Minotaur was a creature in Greek mythology who was born from an unnatural passion that the Queen of Crete, Pasiphae, had for a white bull which Poseidon (Neptune) brought out of the sea. The bull was supposed to be sacrificed by King Meninos to the God of the sea but was so stunning that he decided to keep it and instead sacrificed a lesser bull. As punishment Aphrodite caused the King's wife, Pasiphae, to fall madly in love with the white bull which resulted in the birth of the monstrous creature known as Minotaur. This half man and half bull was raised as a human child but became more ferocious as it grew older, requiring human flesh for sustenance. In order to house the monster (and his shame), King Minos turned to his architect Daedalus who constructed a massive labyrinth near the palace in Knossos. Here Minotaur resided and awaited a yearly tribute of seven young men and seven maidens who were drawn by lot for the sacrifice.
Minotaur was slain when Theseus was chosen to be sacrificed to the monster. Ariadne, daughter of King Minos, had fallen in love with Theseus and helped him navigate the labyrinth with a ball of thread. Theseus slew Minotaur with the sword of his father, Aegeus, and rescued the other youths, leading them out of the labyrinth.
Though the ruins of King Minos' palace at Knossos have been discovered by archaeologists, there is no evidence that the labyrinth ever existed except in mythology. However, it has been suggested that the myth evolved from the actual practice of human sacrifice, which maybe have existed in Crete when it was the main political power of the region. Historians believe that the sacrificial ceremony would have been performed by priests who wore a bull head or mask.
There have been many interpretations of the physical appearance of Minotaur throughout history, the most common being with the body of a man and the head of a bull. During the middle ages, up until the Renaissance, Minotaur was depicted in a similar manner to the centaur; that is, with the head of a man and the body of a bull. In most artworks, Minotaur is shown either alone in his labyrinth or engaged in the struggle with Theseus. The Roman poet Ovid famously wrote "semibovemque virum, semivirumque bovum" – "the man half bull, the bull half man". In modern times the term 'minotaur' has come to mean any fictional creature which resembles the monster from Greek myth, rather than the actual Minotaur himself, popular in the 20th-century fantasy genre fiction and RPG. In Crete, Minotaur was known as Asterion, "the starry one," which suggests he was associated with the constellation of Taurus.