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In Greek mythology, Daedalus was a skillful craftsman and artist. He is the father of Icarus, the uncle of Perdix and possibly also the father of Iapyx although this is unclear. Daedalus is first mentioned by Homer as the creator of a wide dancing-ground for Ariadne. He also created the Labyrinth on Crete, in which the Minotaur (part man, part bull) was kept. In the story of the labyrinth as told by the Hellenes, the Athenian hero Theseus is challenged to kill the Minotaur, finding his way with the help of Ariadne's thread. Daedalus' appearance in Homer is in an extended simile, "plainly not Homer's invention", Robin Lane Fox observes: "he is a point of comparison and so he belongs in stories which Homer's audience already recognized". In Bronze Age Crete, an inscription da-da-re-jo-de has been read as referring to a place at Knossos, and a place of worship.

The most familiar literary telling explaining Daedalus' wings is a late one, that of Ovid: in his Metamorphoses (VIII:183-235) Daedalus was shut up in a tower to prevent his knowledge of his Labyrinth from spreading to the public. He could not leave Crete by sea, as the king kept strict watch on all vessels, permitting none to sail without being carefully searched. Since Minos controlled the land and sea routes, Daedalus set to work to fabricate wings for himself and his young son Icarus. He tied feathers together, from smallest to largest so as to form an increasing surface. He secured the feathers at their midpoints with string and at their bases with wax, and gave the whole a gentle curvature like the wings of a bird. When the work was done, the artist, waving his wings, found himself buoyed upward and hung suspended, poising himself on the beaten air. He next equipped his son in the same manner, and taught him how to fly. When both were prepared for flight, Daedalus warned Icarus not to fly too high, because the heat of the sun would melt the wax, nor too low, because the sea foam would soak the feathers. They had passed Samos, Delos and Lebynthos by the time the boy, forgetting himself, began to soar upward toward the sun. The blazing sun softened the wax which held the feathers together and they came off. Icarus fell into the sea and drowned. His father cried, bitterly lamenting his own arts, and called the land near the place where Icarus fell into the ocean Icaria in memory of his child. An early image of winged Daedalus appears on an Etruscan jug of ca 630 BC found at Cerveteri, where a winged figure captioned Taitale appears on one side of the vessel, paired on the other side, uniquely, with Metaia, Medea: "its linking of these two mythical figures is unparalleled," Robin Lane Fox observes: "The link was probably based on their wondrous, miraculous art. Magically, Daedalus could fly, and magically Medea was able to rejuvenate the old (the scene on the jug seems to show her doing just this)". The image of Daedalus demonstrates that he was already well known in the West.