Icarus: The Flight And Fall – The Meaning Behind The Story (Greek Mythology Explained)

Icarus: The Flight And The Fall

In the area that I grew up in Greek mythology was never something that really featured in schools but the first story I was taught was that of Icarus. The boy who flew too close to the Sun. Now in the grander scale of Greek mythology, Icarus has quite a minor role but there’s no doubt that he’s become an iconic figure. His stories still told and retold to this day. It’s likely that even if your knowledge of Greek mythology is limited. You would have heard the story of Icarus or at least know the name. Today we’ll be going over  the story of Icarus and his father Daedalus as we attempt to understand.

Why the story has become so popular and what exactly it means?

The story takes us to the island of Crete – during the rule of King Minos. Minos had the problem of where he would house the Minotaur as he ran rampant through his kingdom. To solve this issue he enlisted the help of Daedalus a master craftsman who had previously arrived in Crete after being exiled from Athens. Daedalus was instructed to create a large labyrinth that was capable of holding the Minotaur. Minos was so pleased with Daedalus his work that his status and position began to grow as he went from a slave to a valued member of Minos’s Kingdom.

The downfall of Daedalus began with the arrival of the Athenian hero- Theseus who with the help from Minos daughter -Ariadne and Daedalus himself was able to slay the Minotaur and return from the labyrinth. He then said so back to Athens with both of the Kings daughters. Naturally Minos was infuriated by the actions of Daedalus and his daughter conspiring against him with the Athenians. But with his daughter gone the blame fell solely on Daedalus. Rather than lose his price craftsman, Minos decided against the execution of Daedalus.

Punishment of Icarus & Daedalus

Instead, he locks both Daedalus and his son Icarus away in the labyrinth that they created. There are some variants sources that suggest, they were locked away in a tower. But personally I prefer the irony have been locked away in a prison that you designed. Having designed the labyrinth, Icarus and Daedalus were aware that escape for most would be impossible. But Daedalus was not most men and  the master craftsman began surmising a plan for his son and himself to escape.

Aware that they would have to leave Crete forever, Daedalus planned to do so through the skies as there would be no chance in escaping Minos’s Navy. Daedalus knew that he would have to construct a method of flying but this was no easy task as a manned flight had never been undertaken before. It was thought that one morning a flock of birds flew over the head of Daedalus and he was instantly inspired asking Icarus to collect all the feathers he could. Just like the birds he had just seen, Daedalus would build wooden frames in the shape of wings. When Icarus had amassed the required feathers they were glued to the wooden frames using hot wax.

Flight of Icarus

Once Daedalus had crafted two pairs of wings, he carefully warned Icarus telling him that the wings had many flaws and flying too high in the sky would cause the wax that he used as glue to melt. But flying too close to the sea would cause the feathers to soak up the excess seawater making them too heavy to fly. The following day Icarus and Daedalus decided that they would attempt to finally escape crete.

The two, left in the air and began flapping their wings. The invention of Daedalus had worked and both man Icarus soared through the sky as they escaped Crete without being noticed. The further they flew the more Icarus grew in confidence but he’s confident soon turned into overconfidence. Icarus was so overwhelmed by the feeling of flying that he believed, he now knew what it felt like to be a God. In his newfound divinity, he disregarded his father’s warnings.

The Fall of Icarus

He flew higher and higher as his father Daedalus could only watch him fly closer to the Sun. The wax on Icarus his wings began to melt and the feathers attached to wooden frames began to drop off. When Icarus had finally realized how high he had flown, it was already too late. As he began to plummet holding onto his bare wooden frame the wings for dear life. Daedalus could do nothing but watch as Icarus plunged into the sea dying upon impact. The area of water, Icarus landed would be known as the Icarian sea. In the island where his body washed up upon would also be named I-carrier in memory of Icarus.

In most variations of the story, after watching his son die, Daedalus flew to safety where King Minos would begin his search for the gods men as he would not let him work for anyone else. The hero Heracles witnessed Icarus’s death and having recognized him as the son of Daedalus. He then performed the funeral rites, the Daedalus could not.

People made their meaning and morals

Over the years, people have taken dozens of meanings and morals away from the story of Icarus. On a very basic level the story essentially tells us to listen to our elders. But as we dealt deeper, the story means so much more. It highlights the carelessness of youth and some of the consequences that it may bring. We see Daedalus, in his experience maintain level-headed. While fly-in whereas Icarus is overwhelmed and somewhat loses control.

Disregarding everything he was told and lead into his death. You could also see the death of Icarus as the God’s punishing. Daedalus and his son in the eyes of the gods men were never meant to fly and as an attempt to elevate themselves the level of the gods. Icarus was killed and Daedalus faced the lifetime of guilt and regret.

The story teaches us to remain level-headed and somewhat warns against the pursuit of instant gratification. He could have listened to his father. Once they were safe, he could have experienced his feet in a flying many more times. But he was unable to see the long-term picture, only concerned by how good it felt now in the present and he was punished for doing so. The fall of Icarus is a tragic but also necessary tale of moderation and caution.

Hopefully I’ve been able to shed some light on the story that you may have heard before. If you have any more things on Icarus on mind, please let me know.

More Interesting Mythological Stories also in here:

7 Lies About Greek Mythology

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