Daedalus, whose name meant "ingenious" or "clever" was a descendant of the royal family of Cecrops, the mythical first king of Athens. He was a skillful craftsman who was greatly esteemed for his ability to invent and build things. His nephew Talus, his apprentice was also remarkably talented, that Daedalus was convinced the boy might surpass him in his craftsmanship especially when Talus invented the saw by copying either the jawbone of a snake or the spine of a fish. Unable to endure this idea he threw the young boy of a cliff and for this terrible act Daedalus was exiled to serve the Cretan ruler Minos, where he had a son Icarus with the beautiful Naucrate, a mistress-slave of the king. He crafted numerous objects for Minos' wife and daughters including Ariadne's dancing floor and ultimately the Labyrinth under the king's order.

The Minotaur

The Cretan ruler requested the sea god Poseidon a sacrificial bull and when a beautiful, white animal emerged from the sea Minos decided to keep it for himself. Angered by this insult, Poseidon punished the Cretan ruler by causing his wife, Pasiphae, to fall helplessly in love with the animal. Consequently the queen requested Daedalus to build a life like cow to conceal herself and spend time with her beloved bull; later she gave birth to a half human and half man monster that was called the Minotaur. The king humiliated by the birth of this horrible creature ordered Daedalus to build the famous Labyrinth to imprison the dreaded beast that fed on humans who were taken as "tribute" by Minos. When his son was killed at the Panathenaic Games Minos claimed the Athenians to send seven young men and women as human sacrifices for the Minotaur, every year. Theseus, the valiant legendary king of Athens, volunteered himself as the "human tribute" and went to Crete hoping to kill the beast. The monarch's daughter Ariadne, fell in love with him and at her request Daedalus disclosed the mystery of the Labyrinth to the young girl. With her help Theseus killed the monster and fled Crete with the young princess. Infuriated Minos imprisoned Daedalus and his son Icarus in the Labyrinth.

The Flight

The Master Craftsman planned to escape with Icarus for "the king may block my way by land or across the ocean, but the sky surely is open …"! So he collected feathers of birds and wax from a beehive and made two pairs of enormous wings, for him and his son. While fixing them on his son's back Daedalus warned Icarus not to fly too high or too low for if he flew too high, the sun would melt the wax and if too low he would be washed by the sea. Despite the warning the young boy was so overwhelmed by the thrill of flying that he soared higher and higher whereupon the sun's heat melted the wax and he was "swallowed up in the deep blue water, which are now called after him". Still mourning, Deadalus flew to the Italian island of Sicily where he preformed funeral rites for his son. The ruler of the island, King Cocalus, taking pity hid him from Minos' anger when the Cretan ruler came searching for him. When he demanded to surrender Daedalus, Cocalus promising to do so persuaded Minos to take a bath and was murdered by his daughters.


The story of Deadalus and Icarus inspired many writers like James Joyce who named his literary hero Stephen Daedalus. The myth imparted the lesson of caution and envy for from a jealous teacher to his nephew, Daedalus turned into a cautious father to his son. The unfortunate flight of Icarus expressed hubris: human pride and overconfidence. Ovid in his work developed the theme of the power of art and that of Deadalus seemed to possess magical properties. He seemed to accomplish the impossible by mastering land, sea and air. However, the roman poet emphasized that art was dangerous as it was powerful for Daedalus' art was the cause of his broken heart.

Source by Genny Rassendren

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