Icarus and Daedalus, Icarus tragic death

Icarus and Daedalus

Icarus and his father Daedalus were imprisoned in the Labyrinth by King Minos, as punishment for the help Daedalus gave Queen Pasiphae and Ariadne, daughter of Minos.

The cunning Daedalus, however, found a way to escape: he made two pairs of wings from feathers and wax, one for himself and one for Icarus. They used these to fly from their prison, the first flight in history, two thousand years before the Wright Brothers.

Daedalus and Icarus
Stamp with Daedalus and Icarus

Icarus tragic death

Before the flight, Daedalus gave his young son Icarus instructions in how to fly. He warned him that if he flew too close to the sea, the spray would soak the feathers, making the wings useless.

If, on the other hand, he flew too close to the sun, the heat would melt the wax and destroy the wings. Icarus agreed, but he was so thrilled with flying that he got carried away and turned it into a game, ignoring his father’s advice. He climbed high in the sky, so high that the sun melted the wax, the wings fell apart and Icarus fell into the sea and drowned.

When Daedalus realised that his son was not following him as he had asked him to, he began frantically searching for him.

Icarus fell into the sea near Samos and his body was washed ashore on a nearby islet. This was named Icaria in his honour, and the sea around the island was called the Icarian Sea.

Icarus’ lifeless body was recognised by Hercules, who delivered it to Daedalus.

The myth of Icarus – Various interpretations

icarus flying close to the sun

The didactic character of the myth of Icarus is obvious: the recklessness and thoughtlessness of young men who ignore the advice and experience of their parents, and their elders and betters in general, may have catastrophic effects on their lives.

Also, there must be measure in all our lives. Neither too high near the sun, nor too low near the sea, Daedalus counselled, but Icarus paid no heed and his immoderation cost him his life.

Marie Delcourt, on the other hand, holds that flying symbolises the peak of Daedalus’ achievements in gaining such a high level of technical knowledge.

Finally, according to yet another interpretation of the myth, flight could symbolise the great speed of a sailing ship, also considered an invention of Daedalus.

This interpretation is supported by a different version of the myth, in which Daedalus and Icarus escaped from Crete by sailing ship, and Icarus’ ship was wrecked off Samos.

After the loss of his son Icarus, Daedalus managed to reach Sicily

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