Myth Man's Greek Mythology Today



Daedalus and Icarus
(c) Encyclopedia Britannica

Daedalus and Icarus
by AmethystMoonSong

continued from page one

To escape, Daedalus built wings for himself and Icarus, fashioned with feathers held together with wax. Daedalus tried the wings on himself first and was satisfied that his plan would work.

Before taking off from the island, Daedalus warned his son to follow closely behind him. He sternly cautioned Icarus not to fly too close to the sun, as it would melt his wings, and not too close to the sea, as it would dampen them and make it hard to fly.

They successfully flew from Crete, but Icarus grew exhilarated by the thrill of flying and began getting careless. The father and son passed the islands of Samos, Delos and Lebynthos, and the further away from Crete they flew, the more cocky became Icarus.

Forgetting his father's stern advice, Icarus flew too close to the sun god Helios, pulling the sun behind his chariot high in the sky.

The wax holding together his wings softened and melted from the heat and, try as he might, Icarus could not prevent the feathers from falling off his body. Furiously he flapped his arms, but soon no feathers at all were left and he fell to his death, drowning in the sea, as his helpless father with anguish watched his son perish.

His father cried, bitterly lamenting his own arts, and called the land near the place where Icarus fell into the ocean Icaria in memory of his child. The Icarian Sea, where he fell, was forever named after him and it is said that the great hero Heracles (Hercules), who was passing by, gave him proper burial.

Daedalus grieved for his dead son and then continued to Sicily, where he came to stay at the court of Cocalus in a place called Camicus. On the island's south coast Daedalus built a temple to Apollo, and hung up his wings, as an offering to the Olympian god.

But vengeful King Minos wasn't quite done -- he then went in pursuit of Daedalus, hoping to locate and trick the great inventor into revealing himself.

At each city he visited, Minos offered a reward to whomever could thread a spiral seashell, a seemingly impossible task. Eventually, Minos came to Camicus in Sicily and presented the contest at Cocalus' court.

Cocalus knew of Daedalus' talents, and gave the shell to him. The clever Daedalus tied the string to an ant, place the ant at one end of the shell, and allowed the ant to walk through the spiral chambers until it came out the other end.

When Minos saw that someone had solved the puzzle, he demanded that Cocalus surrender Daedalus, for he insisted that only he would have been inventive enough to solve the task. King Cocalus promised to do so, but he persuaded Minos to first take a bath and stay for some entertainment.

Minos agreed, and was consequently murdered by Cocalus' daughters, who had been totally impressed by the toys and gifts which Daedalus had bestowed upon them and did not want any harm to come to him.

In some versions of the myth, Daedalus himself poured boiling water on Minos and killed him.

Daedalus eventually left Camicus, much to the dismay of king Cocalus and his daughters, and ended up in Sardinia with a group led by Iolaus, who was a nephew of Heracles.

This tragic theme of failed ambition, complacency and hubris contains similarities to that of Phaëthon, the son of sun god Helios, who wildly and recklessly flew his father's sun chariot and was killed for his foolishness.

(Myth Man's note: in some versions of the myth it is suggested that Icarus drowned as he and his father attempted to swim to freedom, or that they built a boat and sailed away, only to have it capsize, leading to the death of Icarus. I prefer the "escape by air" version. Don't you wish that Icarus had listened to his father?)


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