Daedalus is a mythical Greek inventor, architect, and sculptor, who was said to have built, among other things, the paradigmatic Labyrinth for King Minos of Crete. Over the following centuries, Daedalus was credited with an ever-increasing number of fabulous inventions and artworks. The Romans even made Daedalus the patron of carpenters.
Arriving in Crete, where his creative reputation preceded him, Daedalus was welcomed at the court of King Minos and his wife, Pasiphae, and he quickly became embroiled in another messy situation. Because Minos had kept a white bull given him by Poseidon (god of the sea) for the purpose of sacrifice, Poseidon had caused Pasiphae to physically desire the bull. She asked Daedalus to fashion a wooden cow in which she could hide and mate with the bull. She thereby became pregnant and bore the Minotaur, a creature with a human body and a bull’s head. Minos too turned to Daedalus, requesting him to build a prison, from which the Minotaur could not escape. But instead of coming up with a prison cell, Dedalous decided that a complex labyrinth would be the best place to hide the monster. It was such a perfect construction that those entering the maze were never able to leave.
According to the myth, the king of Athens was forced to pay tribute to King Minos by sending seven young men and seven young women each year to Crete, in order to be sacrificed to the Minotaur. When Theseus, a prince of Athens, went to Crete as a human sacrifice to the Minotaur, Ariadne (the daughter of Minos and Pasiphae) fell in love with him. Wanting him to live, she asked Daedalus how to master the secret of his Labyrinth. Because Daedalus suggested how Theseus might accomplish an escape—by securing a flaxen thread to the entrance of the Labyrinth and following that thread out again—Theseus was able to kill the Minotaur and escape the Labyrinth. He took Ariadne with him when he left Crete.
Daedalus fell out of favour with King Minos, probably, and perhaps understandably, for the cow he had built Pasiphae and for helping Theseus kill the beast therefore he and his son Icarus were forced to flee for their lives. For this purpose, Daedalus constructed wings so that the pair might fly with ease from the wrathful king. Daedalus warned his son that for the wings to function best he should not fly too close to the sea lest the moisture render the feathers too heavy and useless, nor should he fly too high or the sun’s heat would likewise damage the wings.They left the tower jumping off the window and started flying towards freedom.
The young Icarus, alas, did not heed his father’s advice and, on over-reaching himself and flying too close to the sun, the heat melted the wax which attached the wings to his arms. As a consequence, he plummeted into the sea and drowned in a tale that reminded of the folly of over-ambition. The tragedy was commemorated in the naming of the stretch of waters in that area the Icarian Sea, and then, when Hercules dragged the washed up body to an island, he re-named that place Icaria in honour of the fallen youth. The island still bears the name today and lies just south-west of Samos.
The flight of Icarus might be seen under the light of balance, equilibrium, and moderation. A compromise between the risk for flying too high, thus melting the wax with the sun, or too low, weighing down the wings by the spray of the water.
The moral of the myth warns against the needless search of instant satisfaction, in a way underlying the idea of sophrosyne, a term that stands for healthy-mindedness, implying self-control guided by knowledge and balance.
Remember, what goes around definitely comes back around!