Minos is a character partly mythological and partly historical.
Can these two things work together?
He has been handed down by historians as a just and wise king of Crete. For this reason, after his death, he became one of the judges of the underworld.
On the other hand, according to classical mythology, he is the son of the gods Zeus and Europe, and is described as tyrannical and cruel. For example, it is said that to avenge the death of his son at the hands of Athenians, he demanded from them the sacrifice of 7 boys and 7 girls.
Minos is therefore a historical character about whom many ancient witnesses speak, but whose figure was revised from the legend and therefore become symbolic.
He is known to us historically as a priest and legislator that was so wise that his laws were said to have been inspired by Zeus himself.
Homer had already placed Minos as the judge of souls in Hades, but the most famous description is found in Dante‘s Divine Comedy.
Dante was inspired by the poet Virgil in creating his version of Minos.
In the Divine Comedy Minos is located in Hell at the entrance of the second circle because the souls in Limbo, situated in the first circle, have no sins to confess and are not judged.
Dante places him in the fifth canto of the Inferno, and he gives him the appearance of a beast that growls.
In Dante’s vision, Minos is appointed the task of listening to the sins of souls, who reveal everything to the demon. Upon learning their sins, Minos indicates to them their destination in hell by wrapping his serpent tail around his body as many times as the appropriate circle.
A famous representation of Minos that manages to convey the horror of Dante’s description is that of Michelangelo’s Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel.
The figure of Minos is emblematic of a process very common and often present in the Divine Comedy: some characters of classical mythology are transformed into demons once assimilated by Christian culture. This was very common in medieval tradition, as it was in the works of Dante.
Pictures by Wikipedia