THE TALE OF DAEDALUS
“Daedalus”, a word that, in being derived from a location in the fabled city of Knossos, was subsequently interpreted by many writers of classical antiquity to mean “cunningly wrought”, served throughout Greece’s Halcyon era, to describe all aspects of ancient craft and industry.
Applied to the vast multitude of clasps, twisted broaches ornaments and earrings forged beneath the secret inspiration of “Thetis” by the legendary metallurgist “Hephaestus” throughout the classical era, the word evolved to carry both the suggestion of genius and the portent of disaster caused by near sighted endeavor.
Adopted as a title by a number of men throughout the classical world, the word was gradually re-invented as a name suitable for all those of a skilled disposition, a moniker which, in finding common usage, was ascribed in specific to the celebrated court designer of the Cretan king “Minos” in the second millennium before Christ.
Credited with the invention of the saw, the axe, the plumb line and glue by the great sage Pliny the Elder, the Daedalus who was recorded to have labored among the collonades of Crete’s Royal court was, throughout his life, observed to have devised an extensive catalog of novel tools and devices, a work program which, in including the crafting of ship’s masts for the Cretan navy, the sculpting of ornamental statues for garden pavilions, and the construction of ingenious buildings, was, for many years, commemorated in Plataea with the the attendance of an oak tree dressed in bridal attire by a retinue of exquisitely clothed bridesmaids.
Being of uncertain origin a tenet creditable to the phenomenal antiquity of records pertaining to the topic, Daedalus was respectively thought to be the son of “Metion” and “Alcippe”, that of “Euphalamus” and “Iphinoe” and that of “Palamon” and “Phrasmede”, an issue further confused by the insistence in Crete that he was the heir apparent of the ancient King Erechtheus, an affectation of nobility presumably conferred upon him whilst in the employ of the Royal court...
As with all stories, the tale of Daedalus has a suitable beginning, commencing with an incident in which both the great inventor and his nephew “Perdix” were strolling together along the tide spun margin of an ancient shore line, a circumstance in which the youth found occasion to extract the barbed spine of a fish from the sand at his feet, an article which he deftly crafted into a tenon saw before presenting it to his uncle.
As Daedalus and Perdix proceeded along the beach, the great inventor’s nephew then happened upon two iron rods which, as before, he crafted into a useful object, a compass connected at it’s apex with a small pin, a device which the boy duly exploited describing a perfect circle in the sand.
However, although one would suppose Daedalus pleased with the evidence of such ingenuity among his kind, he was instead envious of the youth’s aptitude, a sentiment which, in damaging his pride, ultimately drove him towards thoughts of murder, an initiative beneath which the inventor devised a scheme through which to dispose of the boy, constructing a pair of make-shift wings for Perdix to test upon the roof of the Acropolis.
Being of a culpable disposition Perdix duly attached his uncle’s gift to his shoulders and, beneath the delusion that they would grant him the power of flight, threw himself from the top of the building, predictably plummeting to his doom upon the ground far below.
Cursed by the Goddess Athena for having caused the boy’s death, a retribution through which Perdix was magically transformed into a Partridge and Daedalus was fated to receive a Partridge shaped scar upon his left shoulder, the inventor duly left Athenes for Crete, a location in which he was arrested and imprisoned alongside his son Icarus by King Minos.
Minos who was a man of high birth, a descendant of a blessed union between Zeus and Europa that, in keeping with tradition, had been raised beneath the provenance of the Cretan king “Asterion”, received Daedalus with a cursory gesture before setting him to work upon the construction of a dancing arena for his wife Pasiphae.
