there's a variation of it i can't find :((((

quibblersandquidditch  asked:

I was wondering if you could tell me a bit about Icarus? There's so much poetry about him and Apollo or Helios circulating around her and I'd like to know a) the actual myth of Icarus in short terms/a website that will tell me it because I can't seem to find it online and b) is the God of the sun Helios or Apollo? Thank you for all that you do for the writing community. You have no idea how helpful you are to a poet looking for mythological accuracy in her (multiple) poems about Icarus.

In brief, Icarus is the son of the renowned inventor Daedalus. There is some variation on how they came to be stuck on the island of Minos, but eventually Daedalus wanted to escape. He either crafted feathers, or collected fallen feathers from birds and crafted them into wings using string and wax. These wings were affixed to their arms, allowing them to fly.

Daedalus cautioned Icarus that if he flew too low the sea would dampen the feathers and make them too heavy, while if he flew too high the sun would scorch the feathers (I remember reading a version where Daedalus specifically says the wax would melt, but I couldn’t find that version when re-reading up on this myth).

At first, Icarus followed his father and stuck to the middle path. Ovid tells us that the two were mistaken as gods by the fishermen who saw them flying overhead :)

Ovid tells us, that “they passed by Samos, Juno’s sacred isle; Delos and Paros too, were left behind; and on the right Lebinthus and Calymne,” after which Icarus became cocky. He flew so his wings scraped the sea and then soared into the sky where the soft wax melted. We’re given a very Loony Tunes scene of Icarus flapping his now bare arms, trying to keep flying, before he falls into the ocean and dies.

Icarus himself isn’t the hero of the myth (his father is), which may be why you’ve had some problems finding online sources. Here’s a link to a translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses if you’d like to read it for yourself.

As for the Helios/Apollo confusion, that has to do with the evolving mythologies of the Mediterranean. Many gods originated in specific places and were later spread across Hellas (if not across the whole Mediterranean). As for Helios and Apollo, well…it’s a little tricky.

Originally (or at least, in Homeric tradition), Apollo was not connected with the sun at all. He was a plague-bringer with a silver bow (Illiad), while Helios was a titan who pulled the sun across the sky every day. In the Odyssey, Odysseus and his men land on an island and the men eat some of the sacred cattle belonging to Helios. This infuriates the god who threatens to take the sun and only shine it in the underworld unless Zeus does something.This is the final reason why Odysseus is the only one to survive to make it back to Ithaca.

Apollo probably became connected to the sun around the same time Artemis came to be connected to the moon (thus the twins supplanted Helios [the sun] and Selene [the moon], who were also brother/sister). Though I have no specifics on that. There is a Euripides play that refers to Helios as Apollo (specifically, “Helios whom men rightly call Apollo”) though I don’t know if there are earlier references to this. This play (Phaethon) only survives in fragments and I wasn’t able to find a specific date for it, but I’m going to assume it was written between 455 and 406 BCE (the year Euripides first competed in the Athenian dramatic festival, and the year he died, respectively)

The story of Phaeton (or Phaethon as Euripides called him) is of extra interest to this ask, because I’m of the personal belief that this myth is one of the reasons why later writers have imagined Icarus to have some sort of relationship with Helios/Apollo–there are some striking similarities between Phaeton and Icarus.

If you don’t know, Phaeton was the son of Helios and got his father to agree to let him drive the carriage that carried the sun across the sky. (How depends on the version) Phaeton was unable to control the horses and the carriage alternated between flying too low (which set the world on fire) and flying too high (which set Olympus on fire). The versions I know say Zeus struck Phaeton down with a bolt of lightning, but it seems in Phaethon that the boy/young man crashed the carriage into the sea (and that’s how he died).

Interesting that two foolish young men died because they “flew too high”–and one was so closely connected to Helios/Apollo, don’t you think?

To me it seems likely that, just as Helios and Apollo came to be considered the same person, Icarus and Phaeton came to be confused with one another. They weren’t the same person, but I think there might be a collective mis-remembering of Icarus having some sort of connection with the sun god–which has in turn prompted much of the poetry and stories you see around involving Icarus and Helios/Apollo