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62643.  Thu Mar 30, 2006 4:19 am Reply with quote


What did Daedalus do?


FLEW (-10)


Daedalus certainly didn't fly too close to the sun, it was his son who flew too close to the son, young Icarus by name.

Nor did Daedalus invent wings. By the 18th century, people had already worked out that this was a myth. What he actually invented was sails which, from a distance (and to someone who had never seen them before) would closely resemble wings.


The name Daedalus is from the Greek adjective daidalos, 'cunningly' or 'curiously' wrought hence it means 'the Cunning Worker' or 'the Artist'. He was an Athenian of Royal descent, said to be the most ingenious craftsman of his age, who supposedly invented the axe, the gimlet, the wedge and the level as well as the sails of ships.

He was also said to make statues which appeared to move of their own accord.

Daedalus wasn't entirely a paragon of talent and virtue. His sister's son Talus showed the promise to be equally great and, in a fit of envy, Daedalus defenestrated the boy and killed him.

He was forced to flee to Crete with his son Icarus where he was welcomed by King Minos, for whom he constructed the famous labyrinth beneath Knossos. Daedalus then blotted his copybook by helping King Minos' wife Queen Pasiphae to gratify her unnatural passion for a bull and, for his pains, was shut up in his own labyrinth.

According to the traditional myth, he escaped by fashioning wings of feathers and wax for himself and his son but Icarus flew too close to the sun, which melted his wings, plunging him to his doom.

Picture ideas:

Picture or statue of Daedalus?

(Can't really have one with wings or it's cheating)


s: LEM (Lempriere's Classical Dictionary)
s: GEL (Liddell and Scott's Greek-English Lexicon)

62667.  Thu Mar 30, 2006 5:07 am Reply with quote

Was Daedalus an historical character, then? I never knew that.

62669.  Thu Mar 30, 2006 5:14 am Reply with quote


Who knows, really. I just thought it was quite interesting that people in the 18th century had a rather modern logical attitude to myth.

Also the Icarus forfeit might get something, don't you think?

62676.  Thu Mar 30, 2006 5:25 am Reply with quote

OK, I'm with you. Here's the quibble, though: if he's a mythical character, then he really only 'did' what the myth says he did - ie, in this case, make wings and fly.

62722.  Thu Mar 30, 2006 7:03 am Reply with quote

Well, it's more like 'he definitely didn't make wings, but he might very well have invented sails'.

Every age has its improbable geniuses and the ancient Greeks had more of them than most. Somebody had to invent the axe etc.

I think it's all in the phrasing, really. I wouldn't claim Daedalus was definitely real, but I do think the perception that the "wings" might have been a myth for something more credible.

In any case, the details are more interesting than the oft-repeated kiddie's story, even if neither can be proven either way.


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