As Daedalus labored to complete his task he became accquainted with Minos’ family, Pasiphae’s children “Ariadne”, “Androgeus”, “Phaedra”, “Glaucus”, “Catreus”, “Acacallis”, “Xenodice” and Deucalion (who was to become the father of the Cretan commander Idomedes during the Trojan wars), the nymph Pareia’s children “Eurymedion”, “Nephalion”, “Chryses” and “Philalaus” (who were to rebel against Herakles), the sea God Poseidon’s children “Pholegander” and “Euryale” (beings of immortal extraction coincidentally related to the Gorgons “Echidna”, “Medusa” and “Stheno” through association with the primeval oceanic divinities “Ceto” and “Phorcys”), the Telchine Dexitheas’s child, “Euxanthius” (who was preserved from slaughter after the Telchines had attempted to poison Greece) and Androgeneia of Phaestus’ child “Asterion”(who was to command Crete in a war between Dionysus and the inhabitants of India).
Throughout the duration of Daedalus’ project Minos left Crete to spend nine days in the ancient city of Knossos, a pilgrimage that, in being undertaken by the king every nine years was reputed to grant him audience with the God Zeus, a liason through which the monarch was observed to receive lessons in rulership, a corpus of learning that was ultimately to succeed in establishing the great navy for which Crete became renowned.
However upon Minos’ return his patron King Asterion died, an event which, in betokening a degree of regret from the Cretan people, compelled Minos to banish his brothers Rhadamanthys and Sarpicon from the city to serve in judgement of souls wrongfully condemned for murder in Hades
As the people of Crete lay mourning Asterion’s passing, Minos’ son Glaucus was circumstantially observed to have vanished after having been seen playing with a mouse, an absence which caused the King to hire “Polyeidus”, in efforts to locate the missing youth.
Initiating the quest with the words “a marvelous creature has been born amongst you, whoever finds it’s likeness will also find the child”, Minos conferred for some time with Polyeidus upon the issue of the child’s whereabouts before, in an instant of sudden perspicacity, the seer was drawn to observe a resemblance between new born children and a number of Cretan herd animals, an association which proved capable of granting him insight into the inclination of Glaucus’ wayfaring.
After some time, Polyeidus discovered Glaucus’ body upturned in a vat of honey situated in a wine cellar, an event portentously predicted by the observation of an owl driving a swarm of bees from the location and duly informed Minos that his quest was at an end, an event which despite fine intention, resulted in Polyeidus’ confinement with the boy’s dead body in the wine cellar within which the latter had been found, a circumstance beneath which the seer was duly informed by Minos that he would not be released until he had restored Glaucus to life.
Polyeidus was observed by Daedalus to strive vainly in an effort to resuscitate the boy’s corpse for some days before circumstantially noticing that a snake had entered into his chamber through a concealed aperture, a reptile which, in being killed by the seer, was later accompanied by a second serpent bearing an assortment of herbs in it’s mouth, a selection of botanicals which, in miraculously resurrecting the reptile’s dead companion, inspired Polyeidus to test a similar remedy upon a a human subject.
Identifying the curious species of herb through which the snake had achieved it’s magic, Polyeidus proceeded to prepare a compound which, when applied to Glaucus’ body similarly succeeded in restoring it to life, an act of resurrection which the seer duly presented before Minos in expectation of release.
However, being of a naturally ungrateful disposition, Minos was contrarily observed to interrogate the seer in efforts to learn how such a miracle could be reproduced, a process through which Polyeidus was compelled to divulge all that he knew upon the matter, the secret of what he termed to be “the art of divination”.
Polyeidus was then commanded to spit in the monarch’s mouth, a request which, in being duly obliged by the seer, mysteriously resulted in the complete erasure of his memory, a term beneath which the miracle worker was finally granted the freedom which he desired although, in subsequently earning renown for offering Glaucus’ and Eurynome’s own son “Bellerophon” advice upon how to prepare the winged horse Pegasus for battle against the fabulous goat headed Chimera of Corinth, the seer’s absent mindedness presumably did little to affect his continued service at the royal household.
Although the mysteries of divination were lost to Polyiedus, Deadalus, who had been imprisoned in a cell beside him managed to retained a vestige of their truth, having found opportunity to witness the resurrection of both Glaucus and the snake whilst waiting for the instructions of his work detail, a secret which he held for many years, feigning ignorance when asked for opinion upon the matter.
