Myth Man's Greek Mythology Today



Daedalus and Icarus
by Pyotr Ivanovich Sokolov

Daedalus and Icarus
by Laurent Pecheux

The Minotaur


Daedalus -- his name means "skilled worker" -- was a famous architect, inventor, and master craftsman known for having created many objects that figure prominently in various myths. He had a beloved son named Icarus.

Among the many inventions and creations crafted by Daedalus were the wooden cow he constructed for the queen Pasiphae, the Labyrinth of the Minotaur at Knossos on the island of Crete, artificial wings for himself and his son Icarus, and he was even said to have invented images.

The infamous Labyrinth was so cunningly crafted that Daedalus himself could barely find his way out after constructing it. With countless winding passages and turns that opened into one another, the Labyrinth appeared to have neither beginning nor end. Daedalus built the maze to imprison the Minotaur, half man - half bull.

His homeland was Athens but his parentage is uncertain. Alcippe, Merope and Iphinoe are all mentioned at different times as being his mother. His father's identity was never precisely established but many claim that it was Metion, son of Erectheus.

For a short time, his apprentice was his sister's son Perdix. But Daedalus was so proud of his achievements that he could not bear the idea of a rival. His sister had placed her son Perdix under his charge to be taught the mechanical arts.

Perdix was an apt scholar and showed striking evidence of ingenuity. Walking on the seashore, he picked up the spine of a fish. According to Ovid, imitating it, he took a piece of iron and notched it on the edge, and thus invented the saw.

Perdix also put two pieces of iron together, connecting them at one end with a rivet, and sharpening the other ends, and made a pair of compasses.

Daedalus was so envious of his nephew's accomplishments that he seized an opportunity to toss him from the hill of the Acropolis. As he was plunging to his death, however, the goddess Athena turned Perdix into a partridge to save him.

Other sources claim instead that his apprentice was his nephew Talos. They say that it was Talos, at the age of twelve, who displayed a skill that nearly rivaled his mentor's. Daedalus, fearing that the boy would surpass him in talent, murdered the boy by tossing him from the Acropolis of Athens.

He was then tried at the Areiopagus, which was the ancient Greek court, and banished from his home city of Athens. He fled to the island of Crete, where he began to work at the court of King Minos and Queen Pasiphae, in the magnificent palace of Knossos.

It is said that Daedalus was the first to conceive masts and sails for ships for the navy of Minos, helping Crete become a naval power. The statues he carved were so exquisite, they looked as if they were alive. It is said that they would have escaped were it not for the chain that bound them to the palace wall.

Daedelus also constructed a wooden cow for the queen to hide in to satisfy her amorous longings for a white bull sent by Poseidon, and by which she became pregnant with the Minotaur. Long story.

When the dreadful Minotaur was born, Daedalus built the Labyrinth to contain the monstrous half-man, half-bull. For years Minos demanded a tribute of youths from Athens to feed the creature as punishment for the accidental killing of his son while he was visiting Athens.

Eventually, the Athenian hero Theseus came to Crete to attempt to slay the Minotaur. Princess Ariadne, daughter of king Minos and queen Pasiphae, fell in love with Theseus and asked Daedalus to help him.

Daedalus gave her a flaxen thread for Theseus to tie to the door of the Labyrinth as he entered, and by which he could find his way out after killing the monster, simply by following the thread back. Theseus succeeded, and escaped Crete with Ariadne.

Minos, enraged at the loss of his daughter, not to mention the killing of his pet Minotaur, shut Daedalus and his son Icarus into the Labyrinth, knowing that Theseus could not have accomplished the deed without inside help.

Daedalus managed to get out of the Labyrinth - after all, he had built it and knew his way around. Daedalus decided that he and his son Icarus had to leave Crete and get away from Minos, before he brought them harm.

However, Minos controlled the sea around Crete:  the king kept strict watch on all vessels, permitting none to sail without being carefully searched by his soldiers.

Since Minos controlled the land and sea routes,  and there was no route of escape there. Daedalus realized that the only way out was by air.  But only the gods could fly!

Icarus and Daedaluss continues on page two!


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