Daedalus in Sicily

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Daedalus in Sicily

After the loss of his son Icarus, Daedalus managed to reach Camicus or Cumae in Sicily, the kingdom of Cocalus, on his own. But King Minos of Crete did not stop hunting him. He knew that the wise Daedalus would find a way to cover his tracks, so he had to think up a way to flush him out of his hiding-place.

Minos sent word to all the kings of the known world, that whoever of their subjects was able to solve a puzzle would be richly rewarded. Minos believed that only Daedalus could solve the difficult puzzle: to string a thread through a conch shell.

King Cocalus, who had given Daedalus shelter in his court, had of course realised the abilities of the legendary craftsman and asked him to solve the puzzle. He hoped that if Daedalus solved it, his kingdom would gain prestige and perhaps even Minos’ favour.

Daedalus pierced a hole in the tip of the conch shell, smeared it with honey, and tied the thread around an ant, which , attracted by the honey, wound its way through the spirals of the empty shell taking the thread with it.

Cocalus joyfully announced to Minos that the puzzle had been solved, never suspecting that he was thus betraying Daedalus, the most-wanted fugitive in Minoan Crete.

Minos in Sicily and his death

Minos immediately understood that Daedalus was in Sicily, and sailed there in person to get him back from Cocalus.

Cocalus did not want to opposed the powerful King of Crete, but neither did he want to lose Daedalus’ services. So, although he promised to deliver the craftsman to Minos, he decided to murder the latter. The great King of Crete met an inglorious end in a boiling bath. The murder was planned to look like an accident, ensuring that the crafty Cocalus would go unpunished.

All of the above may be no more than a myth, but it conceals the historical truth that the Minoan Cretans founded colonies in Sicily, such as Minoa in Acragas (Agrigentum), Hyria in Messapia and Engyos in the interior of the island.

Daedalus’ work in Sicily

ancient greek temple in Selinus
ancient Greek temple in Selinus

Under the protection of King Cocalus, the much-sought-after Daedalus remained in Sicily. Major works are attributed to him there.

To thank King Cocalus, Daedalus built a tower to store the king’s treasures.

Another work of Daedalus is the acropolis of Camicus. The acropolis was at the top of a high cliff, and to get there you had to climb a narrow, winding road. At the top of the winding road was the entrance to the acropolis, which a small garrison could defend against any enemy.

An artificial lake near the city of Megara in Sicily, which was connected to the sea by a river, is also attributed to Daedalus.

At Selinus, legend has it, there was a cave which was very hot inside. Daedalus took advantage of this natural heat to heat the water of a spring, building hot baths.

The death of Daedalus

Daedalus appears to have lived to a ripe old age, his fame ever increasing due to the technical marvels he created. We do not know if his glory was ever enough to make up for the loss of his son, Icarus.

As for where Daedalus died, the myth is unclear. The most common reference is to Egypt, specifically to an islet in the Nile, where Daedalus was honoured as a god.

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