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D entries
Daedalus (DEED-uh-lus or DED-uh-lus). Builder of the Labyrinth for King Minos of Crete. Daedalus was a renowned craftsman and inventor. Before his time statues had their arms fixed stiffly to their sides – Daedalus gave them naturalistic poses and, some say, the power of movement. Daedalus claimed to have invented the saw, but credit instead went to his nephew, whom Daedalus consequently murdered in a fit of professional jealousy. Because of this homicide, he fled his native Athens for the court of King Minos on the island of Crete.
King Minos was a notorious ingrate. One day when his son Glaucus turned up missing, he sought the aid of the seer Polyeidus, hoping to draw on the latter's powers of prophesy and inner vision. Polyeidus was the same seer who had advised Bellerophon on how to tame the flying horse Pegasus. True to his reputation, he soon found the boy, smothered headfirst in a huge jar of honey. In thanks for this service, Minos locked Polyeidus in a room with the dead boy, telling him that he'd be released when he had returned Glaucus to life.
Polyeidus, a visionary not a magician, hadn't an inkling what to do, until a snake crawled into the room and died. Its mate slithered away and returned moments later with an herb, which it rubbed on the body. The first snake was brought back to life. Polyeidus applied the same herb to Glaucus and it did the trick. Reasonably expecting thanks and a reward, he was stunned to be told by Minos that he couldn't even go home again until he had taught Glaucus all his mystical powers. Resignedly, this he did. And in the end, with his freedom in sight, he bid King Minos farewell. "One last thing," he said to young Glaucus. "Spit into my mouth."
With what distaste may be imagined, Glaucus did as instructed – and instantly forgot everything he had been taught.
King Minos behaved with similar ingratitude to Daedalus. In return for numerous services, notably the building of the Labyrinth, Minos had Daedalus imprisoned, either in his workroom or the Labyrinth itself. Admittedly, Daedalus had been compelled to design the Labyrinth in the first place owing to an indiscretion on his part. Minos's queen, Pasiphae, had fallen in love with a bull – through no fault of her own but in consequence of divine vengeance on Minos for – you guessed it – ingratitude to the gods. To help the queen, Daedalus fashioned a lifelike hollow cow inside which Pasiphae could approach the bull. As a result she gave birth to the Minotaur, half-man, half-bull.
The Labyrinth was invented by Daedalus in order to confine the Minotaur and, some say, Pasiphae and her accomplice. But there was no cooping up a genius like Daedalus. Having been locked up in his own architectural masterpiece, the great inventor knew better than to attempt the portal. Naturally Minos had placed this under heavy guard, knowing that if anyone could negotiate the twisting passages to the exit it was the creator of the Labyrinth himself. So Daedalus gave thought to other means of escape.
Minos had been kind enough to provide him with a room with a view, looking out over the Cretan landscape many stories below. The king was quite confident that his prisoner would not be leaping to his freedom. What he had overlooked was the probability that the caged bird might fly. Indeed, Daedalus might well have been inspired by the soaring flight of the birds outside his window. It is certain that there were in fact birds in the vicinity because Daedalus managed to possess himself of a goodly supply of feathers. Like the great Leonardo da Vinci many centuries yet in the future, he sketched out on his drafting table a winglike framework to which these feathers might be applied. Building a wooden lattice in the shape of an outsized wing and covering it with the feathers, he set to testing his prototype.
It must have created quite a stir in the dank passages of the Labyrinth when Daedalus began waving this monumental feather duster around. The trials were important, though, for the ultimate invention would be freighted with the risk not just of his own life but that of his son Icarus as well. For Minos had wickedly imprisoned the guiltless boy together with his father.
At last the day was at hand to take to the skies. As he attached one pair of wings to Icarus and another to himself, Daedalus cautioned his son repeatedly.
"Remember all the trouble I had getting these feathers to stick?" he said for the sixth or seventh time. "The binding agent I resorted to is unstable," he pointed out as Icarus fidgeted impatiently. "I had to heat it to make it work. If it gets heated again – by the sun, say – it'll give way and the feathers will come loose. Do you understand, boy?"
