Builder of the Labyrinth for King Minos of Crete, Daedalus was a renowned craftsman and inventor. King Minos was a notorious ingrate, and in return for Daedalus’ services, notably the building of the Labyrinth, Minos had Daedalus imprisoned in it. Admittedly, Daedalus had been compelled to design the Labyrinth in the first place owing to an indiscretion on his part. Minos’ queen, Pasiphae, had fallen in love with a bull, through no fault of her own, but in consequence of divine vengeance on Minos, for his ingratitude to the gods. To help the queen, Daedalus constructed a lifelike hollow cow inside which Pasiphae could approach the bull. As a result, she gave birth to the Minotaur, half man, half bull.
The Labyrinth was created by Daedalus in order to confine the Minotaur. Having been locked up in his own architectural masterpiece, the great inventor knew better than to attempt the portal, as Minos had ordered it to be placed under heavy guard. So Daedalus gave thought to other means of escape.
Minos had been kind enough to provide him with a room looking out onto the Cretan landscape. The king was confident that his prisoner would not be leaping to freedom. What he had overlooked was the probability that the caged bird might fly. It is probable that Daedalus was inspired by the soaring flight of the birds outside his window. It is certain that there were birds in the vicinity as Daedalus managed to acquire a plentiful supply of feathers. Like the great Leonardo da Vinci many centuries yet in the future, he sketched out on his drafting table a wing like framework to which these feathers might be applied. Building a wooden lattice in the shape of an outsized wing and covering it with the feathers, he set to testing his prototype. The trials were important as the ultimate invention would be freighted with the risk not just of his own life, but that of his son Icarus as well. For Minos had wickedly imprisoned the innocent boy with his father.
At last, the day in which they would fly to freedom arrived. As he attached one pair of wings to Icarus and another to himself, Daedalus cautioned his son repeatedly. “Remember all the trouble I had getting these feathers to stick?” he said for the sixth or seventh time. “The binding agent I used is unstable; if you fly too close to the sun, the heat will melt the wax and the feathers will come loose. Do you understand son?” Judging by Icarus’ expression, he felt his father was belabouring the point. As it turned out, Icarus should have given his father more credit as it was a caution worth repeating. For as soon as they had leapt from the windowsill and caught an updraft which bore them high into the sky, Icarus became giddy with exhilaration. He flew closer and closer to the sun, dipping and soaring at will like a falcon. Unfortunately, the suns proximity began to work as Daedalus had anticipated. The feathers became loose and Icarus plunged headlong into the sea.
Daedalus continued his journey alone and after the death of Minos, a number of buildings were built devoted to remembering Daedalus as an artist.