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Fly Between the Extremes: Daedalus and Icarus’ Myth

    Fly Between the Extremes Daedalus and Icarus' Myth

    The first successful airplane was created by the Wright brothers in 1903. As humans had only recently discovered flight, nothing will ever be the same. This was significant. Flying had long been a source of human obsession. There were legends and tales of people flying in the skies even before Leonardo da Vinci created his intricate paintings of birds and flying devices. One of these tales was the narrative of Daedalus and Icarus from ancient Greece, which the Roman poet Ovid notably chronicled in his Metamorphoses. In order to escape from Crete, where King Minos had captured him and his son Icarus, mythical inventor Daedalus invented wings out of feathers and wax. Yet Icarus disregarded his father’s advice and flew dangerously near the sun. He lost his wings and plummeted into the water, where he drowned.

    The myth of Daedalus and Icarus

    Long before Icarus was even born, Daedalus and his relationship with Icarus began. According to myth, Daedalus was a master sculptor. Socrates alludes to a myth that claims Daedalus’ sculptures had to be tied down or they would flee in one of Plato’s conversations. The artwork of Daedalus was so lifelike that it ultimately came to life. It is no accident that he was credited with creating numerous antique wooden cult statues found in various Greek temples. The travel writer Pausanias visited many of these sculptures thought to be the work of the fabled sculptor and observed that they seemed to embody the divine.

    Daedalus, however, was more than just a talented artist. He was an innovator as well. The most significant invention attributed to him by the ancients was carpentry. Daedalus may be thought of as the mythical version of a Renaissance guy.

    Daedalus In Athens

    Daedalus did have a sinister side, though. Although the inventor was the best of his time, there was a brief period when he had to contend with formidable opposition. Daedalus was born in Athens, according to Ovid (Metamorphoses VIII.236-259; other accounts indicate he was Crete), and because to his talent and intelligence, he rose quickly to the status of a respected citizen. His sister thought Talos, who is also known as Calos or Perdix in other sources, would benefit enormously from attending school in Athens close to his uncle. She was in the dark.

    Talos was taken by Daedalus, who taught him everything he knew. The young man was very clever for his age. He immediately absorbed all the information and started using it in his daily life. Daedalus instantly understood that the youngster was more than just intelligent. It knew more than he did. Talos would absolutely eclipse Daedalus if he carried on in this manner. He then flung Talos from the Acropolis’ edge. Talos was transformed into a bird and given the name Perdix by the goddess Athena in order to be saved. However, Daedalus was put on trial for this crime and exiled from Athens.

    Daedalus In Crete

    Daedalus sought sanctuary in the court of King Minos, the legendary monarch of Crete, after being expelled from Athens. With a powerful navy that was unmatched, Minos commanded the seas. Daedalus helped him become unstoppable once he was in his court.

    Daedalus had a fresh start while he was a guest in the court of Minos. He had his own son there through a slave named Naukrate. Icarus was the name of the boy. Icarus’ early years and his relationship with his father are completely unknown.

    Pasiphae, the Minotaur & the Labyrinth

    Daedalus might have been able to live happily in Crete. But, he was unexpectedly summoned to help Pasiphae, Minos’ wife, one day. Pasiphae desired to carry out the most heinous deed imaginable: mating with an animal, specifically a bull. It had started when Minos begged Poseidon to send him a handsome bull as a proof of the god’s favor. The king pledged to return the animal by offering it as a sacrifice. The wish of Minos was granted, and a stunning bull emerged from the water.

    Although Minos was pleased to see that Poseidon liked him, he was not keen about offering the animal as a sacrifice. He made the choice to keep the bull and offer up another in its place. Unlike Minos, Poseidon had kept his end of the bargain. Retribution was coming, and it overcame Pasiphae in the shape of a divine mania. Minos’ wife experienced an urge to mate with the bull that Poseidon had sent that she was unable to control. She enlisted Daedalus’ assistance because she was unable to carry out the ritual because the bull had grown unruly.

    Daedalus constructed a wooden cow on wheels to address Pasiphae’s issue. Pasiphae entered the wooden figure, which fooled the bull, and the man “took it, hollowed it out in the inside, wrapped it up in the hide of a cow which he had skinned, and deposited it in the meadow in which the bull used to graze.” The woman ultimately received her desired outcome. The Minotaur, a hybrid of a man and a bull, was created by the combination of human and animal.

