Icarus’ father, Daedalus, a talented craftsman, attempted to escape from his exile in Crete, where he and his son were imprisoned at the hands of King Minos, the king for whom he had built the Labyrinth to imprison the Minotaur. Daedalus, the master craftsman, was exiled because he gave Minos’ Daughter, Ariadne, a clew of string in order to help Theseus survive the Labyrinth.
Daedalus fashioned a pair of wings of wax and feathers for himself and his son. Before they took off from the island, Daedalus warned his son not to fly too close to the sun, nor too close to the lake. Overcome by the giddiness that flying lent him, Icarus soared through the sky curiously, but in the process he came too close to the sun, which burned his wings. Icarus kept flapping his wings but soon realized that he had no feathers left and that he was only flapping his bare arms. And so, Icarus fell into the sea in the area which bears his name, the Icarian Sea near Icaria, an island southwest of Samos.
Hellenistic writers who provided philosophical underpinnings to the myth also preferred more realistic variants, in which the escape from Crete was actually by boat, provided by Pasiphaë, for which Daedalus invented the first sails, to outstrip Minos’ pursuing galleys, and that Icarus fell overboard en route to Sicily and drowned. Heracles erected a tomb for him.
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