The story of Icarus is one of those legends of Greek mythology that fascinates audiences because of Icarus’ desire to transgress human boundaries, thus culminating in tragic consequences.
The tale of Daedalus and Icarus in Greek mythology is 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 melted as a result of 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 along with a skillful apprentice named Talus. In a moment of rage and jealousy, Daedalus pushed Talus off the rock of the Acropolis and killed him, even though in some accounts Goddess Athena turned the apprentice into a bird and saved him.
Daedalus, 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 create a space where the Minotaur could be contained. 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 unable 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.
Dedalus hatched an escape plan that did not require traversing land or sea. The only possible way to leave the island was by flying.
Thus, Dedalus gathered bird feathers which he cunningly transformed into wings. Wax held these together. One pair of wings would 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 obey his father and fell into the sea instead. The wax in his wings had melted and fallen apart after flying too close to the sun.
The flight of Icarus might be viewed as a tale of balance, equilibrium, and moderation. Safely escaping meant balancing the risks of both flying too high and too low. In flying too high, the wax that held together the wings would melt whereas in flying too low, the wings would be weighed down by the spray of the water. Both would be risky.
The myth warns against the needless search for instant gratification. Thus, this highlights the concept of sophrosyne (Greek: σωφροσύνη), a term that points to the maintenance of a healthy mind and implies a level of self-control guided by knowledge and balance.