Val di Kam - Sulle tracce del re Sicano Kokalos


The Myth

Many writers of ancient Greece and Rome have mentioned the Sicans in their tales and descriptions of the world of their day, from the earliest epics (the relationship between the island of Sicily and the Mycenean world of the Achaeiis is celebrated by Homer in his Homeric hymns and by Sophocles in a lost play, The Camicians) to later compilations of myths and more factual accounts that describe various places and events.

This is what the Greek historian Herodotus of Halicarnassus (fifth century BC) recounts in The Histories, Book VII: ‘Minos, according to tradition, went to Sikania, or Sicily, as it is now called, in search of Daedalus, and there perished by a violent death’. Herodotus says that all the Cretans participated in the expedition against Sicily to take revenge for the death of Minos, apart from the Polichniteans and the Prasians. They laid siege to the city of Kamikos for five years, but in the end, unable neither to conquer it nor, being afflicted by famine, to remain there they went away abandoning it.

Diodorus Siculus Greek historian, born at Agyrium in Sicily, gives a more complete version in The Library of History and relates that the sea-god Poseidon had made Pasiphae fall in love with the fine white bull Minos had excluded from the annual sacrifices to the sea god substituting it with an inferior beast. Daedalus, able architect and artist at the court of Minos, had assisted Pasiphae in her curious affection by fashioning a wooden frame disguised as a cow so that Pasiphae might have intercourse with the bull. From this unnatural union was born a hideous monster, with the head of a bull on a supernatural, human body, the Minotaur. Daedalus designs a labyrinth, which Minos orders the construction of so as to keeps the Minotaur locked up.

Here the story of the Athenian hero Theseus intersects with that of Daedalus. The city-state of Athens was paying Minos a tribute of seven young men and seven maidens of noble birth, to feed the Minotaur in revenge for the death of his son Androgeus in Athens. It was from this humiliating and horrible tax that Theseus, son of Aegeus, king of Athens, resolved to kill the Minotaur and deliver his city. Theseus succeeds thanks to the help of Ariadne, daughter of Minos and Pasiphae, who falls in love with him and offers to help him, after he had promised to marry her and take her away to Athens. Daedalus gives Ariadne a ball of thread to give to Theseus; Theseus enters the labyrinth and, unrolling the ball of thread, he makes his way to the place where the Minotaur is, kills the beast and then, rolling up the ball again, he is able to find his way back out of the labyrinth.

For his role in the death of the Minotaur Daedalus is imprisoned by Minos.

There are various stories telling of the escape of Daedalus and his son Icarus, but the most common and famous is that recounted in Apollodorus' Library and Epitome (Library 3.15.8 Epitome 1.8-15): after a long exile, Daedalus longed to return home, or at least leave Crete (according to Ovid). To this end he constructed wings for himself and Icarus from feathers from every kind of bird, wax and thread (Apollodorus only mentions glue as a component of the wings). Ovid's version in Metamorphoses depicts young Icarus playing with the feathers and wax and so slowing the work. According to Apollodorus, Daedalus orders his son 'neither to fly high, lest the glue should melt in the sun, and the wings should drop off, nor to fly near the sea, lest the pinions should be detached by damp.' Ovid says much the same thing, warning that the waters may impede the flight, and the sun may burn the wings. But, Icarus forgets his father's advice, and rises ever higher, wanting to touch the skies. But, the heat of the sun melts the glue/wax, the wings come to pieces and Icarus falls down into the sea, now named the Icarian Sea. Apollodorus has Daedalus fly on to Sicily, but Ovid has him find the body of his son on an island, now named Icaria, and bury it. As he does this, a partridge watches him, which is really Perdix, the nephew Daedalus had killed in a fit of jealousy.

Diodorus gives two accounts of the escape of Daedalus and Icarus (both of which exclude the story of the Minotaur). One story has Pasiphae keep Daedalus and Icarus hidden from Minos who is after revenge for his assisting Pasiphae in her love of the bull. Minos has all boats searched and announces a reward for Daedalus' capture, but Daedalus builds wings for himself and Icarus. Icarus flies too high and his wax melts, but, as opposed to Apollodorus' and Ovid's versions, Daedalus flies close to the sea and keeps the wax moist.

The other version Diodorus gives relates that Daedalus had overheard Minos making threats upon him because of his assistance to Pasiphae, who provides boats for Daedalus and his son Icarus to escape upon. Icarus, carelessly disembarking, falls off the boat and drowns. The island they had landed at became known as Icaria, and the sea Icarian. According to Pausanias (Description of Greece), father and son sailed in separate ships, scudding before the wind with sails, which Daedalus had just invented and spread for the first time to the sea breeze to out-sail the oared fleet of Minos. In the open sea, Icarus' boat capsized, as he was a clumsy helmsman. His body washed up on Icaria where it was recognised and buried by Heracles, who happened to be passing by.

Appollodorus, Diodorus Siculus, Herodotus, Pausanias, Strabo (Geography 6.2.6) and Ovid all, except Virgil in the Aeneid, have Daedalus arrive in Kamikos (Pausanias says Inycus; Library and Epitome 4.4.6) in Sicily, where he asks for refuge from Minos at the court of King Kokalos. Ovid finishes his story here. Diodorus Siculus says that he remained a long time with the Sicans and ‘executed various works in Sicily for King Kokalos’, such as the planning and building of the wall and fortifications of Kamikos itself, an unconquerable fortress on, a model of engineering design, with the access to the ramparts so narrow that it could easily be held by three or four men.

Apollodorus reports that ‘Minos pursued Daedalus, and in every country that he searched he carried a spiral shell and promised to give a great reward to him who should pass a thread through the shell, believing that by that means he should discover Daedalus’. Minos came to Sicily and showed the shell to Kokalos, who promised that he could thread it. Kokalos, however, passed it on to Daedalus, who perforated a hole in the shell and tied a thread to an ant, and had the ant pass all the way through the shell (some say he smeared honey on the hole). Kokalos returned the shell completely threaded to Minos, who immediately deduced that Kokalos was hiding Daedalus and demanded he be surrendered. Kokalos agreed to turn over Daedalus after a banquet, but first offered to let Minos stay the night.

In Pausanias and Diodorus, the story of the spiral shell is not mentioned. Instead, Minos sails an army to Sicily and demands Daedalus. In Pausanias' version Kokalos refuses the ultimatum, but in both versions, Minos stays the night.

Diodorus explains that Kokalos kept Minos, bathing before the feast, in the hot water of the bath too long thus killing him. He returns the body to the Cretans, explaining that Minos slipped in the bath. The unsuspecting Cretans sail home and build a marvellous double chamber tomb for Minos, dedicating the second chamber to Aphrodite. Pausanias' and Apollodorus' versions, give a different account (Pausanias: 7.4.6; Apollodorus: E.1.15). When Minos demanded him back, Kokalos refused to give him up. He was so much admired by the daughters of Kokalos for his artistic skill that to please him and keep him they plotted against Minos to put him to death. Pausanias finishes here, but Apollodorus continues, and says that the daughters drenched him with boiling water scalding him to death. Other texts give boiling pitch via a plumbing system originally installed by Daedalus as the method of assassination. Some say that it was at Daedalus' suggestion that the princesses passed a pipe through the roof to drench Minos with.

According to Herodotus the Sicans burnt the ships of the Cretans and these, forced to stay in Sicily settled in the town of Heraclea Minoa while according to Diodorus they, unable to return home, founded the town.