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Bruegel, Pieter de Oude - De val van icarus - hi res

Pieter Bruegel the Elder's Landscape with the Fall of Icarus (ca. 1558), famous for relegating the fall to a scarcely noticed event in the background

In Greek mythology, Icarus (the Latin spelling, conventionally adopted in English; Ancient Greek: Ἴκαρος, Íkaros, Etruscan: Vikare[1]) is the son of the master craftsman Daedalus. The main story told about Icarus is his attempt to escape from Crete by means of wings that his father constructed from feathers and wax. He ignored instructions not to fly too close to the sun, and the melting wax caused him to fall into the sea where he drowned. The myth shares thematic similarities with that of Phaëton — both are usually taken as tragic examples of hubris or failed ambition — and is often depicted in art. Today, the Hellenic Air Force Academy is named after Icarus, who is seen as the mythical pioneer in Greece's attempt to conquer the skies.

The myth

Draper Herbert James Mourning for Icarus

The Lament for Icarus by Herbert James Draper.

Icarus's father Daedalus, a talented and remarkable Athenian craftsman, built the Labyrinth for King Minos of Crete near his palace at 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' daughter, Ariadne, a clew[2] (or ball of string) in order to help Theseus, the enemy of Minos, to survive the Labyrinth and defeat the Minotaur.

Daedalus fashioned two pairs of wings out of wax and feathers for himself and his son. Daedalus tried his wings first, but before taking off from the island, 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 through the sky curiously, but in the process he came too close to the sun, which 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 Samos.[3][4][5]

Hellenistic writers give euhemerising variants in which the escape from 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 drowned. Heracles erected a tomb for him.[6][7]

Ancient literature

Icarus' flight was often alluded to by Greek poets in passing, but the story was told briefly in Pseudo-Apollodorus.[8] 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 Minotaur. Ovid narrates the story of Icarus at some length in the Metamorphoses (viii.183–235), and refers to it elsewhere.[9]

Classical tradition

Ovid's treatment of the Icarus myth and its connection with that of Phaëton influenced the mythological tradition in English literature[10] as received and interpreted by major writers such as Chaucer,[11] Marlowe,[12] Shakespeare,[13] Milton,[14] and Joyce.[15] 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.[16] 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 Arts" by 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 and "Mrs Icarus" by Carol Ann Duffy.

Interpretation

'The Fall of Icarus', 17th century, Musée Antoine Vivenel

17th-century relief with a Cretan labyrinth bottom right (Musée Antoine Vivenel).

Literary interpretation has found in the myth the structure and consequence of personal over-ambition (Levin 1952).[17] An Icarus-related study of the Daedalus myth was published by the French hellenist Françoise Frontisi-Ducroux.[18] In psychology there have been synthetic studies of the Icarus complex with respect to the alleged relationship between fascination for fire, enuresis, high ambition, and ascensionism.[19] In the psychiatric mind features of disease were perceived in the shape of the pendulous emotional ecstatic-high and depressive-low of bi-polar disorder. 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 cognition.[20][21]

Ikarus 1993

Ikarus 1993 by Simon Benetton (Bonn Opera House).

Space aeronautics programs

The name Icarus has been used on two previous and one current occasion for projects involving space-flight. The first two were in 1967 and 2009 the third was announced in March 2009.[22]

Free-flight aviation

The myth of Icarus appears frequently in hang gliding literature. Additionally, a 60 Minutes television episode titled "Ever Since Icarus" (airdate August 31, 1975 on CBS) addressed the renaissance of human flying with hang gliders. A still photo from the episode's shoot scene with Mike Wallace is on page 68 of the book '60 Minutes': 25 Years of Television's Finest Hour (1993) by Frank Coffey.[23]

Notes

  1. Larissa Bonfante, Judith Swaddling, Etruscan Myths, p. 43
  2. clew – a ball of yarn or thread. The etymology of the word "clue" is a direct reference to this story of the Labyrinth.
  3. Graves, Robert (1955). "92 – Daedalus and Talus". The Greek Myths. ISBN 0-14-007602-6. 
  4. 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 + Translated by Rolfe Humphries - KET Distance Learning 2012-01-24
  5. Translated by A. S. Kline - University of Virginia Library.edu Retrieved 2005-07-03
  6. Smith, William, ed. A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. 
  7. Pinsent, J. (1982). Greek Mythology. New York: Peter Bedrick Books. ISBN 0-600-55023-0. 
  8. Epitome of the Biblioteca i.11 and ii.6.3.
  9. Gareth D. Williams, Banished voices: readings in Ovid's Exile Poetry (Cambridge University Press, 1994), p. 132 online.
  10. Peter Knox, A Companion to Ovid (Blackwell, 2009), p. 424 online.
  11. Jane Chance, The Mythographic Chaucer (University of Michigan Press, 1995), p. 65 online.
  12. Troni Y. Grande, Marlovian Tragedy (Associated University Presses, 1990), pp. 14 online, 40–42 et passim; Frederic B. Tromly, Playing with Desire: Christopher Marlowe and the Art of Tantalization (University of Toronto Press, 1998), p. 181.
  13. Coppélia Kahn, Man's estate: Masculine Identity in Shakespeare (University of California Press, 1981), p. 53 online.
  14. 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 (Routledge, 2001, reprinted from 1952), p. 32 online.
  15. R.J. Schork, Latin and Roman Culture in Joyce (University Press of Florida, 1997), p. 160 online.
  16. E. H. Gombrich, Symbolic Images; Studies in the Art of the Renaissance (London, 1972); p.8.
  17. 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 : http://books.google.co.uk/books/about/The_overreacher.html?id=DRNaAAAAMAAJ&redir_esc=y Harvard University Press, 1952]
  18. Frontisi-Ducroux, Françoise (1975). Dédale: Mythologie de l'artisan en Grèce Ancienne. Paris: François Maspero. pp. 227. 
  19. Wiklund, Nils (1978). The icarus complex. Lund: Doxa. ISBN 91-578-0064-2. 
  20. Michael Sperber 2010 - Dostoyevsky's Stalker and Other Essays on Psychopathology and the Arts - 260 pages University Press of America, 30 Apr 2010 ISBN 0-7618-4993-9 - see source reference :(1969). American Imago, 26:269-280 Albert Camus: Camus' the Fall: The Icarus Complex Retrieved 2012-01-24
  21. Pendulum - The BiPolar Organisation's quarterly journal Bipolar UK Retrieved 2012-01-24
  22. Paul Gilster - March 19, 2009 - Tau Zero Foundation news forum - Leonard David © 2012 msnbc.com + icarusinterstellar.org website - link to non-profit foundation website [Retrieved 2012-01-24]
  23. Coffey, Frank (1993). '60 Minutes'" 25 Years of Television's Finest Hour. 

References

  • Graves, Robert, (1955) 1960. The Greek Myths, section 92 passim
  • Smith, William, ed. A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology
  • Pinsent, J. (1982). Greek Mythology. New York: Peter Bedrick Books.

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