"There standeth Minos horribly, and snarls"

Public DomainMinos - Credit: Gustave Doré

(Canto 5, line 4)

In Greek mythology, Minos was a king of the island of Crete, the son of Zeus and Europa. He is associated with justice and severity, and mentioned as early as in the works of Homer as the king of the underworld, judge of deceased souls. In Virgil's Aeneid, Minos likewise appears as an underworld judge ("Minos, the strict inquisitor, appears; And lives and crimes, with his assessors, hears. Round in his urn the blended balls he rolls, Absolves the just, and dooms the guilty souls."); Dante follows Virgil here, but adds to the description by making his Minos into a terrible, long-tailed monster.