In Greek mythology,
Icarus (the Latin spelling, conventionally adopted
in English; Ancient Greek: Ἴκαρος, Íkaros, Etruscan:
Vikare) is the son of the master craftsman Daedalus, the creator of
Icarus and his father attempt to escape from
means of wings that his father constructed from feathers and wax.
Icarus' father warns him first of complacency and then of hubris,
asking that he fly neither too low nor too high, so the sea's dampness
would not clog his wings or the sun's heat melt them.
his father's instructions not to fly too close to the sun; when the
wax in his wings melted he tumbled out of the sky and fell into the
sea where he drowned, sparking the idiom "don't fly too close to the
This tragic theme of failure at the hands of hubris contains
similarities to that of Phaëthon.
1 The legend
2 Classical literature
3 Medieval and Renaissance literature
5 See also
7 Further reading
The Lament for Icarus
The Lament for Icarus by H. J. Draper
Icarus' father Daedalus, a very talented and remarkable Athenian
craftsman, built the
Labyrinth for King
Crete near his palace
Knossos to imprison the Minotaur, a half-man, half-bull monster
born of his wife and the Cretan bull.
Minos imprisoned Daedalus
himself in the labyrinth because he gave Minos's daughter, Ariadne, a
clew (or ball of string) in order to help Theseus, the enemy of
Minos, to survive the
Labyrinth and defeat the Minotaur.
Modern graffiti of
Icaria island and falling
Icarus just outside the
Icaria - Greece
Daedalus fashioned two pairs of wings out of wax and feathers for
himself and his son.
Daedalus tried his wings first, but before trying
to escape the island, he warned his son not to fly too close to the
sun, nor too close to the sea, but to follow his path of flight.
Overcome by the giddiness that flying lent him,
Icarus soared into the
sky, but in the process he came too close to the sun, which due to the
heat melted the wax.
Icarus kept flapping his wings but soon realized
that he had no feathers left and that he was only flapping his bare
arms, and so
Icarus fell into the sea in the area which today bears
his name, the
Icarian Sea near Icaria, an island southwest of
Hellenistic writers give euhemerising variants in which the escape
Crete was actually by boat, provided by Pasiphaë, for which
Daedalus invented the first sails, to outstrip Minos' pursuing
galleys, and that
Icarus fell overboard en route to Sicily and
Heracles erected a tomb for him.
The Sun, or the Fall of
Icarus (1819) by Merry-Joseph Blondel, in the
Rotunda of Apollo at the Louvre
Icarus' flight was often alluded to by Greek poets in passing, but the
story was told briefly in Pseudo-Apollodorus. In the literature of
ancient Rome, the myth was of interest to Augustan writers. Hyginus
narrates it in Fabula 40, beginning with the bovine love affair of
Pasiphaë, daughter of the Sun, resulting in the birth of the
Ovid narrates the story of
Icarus at some length in the
Metamorphoses (viii.183–235), and refers to it elsewhere.
Medieval and Renaissance literature
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (January
Ovid's treatment of the
Icarus myth and its connection with that of
Phaëthon influenced the mythological tradition in English
literature as received and interpreted by major writers such as
Chaucer, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Milton, and Joyce.
Landscape with the Fall of Icarus
Landscape with the Fall of Icarus (ca. 1558), famous for
relegating the fall to a scarcely noticed event in the background
In Renaissance iconography, the significance of
Icarus depends on
context: in the Orion Fountain at Messina, he is one of many figures
associated with water; but he is also shown on the Bankruptcy Court of
the Amsterdam Town Hall - where he symbolizes high-flying
ambition. The 16th-century painting Landscape with the Fall of
Icarus, traditionally but perhaps erroneously attributed to Pieter
Bruegel the Elder, was the inspiration for two of the 20th century's
most notable ecphrastic English-language poems, "Musée des Beaux
W.H. Auden and "Landscape with the Fall of Icarus" by William
Carlos Williams. Other English language poems referencing the Icarus
myth are "To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Triumph" by Anne Sexton,
Icarus Again" by Alan Devenish, "Mrs Icarus" by Carol Ann Duffy, and
Icarus Burning" and "
Icarus Redux" by Hiromi Yoshida.
