Talos The Giant Bronze Man Of Crete

Tálos (Greek Τάλως; Latin Talus) or Tálon (Greek Τάλων), in the Cretan tales incorporated into Greek mythology, was a giant man of bronze who protected Europa in Crete, circling the island's shores three times daily while guarding it. The ideas of Talos vary widely, with one consistent detail: in Greek imagery outside Crete, Talos is always being vanquished: he seems to have been an enigmatic figure to the Greeks themselves. Originally, Talos was a figure of Cretan legend, though there are many diverse myths to account for his origins. After Zeus kidnapped Europa and took her to Crete, he gave her three presents to demonstrate his love, one of which was the giant bronze automaton Talos. In another version of the tale, the giant was forged by Hephaestus and the Cyclopes and given to Minos, king of Crete. According to yet another myth, Talos was the son of Cris and father of Phaestos, or he was Minos’s brother. Others have said that he was in fact a bull, probably identical to the Cretan Minotaur in the Labyrinth.

According to the ancient writer Apollodorus of Rhodes’s Argonautica he may have been the last of a generation of men of bronze, originally sprung from the ash trees and who survived to the age of the demigods. Talos, or Talus, in the ancient Cretan dialect means “sun”, and in Crete the god Zeus was also given the same name, Zeus Tallaios. Talos was the guardian of the island of Crete, and made a circuit of the island’s coast three times daily, to prevent an enemy invasion, and also to stop the inhabitants from leaving without Minos’s permission. He also travelled thrice yearly to the village of Crete, carrying with him bronze tablets on which were described Minos’s sacred laws, and was responsible for these laws being obeyed in the country.

Talos was said to hurl enormous boulders and other debris at approaching enemy vessels so that they would not land on the island. If the enemy got through this initial bombardment, the bronze giant would leap into a fire until he glow red-hot, and would then clasp the strangers in his burning embrace as they landed in the island. It was also said that Talos was once in the possession of the Sardinians, and that when they refused to hand over the brazen man to Minos, Talos leapt into a fire, clasping them to his breast and killing them with their mouths open. From this incident, apparently comes the expression “sardonic laugh”, which is applied to those who laugh at their own or other’s troubles.

Jason and the Argonauts encountered Talos as they approached Crete on their way home from obtaining the Golden Fleece. The giant kept their boat, the Argo, at bay by hurling great boulders towards it, which he had broken off from the cliffs. Medea, the witch accompanying Jason, helped them escape Talos’s destructive blows by using her magic. It is recorded that Talos had a single red vein covered by a thin skin running from his neck to his heel, bound shut by a bronze nail. This nail sealed in the divine ichor (an oily substance often referred to as the blood of the gods), which enabled his metal limbs to move. This was the one vulnerable spot on his body.

In the Argonautica, Medea bewitched the giant with a hostile gaze and invoke Keres (spirits of death) with songs and prayers. As Talos was attempting to hurl boulders to repel these wailing spirits, he accidentally grazed his ankle on a sharp stone at a spot where his vulnerable vein lay concealed. He collapsed to the ground with a great crash, causing the divine ichor to gush out like molten lead. In another version, Medea enchanted the bronze man and deceived him into thinking that she would give him a secret potion to make him immortal if he would let her stop on the island. Talos agreed and drank the potion, which immediately put him to sleep. Medea went to him in his sleep and pulled the plug from his ankle, whereupon he died.

Winged Talos armed with a stone. Silver Coin from Phaistos, Crete (ca. 300/280-270 B.C.)

Others believed that the Argonaut Poeas (father of Philoctetes, who was to fight in the Trojan War) pierced the giant’s vein with an arrow. After Talos’s death, the Argo was able to land safely on Crete. Coins depicting Talos, dating from the fourth to the third centuries B.C. have been found in the Cretan city of Phaistos. A late fifth-century A.D. red-figure krater (vase) shows the Dioskouroi (hero-gods Castor and Polydeukes) catching the dying Talos, as Medea, in Oriental dress, stands at the side in front of the Argo, holding an embroidered sack (presumably containing her magic potions and drugs).

There are various ways to interpret the myth of the giant bronze man of Crete. The story certainly has overtones of the very similar fate of Achilles during the Trojan War, and perhaps they had the same source. A political interpretation would suggest that Talos represented the Minoan fleet armed with metal weapons. When the mainland Greeks from the Argo defeated Talos, the power of Crete vanished and the control of the Greek world was transferred to the mainland. Or perhaps the harbors of Crete were infested with pirates and Talos represented the Minoan guard against pirates in the form of three watches which sent out patrols.

The poet Robert Graves has suggested that Talos’s single vein belongs to the mystery of early bronze casting by the “cire-perdue” (lost wax) method, which involves the sculptor producing a model in clay that is then coated with wax. This model is then covered with a perforated clay mold. When heated, the mold will lose the wax (hence the name of the method) as it runs out of the holes in the plaster. The metal in liquid form is then poured into the space formerly occupied by the wax.

A religious/ritual interpretation has been suggested by the discovery of Minoan seal stones dating from 1500 B.C., showing a goddess or priestess paddling a boat to seaside shrines, indicating a similar divine circumnavigation of the island to that of the bronze giant. As Talos is the Cretan word for the sun, Robert Graves has suggested that he would, as the sun, have circled Crete originally only once a day. And because Talos, a bronze image of the sun, was also called Taurus (a bull) and the Cretan year was divided into three seasons, his thrice-yearly visit to the villages could have been a royal progress of the Sun King, wearing his ritual bull mask. Another theory is that Talos represents the first fully operational robot in history.

It has been calculated that if Talos could circuit Crete three times a day, it would mean that he had an average speed of 155 miles per hour. Proponents of this view point out that when the giant was wounded in the ankle, what poured out seems similar to molten lead. In general, the Greeks were fascinated with automata of all kinds, often using them in theatre productions and religious ceremonies. There is some history of ancient robotics, albeit in primitive form.

In 350 B.C. the brilliant Greek mathematician Archytas built a mechanical bird, dubbed The Pigeon, that was propelled by steam. It was one of histories earliest studies of flight, as well as possibly the first model airplane. In 322 B.C. the Greek philosopher Aristotle, perhaps foreseeing the development of robots, wrote “If every tool, when ordered, or even of its own accord, could do the work that befits it…then there would be no need either of apprentices for the master workers or of slaves for the lords. “In the late third century B.C. the Greek inventor and physicist Ctesibius of Alexandria designed water clocks with movable figures on them, which kept more accurate time than any clock invented until the 17th century.

Even though Talos was probably a figure of myth, the giant bronze man of Crete was perhaps the prototype of all modern robots.

(Sources : Hidden History by Brian Haughton; and Wikipedia)
(Pics sources :


  1. what a great stories about talos...his name strong enough like his tale ^^

  2. You gave us an interesting and educational topics. Keep it up...

    Thanks for your visit..

  3. (RiP666) Yeah, this guy is great :D

    (burn) Thanks. All credits will be given to my sources. Without them i can't share this informations. Happy day to u :D


Powered by Blogger.