Daedalus

Parents: Metion and Alcippe
Children: Icarus and Iapyx

17th century relief with the Cretan labyrinth bottom right, Musée Antoine Vivenel.

Crete

King Minos and Daedalus had great understanding at first, but their relationships started deteriorating at some point; there are several versions explaining this sudden change, although the most common one is that Daedalus was the one who advised Princess Ariadne to give Theseus the string that helped him come out from the Labyrinth, after killing the Minotaur.

The Labyrinth was a maze built by Daedalus for King Minos, who wanted a building suitable to imprison the mythical creature, the Minotaur.

Minos was infuriated when he found out about this betrayal and imprisoned Daedalus and his son Icarus in the Labyrinth.

Flying High

Icarus was the young son of Daedalus and Nafsicrate, one of King Minos’ servants. Daedalus started to think about how he and Icarus could escape the Labyrinth. Knowing that his architectural creation was too complicated, he figured out that they could not escape on foot. He also knew that the shores of Crete were well guarded, thus, they would not be able to escape by sea either. The only way left to them was the air.

Daedalus managed to create wings by attaching feathers to a frame with wax. He taught Icarus how to fly, but told him to keep away from the sun because the heat would make the wax melt, destroying the wings.

Daedalus and Icarus managed to escape the Labyrinth and flew into the sky. The flight of Daedalus and Icarus was the first time that man had managed to fight the laws of nature and beat gravity.

Daedalus and Icarus, by Frederick Leighton, c. 1869.

The Fall of Icarus

Although he had been warned, Icarus was too young and too enthusiastic about flying. He got excited by the thrill of flying and carried away by the amazing feeling of freedom and started flying high to salute the sun, diving low to the sea, and then up high again.

Jacob Peter Gowy’s The Flight of Icarus, 1635–1637.

His father Daedalus was trying in vain to make young Icarus understand that his behaviour was dangerous, and Icarus soon saw his wings melting.

Icarus fell into the sea and drowned. The Icarian Sea, where he fell, was named after him and there is also a nearby small island called Icaria.

Landscape with the Fall of Icarus (detail) by Peter Brueghel the Elder, c. 1558.