DAEDALUS & ICARUS

  

Daedalus or Daidalos which comes from the Ancient Greek verb 'daedalo', meaning  'cunningly'. Was a highly respected and talented Athenian artisan descendent from the royal family of Cecrops, the mythical first king of Athens. He was known as a great inventor, for his skill as an architect, sculpture making his subjects come alive with intricate details, he produced many famous works. Despite his self-confidence, Daedalus once committed a crime of envy against Talus, his nephew and apprentice. Talus, who seemed destined to become as great an artisan as his uncle Daedalus, was inspired one day to invent the saw after having seen the way a snake used its jaws. Daedalus, accidentally threw Talus off of the Acropolis. His sister killed herself with grief after losing her beloved son. For this crime, Daedalus was exiled to Crete. 

 

King Minos called on Daedalus to build the famous Labyrinth in order to imprison the dreaded Minotaur. The Labyrinth had numberless winding passages and turnings opening into one another, and seeming to have neither beginning nor end, like the river 'Maeander', which returns on itself, and flows now onward, now backward, in its course to the sea. The Minotaur was a monster with the head of a bull and the body of a man. He was the son of Pasiphae, the wife of King Minos, and a bull that Poseidon had sent to King Minos as a gift. The king was shamed by the birth of this horrible creature and resolved to imprison the Minotaur in the Labyrinth where it fed on humans, which were taken as 'tribute' by King Minos and sacrificed to the Minotaur in memory of his fallen son Androgeous.

 

Theseus, the heroic King of Athens, volunteered himself to be sent to the Minotaur in the hopes of killing the beast and ending the human sacrifices that his city was forced to pay King Minos. When Theseus arrived on Crete, Ariadne, Minos's daughter, fell in love with him and vowed to help him survive the Minotaur.  She consulted with Daedalus and he revealed the mystery of the Labyrinth and taught her that the only way to exit the labyrinth was by the exact same path by which one had entered. So she came up with the method called Ariadne's Thread, the use of a strong thread to mark the way, by which Theseus might escape after the monster was killed. 

 

When King Minos found out what Daedalus had done he was so enraged that he imprisoned both Daedalus and his son Icarus in the Labyrinth. He contrived to make his escape from his prison, but could not leave the island by sea, as the king kept strict watch on all the vessels and permitted none to sail without being carefully searched.

 

Daedalus conceived their escape from the Labyrinth by constructing wings and then flying to safety. He built the wings from feathers and wax, and before the two set off he warned Icarus not to fly too low as his wings might touch the waves and get wet, and not too fly high or the sun would melt the wax. But the young Icarus, overwhelmed by the thrill of flying, did not heed his father's warning, and flew too close to the sun whereupon the wax in his wings melted and he fell into the sea. Daedalus escaped to Sicily and Icarus' body was carried ashore by the current to an island then without a name.

 

Hercules came across the body and recognised it, giving it burial where today there still stands a small rocky promontory jutting out into the Aegean Sea, and naming the island and the sea around it after the fallen Icarus. Ikaria or Nikaria as the locals call it. Ikaria is a small mountainous island off Samos. The sea around Ikaria, the Ikarian Pelagos, was known to Homer (Iliad 2) as one of the most turbulent areas of the Aegean. The Ikarian Sea is especially tempestuous and in July and August during the 'meltimi' (windy) season as the island is situated without any protective barrier to the north in turn having no buffer from these north-easterly gales which were called 'Etesian' in antiquity.

 
 

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