The origins of the legendary Greek mythical creature, the Minotaur, weave a disturbing tale of a tumultuous union tainted by divine malevolence and mortal arrogance. It all began when King Minos of Crete, vying for power with his brothers, asked Poseidon, the god of the seas, for a snow-white bull to sacrifice in his name. After receiving the bull of indescribable beauty, King Minos changed his mind and kept the animal for himself, invoking Poseidon’s wrath. In his vengeful fury, the tempestuous sea god made Minos’ wife, Pasiphaë, fall madly in love with the bull. Overwhelmed by her perverse lust, Pasiphaë sought the help of the brilliant inventor, Daedalus, and ordered him to fashion a hollow wooden cow, into which she climbed and passionately mated with the animal. This unholy act gave birth to the bizarre half-man, half-bull monstrosity – the Minotaur.
Pasiphaë nursed her ominous offspring, hoping it would grow into a demigod, but the creature quickly became insatiable and ferocious. King Minos, still angry with his unfaithful wife, had Daedalus construct a vast, maze-like architectural marvel – the Labyrinth – next to the palace in Knossos as the Minotaur’s eternal prison. To keep the ravenous monster fed, the king devised a sinister scheme to guarantee both his kingdom’s safety and his pride – every seven years, 7 strong young men and 7 virgin maidens had to be sent from Athens as sacrifices, condemned to wander the twisting Labyrinth until they were finally devoured by the Minotaur.
King Minos’ daughter, the beautiful Ariadne, was heartbroken by suffering inflicted upon her own people. Her hopes of breaking the cycle of despair were heard by Theseus, a brave Athenian hero who vowed to liberate his city from this macabre tribute. Inspired by each other’s resistance, Ariadne and Theseus quickly fell in love and devised a plan to kill the monster of the maze. Ariadne would stand at the entrance to the Labyrinth holding a ball of red thread, while Theseus would venture into the labyrinthine depths with the thread as his guide. Through a harrowing display of courage and cunning, Theseus succeeded and plunged his valorous blade into the Minotaur’s heart. The death of the monster meant that the ancient curse was lifted, allowing both the Athenians and the ill-fated lineage of Minos to live in peace.
Once a symbol of terror, the story of the Minotaur is a powerful allegory of divine punishment, human frailty, and the all-powerful potential of love. It is now immortalised in a limited-edition collectible silver coin, the ‘Minotaur’. The reverse of the piece features a high relief of the abominable monster who stalks the courageous lovers, Ariadne and Theseus, in a vast Labyrinth. The partial crimson surface coating represents both the blood of all the sacrificed victims of the Minotaur and the red thread of Ariadne.
The obverse is divided into four sections depicting all the coins in the ‘Mythical Creatures’ series: the ‘Minotaur’, the ‘Sirens’, the ‘Nest of the Harpies’, and the ‘Sea Monster Kraken’. There is the public seal of Niue in the centre. Below, two katoua cleaving clubs – the symbol of Niue – are crossed, and the island’s motto, ‘atua Niue tukulagi’, is written above them.