Sarcophagus Showing Sacrifice of Minos to Poseidon (160-180 A.D.)
Fragment of side of sarcophagus showing the sacrifice of Minos to Poseidon Italian marble 78 x 80 cm Inv. no. LXI Part of the original Borghese Collection, this relief forms the right side of the only surviving sarcophagus depicting the myth of Daedalus and Pasiphaé — represented on the front — now in Paris to gether with the left side showing three of the legitimate children of Minos, king of Crete, and his wife Pasiphaé. The relief recounts Minos’s sacrifice to Poseidon as a prologue to the drama shown on the front: having fallen in love with the bull sent by Poseidon, Pasiphaé asks Daedalus to make a wooden cow; he constructs it; finally, he presents it to the queen, who prepares to enter it so that the monstrous coupling with the bull can take place. Here the king of Crete is approaching a temple of Poseidon, indicated by a Triton in the tympanum, with fruit bore in a basket by an acolyte. This is a fatal mistake by Minos, who has replaced the prodigious bull — sent by the god to the island in order to be sacrificed to him — with a bloodless offering. Retribution is presaged by the statue of Eros placed at the entrance to the building; in his right hand the winged child holds the palm of victory over the proud sovereign because the passion for the bull induced in Pasiphaé will lead to the birth of the Minotaur.