What Is the Famous Story of Icarus?


Quick Answer

Icarus, the young son of the inventor Daedalus, is famed in Greek mythology as the boy who flew too close to the sun while wearing wax wings. The heat of Apollo's chariot melted the wax that held the wings' feathers in place, causing Icarus to fall to his death.

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Full Answer

Daedalus was hired by King Minos of Crete to design and build the Labyrinth where the Minotaur was to be housed. When Daedalus completed his maze, Minos imprisoned him along with his son Icarus to protect the Labyrinth's secrets. Secretly, Daedalus built two sets of wings using wood frames covered in wax and feathers so that he and his son could escape.

Before they set off, Daedalus warned Icarus to fly on a middle path. Flying too low would cause sea foam to soak the feathers and a high path would take him too near the sun, melting the wax. Icarus, however, was so delighted with the experience of flight, he forgot his father's warning and flew too high. When his wings melted, he fell to his death in the Icarian Sea southwest of Samos.

Today, the tale of Icarus is used as a warning against having too much ambition and not enough caution. The error of Icarus, in this interpretation, is the error of hubris. Other commentators point out that Icarus's main mistake was in not listening to his father, ignoring the voice of wisdom and experience while indulging in his own pleasure.

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