Greek and Roman Mythology > Daedalus


The labyrinth from which Theseus escaped by means of the clew of
Ariadne, was built by Daedalus, a most skilful artificer. It was
an edifice with numberless winding passages and turnings opening
into one another, and seeming to have neither beginning nor end,
like the river Maender, which returns on itself, and flows now
onward, now backward, in its course to the sea. Daedalus built
the labyrinth for King Minos, but afterwards lost the favor of
the king, and was shut up in a tower. 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. "Minos may control the
land and sea,:" said Daedalus, "but not the regions of the air.
I will try that way." So he set to work to fabricate wings for
himself and his young son Icarus. He wrought feathers together
beginning with the smallest and adding larger, so as to form an
increasing surface. The larger ones he secured with thread and
the smaller with wax, and gave the whole a gentle curvature like
the wings of a bird. Icarus, the boy, stood and looked on,
sometimes running to gather up the feathers which the wind had
blown away, and then handling the wax and working it over with
his fingers, by his play impeding his father in his labors. When
at last the work was done, the artist, waving his wings, found
himself buoyed upward and hung suspended, poising himself on the
beaten air. He next equipped his son in the same manner, and
taught him how to fly, as a bird tempts her young ones from the
lofty nest into the air. When all was prepared for flight, he
said, "Icarus, my son, I charge you to keep at a moderate height,
for if you fly too low the damp will clog your wings, and if too
high the heat will melt them. Keep near me and you will be
safe." While he gave him these instructions and fitted the wings
to his shoulders, the face of the father was wet with tears, and
his hands trembled. He kissed the boy, not knowing that it was
for the last time. Then rising on his wings he flew off,
encouraging him to follow, and looked back from his own flight to
see how his son managed his wings. As they flew the ploughman
stopped his work to gaze, and the shepherd learned on his staff
and watched them, astonished at the sight, and thinking they were
gods who could thus cleave the air.

They passed Samos and Delos on the left and Lebynthos on the
right, when the boy, exulting in his career, began to leave the
guidance of his companion and soar upward as if to reach heaven.
The nearness of the blazing sun softened the wax which held the
feathers together, and they came off. He fluttered with his
arms, but no feathers remained to hold the air. While his mouth
uttered cries to his father, it was submerged in the blue waters
of the sea, which thenceforth was called by his name. His father
cried, "Icarus, Icarus, where are you?" At last he saw the
feathers floating on the water, and bitterly lamenting his own
arts, he buried the body and called the land Icaria in memory of
his child. Daedalus arrived safe in Sicily, where he built a
temple to Apollo, and hung up his wings, an offering to the god.

Daedalus was so proud of his achievements that he could not bear
the idea of a rival. His sister had placed her son Perdix under
his charge to be taught the mechanical arts. He was an apt
scholar and gave striking evidences of ingenuity. Walking
on the seashore he picked up the spine of a fish. Imitating it,
he took a piece of iron and notched it on the edge, and thus
invented the SAW. He put two pieces of iron together, connecting
them at one end with a rivet, and sharpening the other ends, and
made a PAIR OF COMPASSES. Daedalus was so envious of his
nephew's performances that he took an opportunity, when they were
together one day on the top of a high tower, to push him off.
But Minerva, who favors ingenuity, saw him falling, and arrested
his fate by changing him into a bird called after his name, the
Partridge. This bird does not build his next in the trees, nor
take lofty flights, but nestles in the hedges, and mindful of his
fall, avoids high places.

The death of Icarus is told in the following lines by Darwin:

"---------- with melting wax and loosened strings
Sunk hapless Icarus on unfaithful wings;
Headlong he rushed through the affrighted air,
With limbs distorted and dishevelled hair;
His scattered plumage danced upon the wave,
And sorrowing Nereids decked his watery grave;
O'er his pale corse their pearly sea-flowers shed,
And strewed with crimson moss his marble bed;
Struck in their coral towers the passing bell,
And wide in ocean tolled his echoing knell."

Myth Collection

Achelous and HerculesAcis and GalateaAdmetus and Alcestis
Agamemnon, Orestes, and ElectraAmphionAmphitrite
AntigoneApollo and DaphneApollo and Hyacinthus
Aurora and TithonusBacchusBaucis and Philemon
CadmusCastor and PolluxCephalus and Procris
Ceyx and HalcyoneClytieCupid and Psyche
DaedalusDiana and ActaeonDryope
Echo and NarcissusEndymionErisichthon
Glaucus and ScyllaHebe and GanymedeHercules
IbycusIo and CallistoLeucothea dnd Palaemon
LinusMarsyasMedea and Aeson
MelampusMenelaus and HelenMidas
Minerva and ArachneMonstersMusaeus
NeptuneNereus and DorisNiobe
Nisus and ScyllaOrionOrpheus and Eurydice
Pegasus and the ChimaeraPenelopePerseus and Medusa
PhaetonPluto and ProsperinePrometheus and Pandora
PygmalionPyramus and ThisbePython
ThamyrisThe Calydonian HuntThe Camenae
The CentaursThe Golden FleeceThe Graeae and Gorgons
The Griffin, or GryphonThe IliadThe Myrmidons
The PygmiesThe Rural DeitiesThe Sphinx
The Trojan WarThe Water DeitiesThe Winds
TheseusThetisVenus and Adonis
Vertumnus and Pomona

Copyright 2002-2007 Jalic Inc. All Rights Reserved.