Daedalus, great Greek craftsman and inventor

daedalusDaedalus (Daidalos) was a great Greek craftsman and inventor. His by far greatest works are the labyrinth, a humongous maze, which was made as a holding place for the Minotaur and the wings made of feathers, which he and his son Icarus had used to escape with from Crete. Daedalus was also an architect and a sculptor and was first to make figurines with free movement of the limbs. Arms and legs were finally free from the body and the figure could actually make movements. He also added details to the eyes, mouth and ears. Daedalus was a born Athenian but he fled Athens with his son Icarus, after killing his nephew Talos (or Perdix) out of jealousy. They were migrating until Minos, a king of Crete who was inspired by his invetions, offered him a place in his palace. However, rather than a living place, it was more of a prison hold for Daedalus who built the labyrinth in Crete, as well as the wings for their escape. They fled to the West, to Sicily, but his boy Icarus didn't make it. Daedalus then spent the rest of his life in the court of Cocalus, a king of Sicily.

Appearance in the works of art

Daedalus is often depicted as a grown man with a set of wings over his shoulders, sometimes in a company of his son Icarus. On some occasions they are depicted flying together.

Life in Athens

His myth began when he had climbed up through ranks of crafting and sculpturing among Athenian artisans and inventors. Originally, he was a grandson of Erechtheus, an ancient king of Athens, who was. by some, believed to be the founder of Panathenaic Games. Anyway, soon everyone knew about the impressive works of Daedalus who had shaped the statues with most accurate precision and made them look very alive. He also made all sorts of models and figurines. People just loved the figurines with which they could actually play, because they could move arms and legs. Daedalus had a son Icarus who was clumsy and did not understand the works of his father, no matter how much had Daedalus tried to teach him. They both had hard times with each other but that changed soon because Daedalus' sister sent her son to live and work with him. His name was Talos (or Perdix) and he was enthusiastic about craftsmanship and inventions. He understood how things work and Daedalus was proud of him, so proud that he started to show more affection to him and somewhat neglected his son Icarus. However, when Talos showed a great deal of talent by creating a saw, from imitating the spine of the fish, and having enthusiatic dreams of flying and making extension tool for it, Daedalus feared that his nephew would one day surpass him and, because of it, murdered him by pushing him off the acropolis.

Coming to Crete

Afterwards, he and his son Icarus fled from Athens and were migrating from place to place, presenting and selling the works of Daedalus, in order to make their living less miserable. One day, they run into Minos, a king of Crete, who stopped by to take a look at the figurines. Minos was amazed of this impressive figurines which stood out of the rest. He offered them a place at his palace in Crete. Tired of migrating, they accepted the offer and together they travelled to Crete. Soon they realised that it was more of a prison for them because Minos ordered a constant guard for their movements.Daedalus made labyrinth Anyway, Daedalus soon built a dancing floor for princess Ariadne which was the first dance floor in history. In the meantime, Minos asked Poseidon to help him prove his true kingship of Crete. The sea-god responded his plea and sent a pure white bull that miraculously emerged from the waves. However, after seeing a magnificent animal, king Minos declined to sacrifice the animal back to Poseidon. Instead, he replaced the bull and sacrificed an ordinary bull to the god. Poseidon was furious and asked Aphrodite to make Pasiphae, a wife of Minos, fall in love with the white bull. The desire for the bull made Pasiphae ask Daedalus to find her a way to lie with the animal without endangering her life. As a result of the plea, he made her a hollow wooden cow and covered it with the hide of a real cow. He then placed it in an open field with the queen inside, in order to deceive the white bull which mated with the queen and from this union came the Minotaur. Minotaur was a beast with the head of a bull and body of a man. After the birth of Minotaur, Minos called Daedalus to help him hide this creature of guilt, by finding a way to build a home and imprison the Minotaur at the same time, because Minos did not want to offend the gods again. Daedalus found a solution in building the Labyrinth, a maze-like building of endless corridors and complicated turns, that confused anyone who entered it so much that he could not find the way out. Every seven years Athenians had to send seven youths and seven maidens to be sacrificed to the Minotaur in order to keep peace between the two sides, because of the unjust murder of Androgeos, a son of Minos. The youths and maidens were then sent into the Labyrinth to be devoured by the Minotaur. With the next "shipment" from the Athenians, Theseus came as a volunteer and immediately fell in love with Ariadne. The princess did not want to see her beloved to be sacrificed and therefore asked the craftsman for help. Daedalus gave Theseus a ball of thread which helped the hero to find a way back from the labyrinth, once he had killed the beast.

Escaping to Sicily

For this treacherous act, from the king Minos' perspective, he imprisoned Daedalus and his son Icarus in the endless maze. However, Daedalus knew a way out from the labyrinth but they were unable to escape from the island because all the sea routes were guarded constantly. Daedalus then made two pairs of wings from wooden sticks, to serve as support for real feathers which he waxed on sticks.icarus and daedalus He gave Icarus instructions how to fly and told him not to fly too low, because the water would soak the feathers, and not to fly too high, because the sun would melt the wax. They then escaped and were on a course to Sicily. But Icarus, as clumsy as he was, did not follow the advice of his father and flew higher and higher. The sun melted the wax and destroyed his wings and made him fell into the sea where he drowned. Daedalus soon realised that he was flying alone and therefore started searching for Icarus. Desperate and tired from journey, he had no choice but to leave his son behind and continue towards Sicily. Icarus fell into the sea near Samos and his body was washed ashore on a nearby island. This island was named Icaria in his honour and the sea around the island was called the Icarian Sea. His body was later recognised by bypassing Heracles who delivered it to Daedalus.

Search for Daedalus, the most-wanted fugitive

Daedalus' life continued in Sicily where king Cocalus offered him a sanctuary. However, Minos still hunted Daedalus and, therefore, sent a complex puzzle to all of the known world, in order to find out his whereabouts. He stated that whoever was able to solve the puzzle, would be richly rewarded. King Cocalus was aware of Daedalus' abillities and asked him to solve the puzzle which would gain his kingdom prestige and perhaps even Minos’ favour. The inventor solved the puzzle by piercing a hole in the tip of the conch shell, smeared it with honey and tied the thread around an ant. The honey attracted the ant which found its way through the spirals of the empty shell, taking the thread with it. Cocalus then sent announcement of solving the puzzle to Minos, never suspecting that he was betraying Daedalus, the most-wanted fugitive in Crete. Minos travelled to Sicily in person to get back the man who escaped his authority. However, Cocalus was reluctant to lose his asset and murdered Minos in a boiling bath, making it look like an accident. Some sources even claim that it was Daedalus himself who crafted this "accident". Once danger was gone, Daedalus lived freely in Sicily, making many new inventions. He was believed to have died there from old age.