Myths of Crete: Icarus

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• Part 2: The Sad End of Icarus

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The History of Crete
The Myth of the Minotaur
• Ancient Civilizations

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Part 1: Background

In the story of the Minotaur, we have seen how Theseus slew the Minotaur and escaped with Ariadne, daughter of King Minos, who threw Theseus into the labyrinth. This story also yields another famous figure in Greek mythology: Daedalus.

Daedalus it was who designed the labyrinth for Minos. Daedalus was a great architect. He may have even had a hand in designing the Palace of Knossos, Minos's famed seat of power. He alone knew the secret of the labyrinth. In a moment of weakness, he revealed the secret to Ariadne, Minos's daughter and Theseus's lover.

It was all so simple, really: Just take a handful of string into the maze with you, unravel it as you go, and then follow your trail back out to escape. Of course, you'd have to kill the Minotaur to escape, but that was a minor detail. The real mystery was how to escape. Daedalus gave to Ariadne the answer.

Well, you might imagine that Minos was angry after Theseus killed his man-beast and then escaped with his daughter. He threw Daedalus and his son, Icarus, in the labyrinth. Daedalus feared for his life, and rightfully so. But he was a builder, and he was smart. (Here's where the legend takes over.)

He built a pair of wings for himself and his son. The idea was that even the all-powerful Minos, who had command of land and sea, couldn't command the air. If Daedalus and Icarus could fly away, they could escape. They were worried that Minos would stop at nothing to track them down and kill them for what Daedalus had done.

So Daedalus built the wings. They were made of wax.

They worked.

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David White