Somewhat later, as Daedalus lay prospecting his own release, Minos received a white bull intended for sacrificial purposes from the Greek God Poseidon, a creature which, in being substituted with another bull and thus preserved from death against Poseidon’s wishes was subsequently deemed to represent a sentiment of Cretan ingratitude towards gifts of divine origin, an observation that ultimately caused the Goddess Aphrodite to inflame Pasiphae’s desire with an irrational lust for the animal.
Wishing to approach the beast without arousing disquiet Pasiphae secretly commissioned Daedalus to construct a hollow bull from wood, a vehicle which in being completed to the highest specification of the age would serve as a vehicle through which the Cretan queen could consummate her passion, a liason that, in being conducted covertly within the bounds of the freshly constructed dancing arena, would permit intercourse with the brute.
After many failed attempts to procreate with the creature, Pasiphae finally gave birth to “Asterius”, a monstrous hybrid which, in avowing similarities to both man and beast later became known as the Minotaur, a beast that, in being observed by Minos to demand concealment from the attentions of mankind, compelled the king to commission Daedalus in the construction of a maze from the matrix of pre-historic tunnels which were, at this time, located beneath Crete, an impenetrable labyrinth that “with it’s tapered windings, perplexed the outward way”.
Upon completion Daedalus’ labyrinth achieved unprecedented acclaim for the ingenuity of it’s scheme, an edifice which inspired admiration from the entirety of the ancient world, however as the maze earned such recognition, Minos’ son “Androgeus” was announced to have been killed in Marathon by the “Pallantides”, an unruly faction which, in inhabiting the city’s Delphic temple system, had resented the youth’s popularity following his victory during a bull fight, an event which, in rousing the Cretan king to anger, caused him to set sail for Athenes in pursuit of explanation.
Making haste across the ocean, Minos sought harbor in the port of Megara ruled by King Nisus, a man renowned for retaining an immunity to injury, a gift peculiarly credited to a magical lock of crimson hair which hung loosely baiting conjectural speculation upon Nisus’ aged scalp.
Minos was, in being beholden to the formalities of royal reception, greeted by Nisus’ daughter “Scylla” upon arrival, a woman who, in circumstantially being named after a nymph transformed by the the sorcery of Pasiphae’s sister Circe into a sea monster, served to epitomize the general aspects of Megara’s naval heritage.
Being of an impressionable age Scylla fell hopelessly in love with the Cretan king and proceeded in an attempt to win his affections by delicately removing her father’s crimson lock, an act which, in pre meditating the port’s downfall and ultimate claimancy by the Cretan navy, compelled Minos to bind the recalcitrant girl to a scuppered boat for her disobedience in efforts to drown her, an instance in which, Scylla was, through some fluke of circumstance, magically transformed into a Shearer bird cursed to flee the righteous vindication of her father who had similarly been turned into a falcon following his demise.
After having acquired both provisions and support from the defeated Megarans Minos arrived in Athenes and, performed an investigation to discover why his son had been murdered, an inquiry which, in reaching no definite conclusion, caused Minos a degree of consternation, until, tiring of his search and eager for retribution, he called upon Zeus to assail the city with both a plague and a famine, a feat of sorcery which, like that witnessed by Circe’s brother “Aeetes” when sowing the Hydra’s teeth upon Colchian soil, swept the land with such voracity that the Athenian people were compelled, through correspondence with Minos’ wishes, to send an envoy of seven men and seven women in lieu of those responsible for Androgeus’ death into Crete every nine years to brave the perils of Daedalus’ maze.
As time passed the assignment of Athenian citizens to Crete became something of a convention, an observation which corresponded neatly with the discovery that “Asterius” had developed a taste for human flesh, a cannibalistic appetite which, in demanding satisfaction, inspired Minos to adapt the rules his competition, inviting people to enter the sprawling complex which Daedalus had built to face his hybrid son in mortal combat, a trial that, if successfully completed, was inferred to offer a substantial reward.
