In Greek mythology, the labyrinth is the place where the Minotaur is hidden and imprisoned. It is therefore not necessarily a real place.
The labyrinth, as we know it today, is highly inappropriate. Because it has an entrance, a clear path and an accessible center.
Thus, on the silver coins from Knossos we also find very different interpretations of the labyrinth. There are meanders and other symbolic representations.
I want to pick out a motif today and take a closer look at it.
I found two examples with the same motif. One on a coin from the Coin Cabinet of Berlin:
Minotaur 420-380 BC: Coin Cabinet of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, object 18218282 obverse
Labyrinth 420-380 BC: Coin Cabinet of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, object 18218282 reverse
And one on a coin from the British Museum in London:
Square area meander 500-431 BC / source: Hermann Kern, Labyrinthe (German edition), 1982, fig. 43
They both represent the same thing. Although the “Berlin” coin seems to be more exact, it contains small errors in two places in the upper area. Two vertical lines collide, where a gap should actually be. This area is more accurately represented on the “London” coin, although the lines there are harder to see.
I made a “final drawing” that shows what the coin maker wanted to show. You can see lines that follow a certain pattern. They are symmetrical, repeating themselves and showing an intricate “path system”. The drawn red thread shows that.
There are four nested paths without beginning and end, but also without entrance. This is not “our” labyrinth but better suited as a prison. The Minotaur would not come out that fast.
The revised area meander
This could be a hint of the Roman sector labyrinth hundreds of years later.
But it also shows a certain relationship to the Babylonian labyrinth, hundreds of years older and developed in a different culture (see the labyrinthine finger exercises in the post about the Babylonian labyrinth).
is the (translated) title of a book by Dr. Ernst Krause from the year 1893.
And because the complete title contains (nearly) the complete book, here the title page is shown:
Attention: This is all in German and the characters are old German too.
The title of the book
The book says essentially that all the legends concerning the Troy Towns are of Nordic origin. The original labyrinths are the Troy Towns, above all the oldest that can be walked. There are still about 300 of this old Troy Towns in Scandinavia. For me the homeland of the labyrinth is there.
If one speaks from the labyrinth, most are thinking at first of the maze with its complicated, devoured, unclear ways, which leads only, if at all, after many running and erring, into the center.
For “advanced learners” it is clear that in a labyrinth there is only one and a clear way to the center. And that this way inside is also the way outside.
Many others connect the labyrinth with the Greek mythology, where is spoken of King Minos, the hero Theseus, the king’s daughter Ariadne, the monster Minotaur, the architect Daedalus and their acts.
Ernst Krause tried to prove that the whole labyrinth idea is to be settled rather in the Nordic culture. His ideas are sometimes difficult to understand, above all if one is not so familiar with the many aforementioned shapes and events.
Thus we know in the long run still too few about the origin and the meaning of the labyrinth.
His theory, how the labyrinth could have developed from the circle figure, is today no longer recognized.
He was very pleased, when during or after the writing of his book the famous jug of Tragliatella was found, which underlines his ideas. Thus he wrote directly still another supplement to his book, which is attached as appendix in my second-hand acquired exemplar.
What remains after all that?
- That it is probably not so important to know exactly where the labyrinth comes from, who invented it, or whether it was independently developed at different places. We can see the labyrinth however in larger and further connections, than so far assumed.
- That the labyrinth can be still fascinating and it depends on us what we make out of it.