Daedalus and Icarus
Daedalus personifies the development of the arts and crafts in the ancient world. He was the first architect, sculptor, master craftsman and inventor: devised many familiar tools such as the saw, axe, plum-line,drill and potters wheel. The construction of sails,masts and yards for ships was also included in his repertoire.
According to mythology Daedalus was the son of Euphalamos or Palamaonas (signifying a man with a craftsman’s palms portending great dexterity) and mother Allieppi or Frasimedes who belonged to the house of Erechtheidon. Daedalus became famous in his time for his unsurpassable architectural skills and his beautiful sculptures.
It was said that the semi-god Heracles took the head of one of Daedalus’ sculptures thinking that it was a real enemy. It is noteworthy that the ancient Greeks actually believed in mythology, as if it were true.
Daedalus’ workshop school was attended by many well known artists, sculptors, painters and technicians. Amongst them was Talos his nephew from his sister Perdikas (meaning partridge), The young man developed into a master craftsman and sculptor, inventing the potters lathe and the compass. According to other sources the saw was his invention and not Daedalus’. The teacher Daedalus got very jealous and feared that his student would surpass his fame and glory.
Exile from Athens
It is said that Daedalus, desiring to get rid of his dangerous opponent, invited Talos on top of the Acropolis from where he pushed him down onto the rocks. When Talos’ mother heard about the death she hanged herself.
The Athenians however did not let Daedalus go unpunished. The highest court (Areos Pagos) condemned him to exile. Daedalus abandoned Athens and sought refuge in Crete.
King Minos of Crete, son of Dias(Zeus) and Europa welcomed the famous artist with great honours, commissioning him to build his palace in Knossos.
That is how the famous labyrinth was built, a monumental work of great architectural value which saw the light of day again, when the English archaeologist Evans excavated Knossos in 1900. The palace is a massive building with 1300 rooms,courtyards and store rooms decorated with beautiful wall paintings a few of which still survive today.
The famous relief of Ariadne in Knossos is attributed to Daedalus and likewise numerous sculptures located at the cities of Elouda, Knossos and the area of Karias.
Soon however Daedalus fell into disfavour of the King of Crete The two most popular versions as to why Daedalus incurred the wrath of King Minos are: firstly when Minos was claiming the throne of Crete , after the death of the King of Asterion, husband of his mother Europa, Minos asked for help from the god Poseidon. The god of the seas obliged by causing a beautiful bull to emerge from the waves a sign that Minos was in favour with the gods’. When he became King, Minos promised to sacrifice the bull in honour of Poseidon.
The Abandonment of Knossos
When Minos won the throne he forgot about his promise and let the bull graze in the valley and in its place sacrificed another bull. Pasifai, wife of Minos, daughter of Helios and Persis , fell in love with the beautiful bull. It was the godess Aphrodite who inspired Pasifai into this impestuous love for the bull, because the former wanted to punish her for not paying due respects to Aphrodite.Desperate, Pasifai begged Daedalus to help her satisfy her passion. Daedalus constructed a hollow wooden effigy of a cow the so-called “Damalis”which he covered with the skin of a freshly slaughtered cow. Pasifai squeezed herself into the effigy. The bull was tricked and united with the” cow”. From the resulting paradoxical union a minotaur was born. It was a fierce monster with the head of a bull and body of a man, lived in the basement of the labyrinth and fed on human flesh. Minos got very angry when he heard that Daedalus helped Pasifai her satisfy her sexual desires.
The second version of Daedalus’ falling into the disfavour of Minos was that Daedalus gave Ariadne , daughter of Minos and Pasifai “Ariadne’s clue”which the King of Athens Theseus managed toget out of the labyrinth alive after killing the terrible minotaur. The furious Minos shut Daedalus and the latters son Icarus in the labyrinth.
Icarus was Daedalus’ son from his wife Nausicrati one of Minos’ slaves. Now a prisoner Daedalus immediately started devising ways to get out. Escaping out into the sea was impossible armed ships patrolled the cretan coasts. The only escape left was through the air - but how? The inventive mind of Daedalus did not take long to find a solution. He constructed gigantic wings from willow branches and cloth sticking them together with wax. He advised his son how to fly and after tieing the wings onto their shoulders they flew to freedom above the high mountains of crete. The view of them flying in the ethereal heavens was unique and inimitable. For the first time man soared into the blue horizon and conquered the heavenly pathways. They journeyed into a dream world far from the slavery they suffered.
The death of Icarus
Like a newly freed bird Icarus was over-enthusiastic and at times flew high greeting the bright sun and at times flew low cooling his wings over the blue waters of the Mediterranean. Icarus did not heed his fathers’ warnings not to fly towards the bright sun and alas it was too late: the hot rays of the sun softened and melted the wax on the knots of his wings.
The unfortunate youth plummeted into the depths of the sea and drowned. Fate was cruel on the reckless young man.From then on the eastern sea of the Aegean is named after him “Icario Pelagos” and the nearby island “Icaria”. The unconsolable Daedalus then went initially to Kymi where he built a sanctuary in honour of the god Apollo whom he dedicated his wings thereby regaining his freedom. He travelled on to Sicily where the King of Kamicu, Cocalus commissioned him to build an aquaduct, drainage system and the construction of the walls of Akragada.
According to the myth Minos pursued the escapee and upon arrival in Sicily requested the surrender of Daedalus which Cocalus agreed to, instructing his daughters to provide Minos with hot baths. However the bathwater was so hot that the King drowned in the bath.