The sun and the moon were worshipped in many places on Crete. This was the reason why a large variety of mythical characters were created such as Minos and Pasiphae, Zeus and Europa, Talos, Daedalus, the Minotaur, the Labyrinth, Ariadne and Diktynna or Vritomartes. Furthermore, the domination and power of the Minoan people, who had expanded on the Cycladic islands as well as on the East Mediterranean shores, helped to create myths such as that of Radamanthys, of Sarpedona, of Deukalion, of Idomenea, of Miletos and of other descendants of Minos.
There are two main areas in the prefecture of Rethymno, which are closely connected with Cretan mythology: The Ideon Antron on Psiloritis and the Talaea Mountains, which today are called Mount Kouloukounas and are situated in the north-eastern part of the prefecture.
In the sacred cave on the Ida Mountain, which was predestined to become the most important centre of worship of the ancient world, Zeus, the most powerful of the gods, was born and raised. According to the myth, Kronos, the king of the heavens and father of Zeus, swallowed his children out of fear that one of them might become stronger than him and deprive him of his power. His wife Rea was inconsolable about her husband's behaviour, since he had already swallowed five of their children. Therefore she decided to fool him in order to save the life of her last child Zeus. Thus, after having given birth, she wrapped up a stone in swaddling clothes and gave it to her husband, who, believing it was a child, swallowed it.
Thereupon she hid the child in a cave on Mount Ida, where the legendary Cretan demons, the Kourites danced and struck their bronze shields so that Kronos could not hear the child's crying.
While the goat Amalthia nourished the child, a golden dog watched the cave. When Zeus had grown up and was ready to become king, he defeated his father Kronos and forced him to release the other five children from his bowels.
The Kourites depicted on a shield from Ideon Andron
The name of the Talaea Mountains refers to the giant Talos, who played an important role in Cretan mythology. Talos was the guardian of the island of Crete. He circumnavigated it three times a day in order to protect it from intruders. This giant, who was made of bronze and had a unique vein running from his neck to his heel, was invention of Hephaestus. Talos was unarmed, however he was able to hurl enormous rocks at hostile vessels when they approached Crete, while at the same time his bronze body glowed so that everything he touched was destroyed by fire. He was also responsible for the laws being obeyed in the country. During his walks through the island he was holding the plaques in his hands, on which the laws were written.
This mythical giant would never have died, if it had not been for the Argonauts who passed the island on the vessel "Argo" and Medea, the witch, who helped them escape Talos' destructive blow. She kept him immobile so that she could approach him and take away the small bronze pin at his heel, which sealed the unique vein of his body. Thus the "blood of the gods" ran from his body and the hero collapsed.
Talos, the legendary hero of Crete depicted on a red - coloured urn.