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Mythology: Daedalus and Icarus – on the run

Daedalus and Icarus - on the run
The Fall of Icarus, Rubens 1636, 37x37cm, Musée Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels
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Daedalus and Icarus – The getaway to Crete

Daedalus, the great-grandson of the fabled Athenian king Erechtheos, was considered the most skillful architect and sculptor of his time. But he was not free from vanity and jealousy. He indulged his gifted nephew and pupil Talos and feared by his success and to lose his reputation. Finally, he was overcome by jealousy, and he pushed his student Talos from the Athenian Acropolis down to his death.

Soon, however, they came up with evidence of the murder, but shortly before the trial Daedalus succeeded to flee along with his son Icarus.

After travelling, both arrived in the island of Crete, where King Minos received them hospitably. It was Daedalus, who created the fabled labyrinth on King Minos’ request, in which the terrible Minotaur with a human body and a bull’s head was kept hidden.

After the death of the Minotaur by the Athenian prince Theseus, who then sailed with the daughter of Minos, Ariadne, back to his home town, the enraged Minos locked Daedalus with his son Icarus in the labyrinth; also he controlled all outgoing ships to prevent their escape.

Daedalus and Icarus – The flight through the air

But not in vain Daedalus with a gift of the gods had inventive spirit. “Maybe Minos blocks land and water” he said to Icarus, “but there is still the vast space of heaven left. Minos has no power up there! ”

From bird feathers, which he carefully sorted linked with threads and glued with wax, he created with skillful hands, both for him and for his son a pair of wings.

He urgently instructed his son: “Beware of climbing too high, Icarus, that the sun can’t set your wings in fire or melt the wax, and do not fly too deep down the sea, lest thy plumage, complained of the moisture, you draw down into the waves! Always stay in the middle!”

With trembling hands he attached the pair of wings then on the shoulders of his son, hugged him tenderly – and recommended him to a kindly fate.

Daedalus flew ahead, anxious like a bird who leads his brood for the first time out of the nest. But the boy followed the instructions so well that the father soon calmed down.

Daidalos and Ikaros - on the run

Otto Lilienthal (1848 -1896) Photo of his flight 29.05.1995 in Berlin

Daedalus and Icarus – Icarus flying into the sun

But the safe flight had made Icarus over-confident, he forgot the father’s warning and rose on his wings higher and higher up, towards the sun.

Daedalus fearful wail could not reach the boy any more. The burning rays of the sun softened the wax which connected the wings, and before becoming aware, the wings had broken away from Icarus’ body. The boy desperately swung his bare arms then he plunged into the endless depths. Before he could call his father to help, the waves had swallowed him.

Daedalus and Icarus – An island called Ikaria

As Daedalus turned back to look, he could see his son nowhere. “Icarus! Icarus” he cried desperately. At last he spied in depth a few feathers, which floated alone on the waves, and he realized the horrible truth.

Daedalus landed down on the ground. His heart full of grief and sorrow, he wandered on the shore until the waves washed the body of his sun to the beach. To commemorate the unfortunate young man who found his grave here, the island bares the name Ikaria.

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