The Role of the Bull in Minoan-Mycenaean Religion and Its Survival into Greek Religion
thesisposted on 31.05.2012, 10:43 by William Geoffrey Gregg
In surveying the role of the bull in Minoan-Mycenaean religion greater emphasis has been laid on the Minoan side since it is easier to trace the development of the religion of an insular, uninterrupted culture; whereas in Mainland Greece it is difficult to determine whether religious beliefs are indigenous or introduced by the Minoans or invading Mycenaeans. Since we are reliant upon evidence from archaeology and Greek mythology for our knowledge of the bull in Minoan Crete, a study is made of the contact the island had with the other areas of the Eastern Mediterranean, in which the bull is known to have played a major part in religion, with a view to determining at which periods of time those countries were most likely to have influenced Minoan cults. In the four major areas concerned, Anatolia, Mesopotamia, Syria and Palestine, and Egypt the role of the bull is examined for comparative purposes, to establish what type of influences they may have exerted on Crete, and to determine the usual type of role the animal played in religion as a whole. From this survey it appears that the bull's main characteristics are its strength and fertility. Through the latter the bull became the symbol of male potency, and symbolised the fertilising power of water in the form of both rain and rivers; through the former quality it symbolised protection; while both qualities helped to make it represent the sun. In the light of this and with the help of archaeological and mythological sources, the role of the bull in Minoan-Mycenaean religion is considered under these various categories, and an examination is made of the survival of these cults into the Hellenic Period. An attempt is also made to explain the feasibility and purpose of the Minoan bull-leaping, and possible survivals of it in Greek bull sports.