    Minos urged Daedalus to build the Labyrinth to hide the terrifying creature after he saw it. Afterwards, Minos demanded that seven young ladies and seven young men from the city be fed as tribute to the Minotaur in order to perpetuate a reign of terror over Athens. Theseus, a hero from Athens, eventually arrived in Crete and, with the aid of Ariadne, Minos’ daughter, slew the Minotaur. Even earlier authors believe that Daedalus assisted the pair in their search for the Minotaur’s head.

    Icarus and Daedalus in Jail

    Ovid claims that Daedalus eventually developed a hatred for Crete and made the decision to go back to his native land. Yet even if it meant locking the inventor up, Minos was determined to keep the innovator close by. Other authors suggest that Minos imprisoned Daedalus because of his knowledge of his involvement in Pasiphae’s wrongdoing, Theseus’ escape, or just to preserve the secrecy of the Labyrinth’s secrets.

    Despite the difficulties of jail life, Daedalus had his beloved son Icarus at his side, so at least he wasn’t there by himself. Daedalus yet had a burning desire to leave Crete.

    So Daedalus did what he did best, which was to think creatively. His creative mania would lead to a creation that would haunt the western world’s imagination for ages until humans controlled the sky. Daedalus created a gadget that mimicked bird motion after studying their movements. The feathers were then arranged in a row, smallest to longest, and bound with beeswax and thread. Icarus was laughing and playing with the feathers the entire time, oblivious to the fact that he was interacting with the same thing that would lead to his sad demise.

    Daedalus donned the wings after finishing. Icarus and Daedalus exchanged a look as the father flew in front of his child. Icarus was given instructions on how to use the wings and what to avoid as he gazed at him:

    The tone of Daedalus’ instructions and cautions was dramatic. He realized that this wasn’t a game, but rather a potentially dangerous journey. His concern for his son’s safety was taking over. His hands were trembling, and tears were streaming from his eyes. Icarus’ actions demonstrated that he was unaware of the flight’s risks. There was, however, no other option. Icarus was approached by Daedalus, who kissed him. He then rose into the air once more, pointing the way and instructing Icarus in the right use of his wings.

    The iconic image is shown in Brueghel the Elder’s Landscape with the Fall of Icarus. According to Ovid, a plowman, a shepherd, and an angler witnessed Daedalus and Icarus flying in the distance and thought they were gods.

    Icarus and Daedalus took to the air and left Crete behind. Now that Minos was out of their reach, they were not secure. Icarus became arrogant as they neared the island of Samos. He had an unquenchable yearning to soar as high as he could toward heaven. He continued to soar despite his father’s concerns until the wax holding his wings together melted and he started to rapidly descend. Icarus attempted to fly despite having bare hands. He had no choice but to scream his father’s name.


    “Where the heck are you, Icarus? Which direction should I turn to see you? “, yelled Daedalus, but Icarus had already fallen into the gloomy sea, later known as the Icarian Sea, and was dead.


    “, he yelled once more, but no one answered.

    Daedalus eventually discovered his son’s body floating among feathers. He transported the body to the closest island and buried it there while cursing his creations. Icaria was the name of the island where Icarus was buried.

    When a little bird swooped close to Daedalus’ head, he had just finished burying his son. It was his nephew Talos, now known as Perdix, who had come back to take pleasure in the anguish of the man who had nearly killed him out of retaliation. The myth of Daedalus and Icarus comes to an end in this manner.

    Phaethon, Talos, and Icarus

    Another Greek myth, the fall of Phaethon, shares many similarities with the tale of Daedalus and Icarus. The son of Apollo was Phaethon. In the myth, Phaethon insisted on piloting the sun’s chariot. Even though Apollo repeatedly cautions him that this will lead to his demise, Phaethon persists. When Phaethon finally receives his wish, he discovers that he lacks the necessary skills to handle the chariot’s horses. He then collapses and dies. Like Daedalus, Apollo laments the loss of his son but is powerless to save him.

    It’s interesting to note that Ovid included descriptions of Talos (or Perdix), Icarus, Phaethon, and Perdix in his Metamorphoses. The subject of a young, ambitious guy falling tragically recurs in all three of these tales. The fallen in all three tales meet their demise after attempting to go beyond a limit that they were not supposed to. Icarus flies dangerously near to the sun, Phaethon refuses to stop driving the sun’s chariot despite being told that doing so will result in his death, and Talos outdoes Daedalus in terms of creativity. These tales seem to teach us not to push our sons to be better than our fathers.