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The Tragic Story of the Fall of Icarus

Icarus greek mythology
“The Lament for Icarus” by H. J. Draper. The story of Icarus is one of the most well-known in all of Greek mythology. Credit: Public Domain

The story of Icarus is one of those legends of Greek mythology that fascinates audiences because of his desire to go beyond human boundaries and the tragic consequences this brought about.

The tale of Daedalus and Icarus in Greek mythology tells the story of a father and a son who used wings to escape from the island of Crete.

Icarus was the young man who fell from the sky when the wax that fastened his wings to his body was melted by the heat of the sun.

The story of Icarus begins on Crete

The legend of the mythological Icarus is closely related to a number of other narrations centered on Crete, the place where Daedalus worked as a craftsman and built a maze to keep the feared Minotaur under control.

The tragic fall of Icarus begins with his father; in fact, he was the one to suffer and pay for Daedalus’ misdeeds.

Daedalus worked as an artisan in Athens, together with a skillful apprentice named Talus. In a moment of rage and jealousy, Daedalus pushed Talus off the rock of the Acropolis but was unable to kill him.

The Goddess Athena turned the apprentice into a bird to save him while Dedalus, now charged with murder, was forced to seek refuge on Crete.

Once on the island of the Minotaur, Dedalus started a new life working in the palace of King Minos. He married Naucrate, a slave, who gave birth to Icarus.

Under King Minos’ orders, Daedalus was asked to build a space able to contain the Minotaur. 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 who entered the maze were never able to leave.

However, the existence of a Minotaur was a secret to most of the inhabitants of the island, and wanting the monster to remain a secret, the king locked up Daedalus and his family so that it would never be revealed.

Cunningly, Dedalus hatched an idea to escape that did not require going through land or sea. The only possible way that they could leave the island would have been to be able to fly.

Thus, Dedalus started gathering feathers from birds which he later cunningly transformed into wings held together with wax. One pair of wings was going to be for him and the other for Icarus, his son.

Don’t fly too close to the sun

When the moment to escape arrived, Dedalus warned Icarus not to fly too close to the sun, but the disobedient boy did not listen to his father and he fell into the sea when, after rising too close to the sun, the wax in his wings melted and fell apart.

Expressions of human fears and nature, symbols represent deep intuitive wisdom and truth. They put into words everything that is hard to comprehend by reason.

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 (Greek: σωφροσύνη), a term that stands for healthy-mindedness, implying self-control guided by knowledge and balance.

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