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4649: Daedalus and Icarus. Painting by Charles-Paul Landon, 1760-1826. Musée des Beaux-Arts et de la Dentelle, Alençon.

Daedalus was an Athenian architect, and the first inventor of images.

Charged with murder

Daedalus, who received his craftsmanship from Athena, belonged to the royal Athenian clan called the Metionids, and among his ancestors are Erichthonius 2, who was king of Athens and was said to be the son of Athena and Hephaestus, and also King Erechtheus.

Daedalus was condemned in the Areopagus for murder, and he fled to Crete, being followed in his exile by one of his pupils, Endoeus. This Endoeus is known for having made a statue of Athena seated that could be seen in Athens where other constructions by Daedalus, for example a folding chair, were also shown. It could be seen in Corinth a wooden statue of Heracles 1 made by Daedalus, which showed that his works were always distinguished by a special kind of inspiration.

Daedalus was held responsible for the murder of one of his pupils, Talos 2, because, they say, he feared that Talos 2, with his talents, might surpass him. Talos 2, also called Calos and Daedalus' nephew (son of his sister Perdix), received his education in the home of Daedalus, and was considered more gifted than his teacher.

But others say that Daedalus envied the skills of Perdix (son of Eupalamus, son of Metion 1 or of Erechtheus), the inventor of the saw, and that he threw him down from a roof; they add that Perdix was then turned into a partridge by Athena. Perdix invented the saw from the spine of a fish, and he is said to have invented the compasses as well.

Marvels done in exile

Whatever happened in Athens, Daedalus came as an exile to Crete, where he made images and built several marvels for Minos 2 and and his family. He constructed a hollowed wooden cow on wheels for Pasiphae so that she could couple with a bull; as a result of this invention, Pasiphae gave later birth to the Minotaur. He made the famous Labyrinth, where the Minotaur lived, being fed by the seven youths and as many damsels whom the Athenians sent to Crete as annual tribute (see Minotaur and Theseus). This Labyrinth which Daedalus constructed was a chamber whose passageways were so winding that those unfamiliar with them had difficulty in making their way out. In this Labyrinth, the Minotaur was maintained and here it devoured the youths who were sent from Athens. He also designed a dancing floor for Ariadne in the town of Cnossus.

Daedalus imprisoned

When Theseus came to Crete, he was forced to confront the Minotaur in the Labyrinth. In order to help him to find his way out after killing the monster, Ariadne, who had fallen in love with Theseus, consulted Daedalus, who revealed to her the secrets of the Labyrinth. Minos 2, having learned about the architect's treason, imprisoned both him and his son in the Labyrinth. But Daedalus constructed wings to escape.

Labyrinth, after ancient Cretan coin from 330 BC. Painting by C. Parada.

Icarus 1

When they were about to take off, Daedalus told his son neither to fly high, lest the glue should melt in the sun and the wings should drop off, nor to fly near the sea, lest the pinions should be detached by the damp. But Icarus 1, disregarding his father's instructions, soared ever higher, till, the glue melting, he fell into the sea and perished. The Icarian Sea (near Samos), where he fell, was named after him, and it is said that Heracles 1, who passed by, gave him burial. Others affirm that they traveled by sea, and that Icarus 1 drowned when his vessel was overturned; or that he, having disembarked in a reckless manner, fell into the sea and perished. It is told that on this occasion Daedalus devised sails for the ships—an invention as yet unknown—so as to take advantage of the wind, and thus outsail the oared fleet of Minos 2. Daedalus himself escaped, as all reports say, but his son's ship is said to have overturned, Icarus 1 being an unexperienced steersman. Icarus 1 drowned and his body was carried ashore by the current to the island—then without a name—that lies off Samos (the Aegean island off the western coast of Asia Minor); and Heracles 1, coming across the body, recognized it, and buried it. Since then, both the island and the sea around it are named after Icarus 1.

New exile

Daedalus then came to the city of Inycus in Sicily, where King Cocalus protected him, concealing him in his palace. Some time after, Minos 2 came to Sicily searching for him, and was likewise received by King Cocalus, who feigned hospitality: Minos 2 was betrayed and murdered, either by the king himself or by the king's daughters, who were great admirers of Daedalus' skills.

Famous also in Italy

The residence of Daedalus at Cnossus gave the Cretans a reputation for the making of wooden images that lasted for a long period. After Daedalus' second exile in Sicily, his renown spread over the island and many regions of Italy. Yet it is also told that Theseus, after slaying the Minotaur, brought Daedalus back to Athens.


Parentage (four versions)




Eupalamus & Alcippe 2

Palamaon & unknown

Metion 1 & unknown

unknown & Merope 8

Eupalamus is son of Metion 1 or of Erechtheus & Praxithea 4 (see Athens).
Palamaon was an Athenian.
Metion 1 is son of Erechtheus & Praxithea 4, or of Eupalamus. His sons expelled Pandion 4 from Athens.
Merope 8 is daughter of Erechtheus & Praxithea 4.
Daedalus' alleged parents (with the possible exception of Palamaon) belong to Athenian royal families.


Icarus 1

Naucrate was a slave of Minos 2.

For Icarus 1, see text above.

Woman 15 Cretan

Iapyx 3


Genealogical Charts

Names in this chart: Alcippe 2, Atthis, Cephisus, Cranaus, Daedalus, Diogenia 1, Erechtheus, Erichthonius 2, Eupalamus, Hephaestus, Iapyx 3, Icarus 1, Metion 1, Mynes 1, Naucrate, Pandion 2, Pedias, Phrasimus, Praxithea 2, Praxithea 4, Woman 15 Cretan, Zeuxippe 2.

Related sections Ariadne, Minos 2, Minotaur, Theseus  

Apd.2.6.3, 3.1.4, 3.15.8; Apd.Ep.1.8, 1.12-14; Dio.4.76.1, 4.77.1, 4.77.6; Hdt.1.170; Hyg.Fab.39, 40, 244; Ov.Fast.4.284; Pau.7.4.4, 9.3.2, 9.11.5; Plu.The.19.5; Strab.6.3.3.