Discuss the purpose of Bull-leaping in Minoan Crete
Bull-leaping in Minoan Crete was a highly prestigious sport carried out by the elite athletes. It is also the common view that bull-leaping was an overtly religious rite of passage for youths in connection with bull worship, and not an act of human sacrifice as it can sometimes be mistaken for.
Bull-leaping was not an act of human sacrifice, though it was dangerous. The widespread belief is that the Toreador Fresco (figure 1) in Knossos depicts bull-leaping as a ritual sport as the bull was the focus of worship and reverence in Minoan Crete. “Bull leaping had its main purpose to show the superior ability of human males as compared to the bull.” (Marinatos 1993, p.260) “The bull was regarded as a theriomorphic transformation of Poteidan, the most powerful male deity in the Minoan pantheon” (Castleden 1990, p.130) and it would be highly prestigious to be able to show power over it. “Bull leaping can more probably be described as an athletic event and not merely entertaining acrobatics since it is represented together with scenes of other competitive athletics…” (Raney and Bryant 2006, p.7) It is quite likely that the bull-leapers were elite athletes; “they [wore] elaborate jewellery and hairstyles, and this is true both of the acrobats and of the hunters. Moreover, bull-leaping is only depicted in elite art; we find evidence of it in palace frescoes, gold cups, signet rings, clay sealing’s, and well-executed bronze and ivory statues, not in crude, widely available art. The activity of bull-leaping served to validate the power of the Minoan elite, most especially at Knossos.”
It is also argued that bull-leaping was used as a rite of passage for Minoan youths. “Probably the rite was an ordeal, one of many rites of passage that young Minoans, girls as well as boys, had to undergo in order to achieve higher status.” (Castleden 1993, p.170) Bull-leaping as a sport would require immense strength, which would make it...