Study Guide

Daedalus and Icarus Setting

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Crete, the Labyrinth, the Sky, Sicily

This myth is about a journey (a partially failed journey, yes, but a journey nonetheless), so it takes place in a few different locations.

We start on the scenic island of Crete, where Daedalus arrives after being kicked out of Athens for the attempted murder of his nephew (not a great start). Crete is the biggest island in Greece—it was a crossroads between Asia, Europe, and Africa, giving it a cosmopolitan sensibility. Fancy, we know.

Unfortunately, Daedalus' Cretan vacation comes to an end when the island's ruler, King Minos, imprisons him. Depending on which writer you ask, Daedalus and Icarus either get locked up in a tower, or confined to the famous Labyrinth, which Daedalus himself built. Karma can be pretty feisty.

Either way, his surroundings are pretty dark and depressing, so Daedalus decides to escape. With their homemade wings, he and Icarus fly over the ocean—but they only make it north about 100 miles before Icarus crashes and burns (literally). Daedalus names the sea where his son fell the Icarian Sea, which is part of today's Aegean Sea. Yep, these are all real places.

Speaking of real places—after Icarus's death, Daedalus flew about 600 miles west to the Italian island of Sicily where he made himself at home, befriending the island's ruler and becoming part of his court.

The Middle Path

We've got one more setting snack for you. Before the dynamic duo takes off, Daedalus warns Icarus not to fly too close to either the sun or the ocean. Getting too near the sun will cause his wings to melt, and swooping down to the water will make them damp. But by sticking to a middle height, Icarus and his wings will make it through the journey just fine.

Moderation or "the middle path" is a key theme in this myth. If Icarus had resisted the urge to fly too high, he probably wouldn't have crashed and burned. Unfortunately, he gave into temptation, and left the middle path to soar into the sky. It seems like the myth is trying to teach us a lesson in practicing moderation in our own lives. According to the myth, by staying away from extremes (high or low), we'll be able to live happier, safer, and more productive lives. What do you think—are you on board?

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