Twenty seven years passed and, not one of the competition’s contenders achieved success, a retinue of prospective adventurers who, although prepared for conflict, were slaughtered without exception by the maze’s brutal occupant until, after much commiseration upon the loss of so much life, “Theseus” was elected forth to brave the Minotaur’s wrath.
Being a man of noble origin, the son of King Aegeus and Queen Medea of Athenes, a status notoriously disputed by the latter who, in favoring his brother Medeus as her successor, had attempted to murder the hero upon two occasions, “Theseus” was not unacquainted with adventure, earning a formidable reputation for ridding Athenes of it’s bandits in mortal combat throughout his youth.
Having narrowly avoided a further assassination attempt staged in efforts to append his right of succession by the Pallantide factions that had proven responsible for Androgeus’ death, a dispute which, in paradoxically concluding with the assassins’ slaughter, would, if acquitted, perhaps have appeased Minos’ desire for retribution, Theseus opted to enter Daedalus’ maze in lieu of it’s conventional contingent of youths in efforts to lift Minos’ terrible curse upon his countrymen.
Chartering a course for Crete upon the eve of the competition, Theseus informed his father that, in surviving the rigors of the trial, he would return bearing a white sail aloft, and in dying, hoist a black sail to announce his failure so that Athenes would be aware of any piracy that Minos may conspire to effect an invasion.
Attracting a cohort of admirers upon his arrival in Crete, a popularity which compelled Minos’ daughter “Ariadne” to fall in love with him, Theseus set about preparing for the contest, a circumstance beneath which he managed to persuade the princess to assist him in his navigation of the maze, promising to grant both herself and her sisters conveyance back to Athenes in the instance of his success, a process through which Ariadne was noted to have offered the adventurer both a ball of twine with which to trace an ordered chain of incident about the vast labyrinth and the advice “go forwards always down and never left or right”
Attaching one end of the twine to his waist and another to a rock at the maze’s entrance, Theseus carefully entered the maze in the dead of night armed with a sword, and, deftly navigating it’s catalog of corridors and junctions eventually confronted the Minotaur who lay sleeping at it’s center, a circumstance which, in witnessing a spectacular skirmish, that lasted for some hours resulted, to the adventurer’s relief, in the untimely death of the hybrid brute.
Kneeling down to examine the beast’s body and observing that it was dead, Theseus gradually worked his way back to the labyrinth’s entrance, employing the length of twine which he had been given by Ariadne to vacate it’s extent, a miraculous emergence for which the Athenian hero subsequently achieved wide spread renown.
Collecting both Ariadne and her sister Phaedra, Theseus duly set sail for Athenes, however before arriving at his destination, he wished to pay homage to the Gods, disembarking upon the island of Naxos, and leaving Ariadne upon it’s shore as an offering to Dionysus, a divinity who in, accordance with legend, consoled the princess’ dejection by marrying her.
As Theseus approached Athenes, Aegeus observed that his son’s ship was sailing beneath a black banner, and, overcome with grief at the prospect of the mission’s failure, tragically threw himself from the cliff of “Sounio”, a circumstance which, in accidentally having being caused by the hero’s absent mindedness, was to result in both the christening of the expanse of water into which Aegeus had fallen the Aegean sea and the coronation of Theseus as the Athenian king.
Upon his succession Theseus married Phaedra, thereby finalizing the unification of Athenes and Crete, a union which, in being scandalized by an accusation of rape staged by Minos’ daughter against the conqueror’s son Hippolytus and a subsequent curse meted against the recalcitrant youth’s herd of horses by the hero, yet retained a degree of cogency, the fate of both lands being synonymously bound together throughout much of subsequent history.