17th-century relief with a Cretan labyrinth bottom right (Musée
Literary interpretation has found in the myth the structure and
consequence of personal over-ambition. An Icarus-related study
Daedalus myth was published by the French hellenist Françoise
Frontisi-Ducroux. In psychology there have been synthetic studies
Icarus complex with respect to the alleged relationship between
fascination for fire, enuresis, high ambition, and ascensionism.
In the psychiatric mind features of disease were perceived in the
shape of the pendulous emotional ecstatic-high and depressive-low of
Henry Murray having proposed the term Icarus
complex, apparently found symptoms particularly in mania where a
person is fond of heights, fascinated by both fire and water,
narcissistic and observed with fantastical or far-fetched imaginary
Icarus imagery in contemporary music
Kua Fu, a Chinese myth about a giant who chased the sun and died while
getting too close
Bladud, a legendary king of the Britons, purported to have met his
death when his constructed wings failed
Etana, a sort of "Babylonian Icarus"
Sampati, an Indian myth about a bird which lost its wings while trying
to save its younger brother from the sun
^ Larissa Bonfante, Judith Swaddling, Etruscan Myths, p. 43
^ clew – a ball of yarn or thread. The etymology of the word
"clue" is a direct reference to this story of the Labyrinth.
^ Graves, Robert (1955). "92 –
Daedalus and Talus". The Greek
Myths. ISBN 0-14-007602-6.
Thomas Bullfinch - The Age of Fable Stories of Gods and Heroes
KundaliniAwakeningSystem.com & The Internet Classics Archive by
Daniel C. Stevenson :
Ovid - Metamorphoses - Book VIII +
Rolfe Humphries - KET Distance Learning 2012-01-24.
^ Translated by A. S. Kline - University of Virginia Library.edu
^ Smith, William (ed.). A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and
^ Pinsent, J. (1982). Greek Mythology. New York: Peter Bedrick Books.
^ Epitome of the Biblioteca i.11 and ii.6.3.
^ Gareth D. Williams, Banished voices: readings in Ovid's Exile Poetry
(Cambridge University Press, 1994), p. 132 online.
^ Peter Knox, A Companion to
Ovid (Blackwell, 2009), p. 424 online.
^ Jane Chance, The Mythographic
Chaucer (University of Michigan Press,
1995), p. 65 online.
^ Troni Y. Grande, Marlovian Tragedy (Associated University Presses,
1990), pp. 14 online, 40–42 et passim; Frederic B. Tromly, Playing
Christopher Marlowe and the Art of Tantalization
(University of Toronto Press, 1998), p. 181.
^ Coppélia Kahn, Man's estate: Masculine Identity in Shakespeare
(University of California Press, 1981), p. 53 online.
^ Su Fang Nu, Literature and the Politics of Family in
Seventeenth-Century England (Cambridge University Press, 2007), p. 154
online; R.J. Zwi Werblowsky,
Lucifer and Prometheus
Lucifer and Prometheus (Routledge, 2001,
reprinted from 1952), p. 32 online.
^ R.J. Schork, Latin and Roman Culture in Joyce (University Press of
Florida, 1997), p. 160 online.
^ E. H. Gombrich, Symbolic Images; Studies in the Art of the
Renaissance (London, 1972); p.8.
^ Jacob E. Nyenhuis - Myth and the creative process: Michael Ayrton
and the myth of Daedalus, the maze maker - 345 pages Wayne State
University Press, 2003 Retrieved 2012-01-24 ISBN 0-8143-3002-9
See also Harry Levin, The Overreacher, Harvard University Press, 1952
^ Frontisi-Ducroux, Françoise (1975). Dédale: Mythologie de
l'artisan en Grèce Ancienne. Paris: François Maspero.
^ Wiklund, Nils (1978). The icarus complex. Lund: Doxa.
^ Michael Sperber 2010 - Dostoyevsky's Stalker and Other Essays on
Psychopathology and the Arts, University Press of America, 2010, p.
166 ff,  ISBN 0-7618-4993-9
^ Pendulum - The BiPolar Organisation's quarterly journal Bipolar UK
^ Comparion noted by W.H.Ph. Römer, "Religion of Ancient
Mesopotamia," in Historia Religionum: Religions of the Past (Brill,
1969), vol. 1, p. 163.
Graves, Robert, (1955) 1960. The Greek Myths, section 92 passim
Smith, William, ed. A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and
Pinsent, J. (1982). Greek Mythology. New York: Peter Bedrick Books
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