The Minotaur, a monster with a bull's head and a human body, was the son of the Cretan queen Pasiphae and a beautiful white bull, for which she developed an irresistible passion. The monstrous Minotaur was imprisoned in a labyrinth, where he devoured human sacrifices. On this East Greek plastic aryballos, however, the Minotaur wears a tunic and necklace and looks quite docile.
Plastic vases, vessels made in the form of a human, animal, or mythological being, were popular in the Greek world from about 650 to 550 B.C. Rhodes, off the coast of Asia Minor, was a leading production center, but the vases were widely distributed and imitated by other cities. The Greeks used the vases to hold perfumed oil, and the vessels' narrow openings were designed to restrict the flow of this precious commodity.