Cretan Mythology

Daedalus &
Icarus

Daedalus and Icarus
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Daedalus was a resourceful and very talented Athenian artist and inventor. Many people believe that he was a real person that was later mythified. The name Daedalus derives from the greek verb "daedalo" which means "work with skill”. He is told to have discovered several well-known tools such as saw, ax, plumb line, drill, masts and figure heads of ships and pottery wheel. He was also a superb sculptor, who made statues that looked real, by highlighting the details of the face and releasing the limbs for adding movement. It is told that once in Corinth (or Athens) Hercules felt that a statue was a real fighter and was about to attack him. He then decapitated it with his club. After that incidence, he humbly asked forgiveness from Daedalus.

The exile of Daedalus in Crete

Many famous artists and craftsmen learned arts in the side of Daedalus. Among them was his nephew, Talos (not Talos of Crete), who was an excellent sculptor and inventor. Indeed Talos invented lathe, diabetes and perhaps saw (inspired by the teeth of snake or fishbone).

The Athenians started dispersing rumors that he was jealous of his excellent nephew. One day Daedalus walked with Talos on the Acropolis. Talos missed his step, fell out of the cliff and lost his life. Another version says that Daedalus pushed him. When Talos’ mother heard the bad news, she committed suicide. The same time, the Athenians accused Daedalus of murder. The Supreme Court (Areopagus) decided that Daedalus should get exiled to Crete, where King Minos welcomed him with great honors.

Minos assigned the ingenious tradesman with the construction of the Palace of Knossos and the legendary Labyrinth. The artist constructed this huge project and many more, such as the sculpture of Ariadne in Knossos and many beautiful statues in Elounda, Knossos and Caria.

The anger of Minos

Minos was delighted with Daedalus, till something happened that triggered his rage; When Minos claimed his throne, a long time before Daedalus was exiled in Crete, he asked Poseidon to help him. Poseidon sent him a beautiful bull as a sign of goodwill. Minos promised to sacrifice the bull for the god, when he would become a king. However, when he became a king, he decided to keep the bull and to sacrifice another one. He freed the first in the plains of Crete. One day, Pasiphae, the wife of King Minos walked in the area and saw the beautiful bull. She directly fell in love with him. This unnatural lust was caused by Poseidon, as a punishment for King Minos.

Desperate Pasiphae requested the help of Daedalus, who built a wooden model of a cow, called Damalis, which was covered by genuine cowhide. Pasiphae entered the model and the "befooled" bull paired with her. From this , Pasiphae born famous Minotaur, a monster with human body and head of a bull, who lived in the labyrinth and was fed on human flesh. According to another version, Minos was outraged when Daedalus gave Ariadne the famous clew, with which Theseus was able to enter the dark Labyrinth without getting lost and killing Minotaur.

The imprisonment in the Labyrinth

When King Minos learned about the services that Daedalus provided to his wife, he imprisoned him in the Labyrinth, where he would continue working. He was imprisoned with his son, Icarus. In the Labyrinth, Daedalus tried to find ways to escape from Crete. Escaping in the sea was impossible, because the Minoan ships would stop them. Thus, he began thinking of ways to escape through the air. Indeed, Daedalus built two large pairs of wings. The wings were made of branches and pieces of cloth (or feathers), which were stuck with wax. The first flight in history was about to take place!

After having placed the wings on their shoulders, Daedalus advised Icarus not to fly too high, because the wax would melt in the sun. Similarly, he urged him not to fly very low, so as his wings would not get destroyed by the humidity of the sea. Thus, the two men started their flight away from Crete. The excited and careless young boy started playing and flying higher, despite the exhortations of his father. Then, as expected, the wax melted and the child fell and drowned in the sea near Samos. The corpse of the unfortunate child was found by Heracles on the shores of a small island and was delivered to his father. The area that Icarus fell is now called Icarian Sea and the island where his corpse was collected is named Icaria.

The wandering of the unfortunate father

Daedalus, shaken by the death of his beloved son, moved to Cumae, where he built the Temple of Apollo and devoted his wings to the god. Then, he moved to Sicily, where Kamikos’ King, Cocalus, welcomed him with honors. He assigned him with the construction of an aqueduct, the sewage system and the walls of Agrigento. When Minos found out that Daedalus was in Sicily, he visited Cocalus himself and asked him to leave Daedalus come back in Crete. Cocalus did not want to lose such a brilliant craftsman, thus he pretended that he accepted the request of Minos. He offered him a warm bath by his daughters. Minos agreed, but the daughters put in burning-hot water and Minos was killed.

The death of Daedalus, according to the most popular version took place in Egypt. The Egyptians buried him on an island in the Nile and worshiped him as a god.

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