Cretan Mythology

Talos

Talos
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Talos was the mythical guardian of Crete. He was an anthropomorphic giant automoton with copper body. He is regarded as the first robot in ancient mythology. Talos was the vigilant guardian of Crete, circling the island's shores three times daily, in order to protect it from enemies.

According to one version, the God of Fire and Iron, Hephaestus (or Daedalus) created Talos and gave that to King Minos so as to guard Crete. Another legend says Talos was the gift of Zeus to Europa. Europa, from her side, gave this present to her son Minos. Also, some historians believe that “talos” means sun in Crete and that Talos was a solar god (possibly Talean Zeus) who later was turned into a hero.

Talos, perhaps wearing feathers, made a tour of the island three times a day to protect it from its enemies. When he saw unknown ships, he threw huge rocks against them. When he had to encounter someone in the coast, he burnt them with his burning breath or by hugging them with his burning body. Plato also says that he had a duty to supervise the application of laws, carrying a copper plate with him.

Talos had one vein, which went from his neck to his ankle, bound shut by only one bronze nail. Instead of blood, the vein was full with molten metal, called ichor. The Argo, transporting Jason and the Argonauts, approached Crete after obtaining the Golden Fleece. As guardian of the island, Talos kept the Argoat bay by hurling great boulders at it. According to Apollodorus, Talos was slain either when Medea the sorceress drove him mad with drugs, or deceived him into believing that she would make him immortal by removing the nail. He then dislodged the nail, and “the ichor ran out of him like molten lead", exsanguinating and killing him. Another weaker version says that he was killed by the father of Philoctetes, Poios, by hitting his weak point with arrows.

The bronze robot probably symbolized the major technological development of the Minoan metallurgy, since the Minoans were able to build themselves a copper superhero. Secondly, Talos was fair and supervised the application of laws, which shows the importance given by the Minoans to justice.

 

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