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1001 Stories Collection

Daedalus and Icarus

Added on 25th June 2020

Oral tradition Greek myth
Best known version Metamorphoses

Ancient Greek myth well known and influential in ancient and modern times

Story

Daedalus, an artist and sculptor, built wings so that he and his son could escape prison by flying. Icarus has just two instructions from his father: one, do not fly too close to the sun or you will melt the wax which holds your wings together; two, do not fly too close to the sea or you will soak your feathers. Does Icarus listen?

Why we chose it

One of the best known Greek myths.

Where it came from

The earliest picture of the figure of Daedalus is on an Etruscan jug from around 630 BC when southern Italy was colonised by the Greeks. The story certainly has Greek roots; the island of Icaria and the Icarian Sea are named after the character of Icarus. Pinning down the exact origins of the tale is difficult, as the legend might stem from any one historical, artistic figure.

Where it went next

The most familiar telling of ‘Daedalus and Icarus’ is in Ovid’s Metamorphoses (8AD) and forms part of a tradition of stories surrounding the character of Daedalus. The tale is also recorded by Homer, Herodotus, and Virgil. By around the 5th century BC, the figure of Daedalus was adopted by the Athenians; the story of ‘Daedalus and Icarus’ began and ended in Athens, rather than beginning in Crete and ending in Sicily as before.

Associated stories

In the Greek colony of Gela in the 680s, individuals shared anecdotes in which they claimed to own sculptures made by Daedalus. The story of ‘Daedalus and Icarus’ remains a key cultural reference. James Joyce’s allusion to the story in his A Portrait of a Young Artist (1916) is just one example of its continued relevance in the 20th century and beyond.

Added on 25th June 2020

Oral tradition Greek myth
Best known version Metamorphoses