thoughtlessness that might be considered reprehensible in anybody but a Greek hero. In the first place, he left fair Ariadne behind on the island of Naxos; secondly, he entirely overlooked his father's request concerning the change of sail, with the result that poor old Aegeus, on the look-out for the returning ship,

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Kabrina Teppe
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« Reply #25 on: March 19, 2009, 01:18:28 pm »

saw the black sail in the distance, concluded that his son had failed in his encounter with the Minotaur, threw himself into the sea and was drowned. Hence that sea was called the Aegean, and is so called to this day.

In Fig. 5 we reproduce an early Italian drawing in which the various incidents in the story are seen simultaneously. This picture is one of a remarkable series, attributed to Baccio Baldini and known as the Florentine Picture Chronicle. The collection was for many years the property of John Ruskin, but is now jealously treasured by the British Museum. A contemporary engraving, of the school of Finiguerra, seems to be based on this picture (Fig. 6).

There are many versions of the legend, some of them greatly at variance with others. For instance, Philochorus, an eminent writer on the antiquities of Athens, gives in his "Atthis" a very rationalistic account of the affair, stating that the Labyrinth was nothing but a dungeon where Minos imprisoned the Athenian youths until such time as they were given as prizes to the victors in the sports that were held in honour of his murdered son. He held also that the monster was simply a military officer, whose brutal disposition, in conjunction with his name, Tauros, may have given rise to the Minotaur myth.

The Cretan poet Epimenides, who lived in the sixth century B.C., says that Theseus was aided in his escape from the dark Labyrinth by means of the light radiated by a crown of blazing gems and gold which Bacchus gave to Ariadne.

Aristotle, according to Plutarch, stated in a work which has not come down to us his belief that the Athenian youths were not put to death by Minos but were retained as slaves. Plutarch, moreover, deplores the abuse which Greek tradition had heaped upon the name of Minos, pointing out that Homer and Hesiod had referred to him in very honourable terms, and

p. 21

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Kabrina Teppe
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« Reply #26 on: March 19, 2009, 01:18:37 pm »

that he was reputed to have laid down the principles of justice.

According to the classic faith, he was born of Zeus, the supreme God of the Greeks, and Europa, daughter of man, both marriage and birth taking place in the Dictaean Cave, not far from Knossos. He received the

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« Reply #27 on: March 19, 2009, 01:18:59 pm »



FIG. 6.--Cretan Labyrinth. (Italian Engraving; School of Finiguerra.)

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Kabrina Teppe
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« Reply #28 on: March 19, 2009, 01:19:12 pm »

laws, like another Moses, direct from God, and after administering them during his life on earth continued to do so in the underworld after his death.

The probability is, as Professor Murray has suggested, that Minos was a general name, like "Pharaoh" in Egypt, or "Caesar" in Rome, bestowed upon each of a number of Cretan kings of a certain type. A mark either of the respect in which the name was held or of the colonising power of the monarch or monarchs in

p. 22

question is seen in the application of the name Minoa to several towns and villages scattered along the northern shores of the eastern Mediterranean.

The name Daedalus has likewise been thought by some to have been applied indiscriminately to various artificers and inventors of unusual ingenuity. The principal feats associated with this name are, in addition to the planning of the Labyrinth, the construction of a Choros, or dancing-place, for Ariadne, the modelling of a great hollow cow for Pasiphaë, wife of Minos, in order that she might interview the great white bull for which she had conceived an unnatural affection (the outcome being, in the words of Euripides, "A form commingled, and a monstrous birth, half man, half bull, in twofold shape combined"), and the invention of wings, wherewith Daedalus escaped from the Labyrinth when imprisoned there by Minos for his share in the Pasiphaë episode. Daedalus was also credited with the invention of the auger, the plumb-line and other tools, and of masts and sails for ships.

The Theseus-Minotaur incident has been often celebrated in ancient and mediaeval art, instances of which we shall later have occasion to mention. Modern artists, also, have not disdained the theme; a particularly fine example is the colossal marble group by Canova (1819), now at the Museum of Art History at Vienna, formerly in the Theseus Temple in the Volksgarten.

The question naturally arises: Was there actually such a thing as the Labyrinth, and, if so, where was it and what was its nature?



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Kabrina Teppe
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« Reply #29 on: March 19, 2009, 01:19:30 pm »

p. 23

CHAPTER V
THE CRETAN LABYRINTH (continued)
(ii) The Caverns of Gortyna

ACCORDING to the Romano-Greek writer Apollodorus, 1 whose "Bibliotheke" consisted of a history of the world from the fall of Troy onwards, Daedalus built the Labyrinth at Knossos for King Minos on the lines of the Egyptian Labyrinth, but of only one-hundredth part of the magnitude of the latter. This statement, which was repeated by various other ancient writers such as Pliny and Diodorus, caused many subsequent inquirers to look for evidence in Crete of a building similar to, though smaller than, that described by Herodotus and Strabo.

Nothing corresponding to such a description appeared to exist, but at Gortyna, on the south side of Crete, there was a remarkable series of winding passages, opening on the side of Mount Ida. Some authors of antiquity, such as the Roman poets Catullus and Claudian, held the opinion that this cavern, or one of the many other caves or quarries in Crete, was the real Labyrinth, and this view has been largely entertained in recent times, right up to the beginning of the present century.

The first modern traveller of note to explore the cavern was the French botanist, G. P. de Tournefort,


p. 24

who spent three years, from 1700 to 1702, travelling about Asia Minor and the Levant.

Tournefort's book, as well as being a mine of information on various subjects, makes delightful reading, whether in the original French or in John Ozell's English translation of 1718, from which we quote.

"This famous place," he says, referring to the Labyrinth, which he visited on July 1, 1700, "is a subterranean Passage in manner of a Street, which by a thousand Intricacies and Windings, as it were by mere Chance, and without the least Regularity, pervades the whole Cavity or Inside of a little Hill at the foot of Mount Ida, southwards, three miles from Gortyna. The Entrance into this Labyrinth is by a natural Opening, seven or eight Paces broad, but so low that even a middle-siz’d Man can't pass through without stooping.

"The Flooring of this Entrance is very rugged and unequal; the Ceiling flat and even, terminated by divers Beds of Stone, laid horizontally one upon another.

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