Although the Minotaur was dead, the labyrinth which had served as his hunting ground still presented something of a conundrum to all would be adventurers, confounding every attempt to explore it’s extent with unerring facility, a property through which Daedalus’ peculiar knowledge of the subterranean complex retained sovereign value in Crete.
Fearing that he would be incarcerated until the end of his life for avowing such knowledge, Daedalus proceeded to devise an escape for both himself and his son Icarus who lay imprisoned alongside him, fashioning two pairs of wings from an assortment of feathers set in wax and binding them together with string.
Carefully strapping the wings to each other’s backs both Daedalus and Icarus made brisk headway for an open gantry which, in being deemed impossible to scale, yet remained accessible from their cell, the inventor warning his son as the two forged progress that he must attempt to retain a steady trajectory once airborne, explaining that “if he were to fly too close to sea when born aloft then he would soak the feathers from which the wings were crafted with water and, if he were to fly too close to the sun then he would melt the wax that bound them together”.
With these words the two set off, soaring easily through the sky beneath the assistance of the artificial wings, an ascent which, in proving successful, permitted rapid transit across the open ocean, passing the islands of Somos, Delos and Lebynthos far below.
However, as the two progressed, Icarus, jubilant with the miraculous power afforded by the wings, began to gravitate steadily towards the sun, an ascent which, in remaining unchecked, succeeded in melting the wax that bound their apparatus together, causing him to plummet headlong to his doom.
Shocked by what he had seen yet unable to offer assistance, Daedalus was forced to continue across he Meditteranean until he found land, eventually alighting upon the island of Sicily ruled by King Cocalus of Kamikos, a location in which the inventor quickly established premise, constructing a Temple for Apollo and number of other buildings upon Sicilian soil, a period during which the great innovator also incidentally named the location of Icarus’s demise Icaria in commemoration of the boy’s death.
Before long the tale of Daedalus’ escape reached the court of Minos, an absence which, in inspiring fears over the sanctity of the labyrinth that, as yet remained impenetrable beneath the King’s feet, inspired the people of Crete to mount an extensive search for the great inventor, a hunt that, in being distinguished by a test involving the miraculous resurrection of a variety of sea shell frequently used as currency throughout the ancient world by threading a length of string through it’s heart , would, it was hoped, give some inclination as to whether or not the science of Daedalus and it’s peculiar understandings were being practiced in a given location.
Upon the presentation of the search party’s test before the Sicilian court, Cocalus succeeded in both luring an ant bound with string through the shell with a drop of honey and miraculously restoring it to life, a feat of dexterity which, in exhibiting genuine ingenuity, aroused suspicions over the Sicilian King’s acquaintance with Daedalus, an observation which, in being confirmed by the peculiar contrivance of the temple that had been constructed in Sicily by the great inventor, ultimately resulted in the fugitive’s discovery.
Upon hearing of Daedalus’ whereabouts Minos swiftly made headway across the Meditteranean to apprehend him, a process through which the Cretan king was duly greeted by Cocalus and led to the inventor’s domicile, however, before proceeding with the formalities of arrest, Minos decided to cleanse himself in one of the island’s springs, a circumstance beneath which, forewarned of the king’s presence on the island, both Daedalus and Cocalus’ daughters, effected an ambush, drenching the king as he lay bathing with a quantity of boiling water which killed him immediately.
Minos’ body was duly returned to Crete and interred in a sarcophagus embellished descriptively with the words“The Tomb of Minos Son of Zeus” however this is not the end of his story for the great Cretan king was, in the instance of demise, observed to have joined his brothers Rhadamanthis and Sarpicon in Hades to arbitrate over the passage of the dead, a circumstance beneath which, in keeping with classical tradition, he grew a serpent’s tail that wound around his body as a physical cloth.
Of Minos’ continued existence in the underworld many conclusions may be drawn, however of Daedalus’ tale there is no more, save the certain reckoning that he too would ultimately find himself in Hades, placed before the arbitrations of it’s law.