To judge by Icarus's expression, he felt his father was belaboring the point. As it turned out, he might have given his old dad more credit for a caution worth repeating. For as soon as they had leapt from the windowsill and caught an updraft which bore them high into the sky about Mount Juktas, Icarus became giddy with exhilaration. Now he knew what a falcon felt like, dipping and soaring at will.
Perhaps with some notion of going down in the annals of aviation with the first high-altitude record, he started flapping with a vengeance. And as he climbed into the thinner air aloft, the sun's proximity began to work as Daedalus had anticipated. The feathers came loose, and Icarus plunged headlong into the sea, which – scant consolation – henceforth bore his name.
Danae (DAN-ay-ee). Mother of Perseus by Zeus, who entered her locked room in a shower of gold. Danae's father, King Acrisius of Argos, had been warned that he would be killed eventually by a son born to Danae. So he locked Danae in a tower. And then when Perseus was born, he put mother and infant into a bronze chest and set them adrift on the sea. They survived, and Danae became the object of the unwanted affections of the King of Seriphos. To protect his mother, Perseus agreed to seek the head of the Gorgon Medusa.
Danaides (duh-NAY-i-deez). The fifty daughters of King Danaus of Argos, who were married on a single occasion to fifty suitors. As instructed by their father, all but one of them murdered their husbands on their wedding night. As a result, they were condemned to an afterlife of unending labor, carrying water from the Styx in leaky jars.
Danaus (DAN-ay-us). King of Argos, who instructed his fifty daughters to kill their husbands on their wedding night. The fifty husbands were duly murdered. And in consequence, the daughters of Danaus were condemned to an afterlife of perpetual labor, carrying water from the river Styx in leaky jars.
Dark Age. Period, roughly from the twelfth to ninth centuries B.C.E., following the destruction of the Mycenaean kingdoms. Some speculate that Dorian invaders from the north with iron weapons laid waste the Mycenaean culture. Others look to internal dissent, uprising and rebellion, or perhaps some combination.
Delphi (DELL-fye). Delphi was the shrine of Apollo and site of the famous Oracle, whose often inscrutable advice was sought down through historical times. It was the Oracle of Delphi who advised King Croesus of Lydia that if he rebelled against the Persians as proposed, a mighty empire would fall. Croesus took this as an endorsement of his plan, and the prediction came true. Unfortunately the empire that fell was his own.
Demeter (dee-MEE-tur). Roman name Ceres. Demeter was goddess of agriculture, sister of Zeus, and mother of Persephone. When Persephone was abducted to the Underworld by its ruler Hades, Demeter was heartbroken. She wandered the length and breadth of the earth in search of her daughter, during which time the crops withered and it became perpetual winter.
Dia (DYE-uh). Small island off Iraklion, Crete, just beyond the harbor of ancient Knossos. When Theseus abandoned Ariadne after she saved him from the Labyrinth, some say that he left her on the island of Naxos. But others claim he was so anxious to be rid of her that he left her on Dia, within sight of her father's domain.
Diana (dye-AN-uh). Roman name of Artemis (AR-ti-mis). Artemis was the virgin goddess of the hunt and one of the Olympians. Her brother Apollo, noticing that she was spending a great deal of time hunting with the giant Orion, decided to put an end to the relationship. So he challenged Artemis to prove her skill at archery by shooting at an object floating far out at sea. Her shot was perfect. The target turned out to be the head of Orion.
Dicte (DIK-tee). Cretan mountain, site of the cave in which Zeus was born. Here he was sheltered from his father Cronus, who intended to eat him like he had swallowed all his siblings. When Zeus grew up, he gave his father a potion which made Cronus vomit up his brothers and sisters. Guides at the cave today shine their flashlights to reveal the shadow of the sleeping infant Zeus.
Dictys (DIK-tis). Fisherman or shepherd of Seriphos. Dictys gave shelter to Perseus and his mother Danae when the tide washed them up on his island. They had been set adrift in a chest by Perseus's grandfather, who had been warned by an oracle that he would die by the hand of a son born to Danae. After the death of King Polydectes, Dictys ruled the island kingdom.
Dionysus (dye-oh-NYE-sus). Roman name Bacchus. Dionysus was the god of wine, the son of Zeus and Semele, and the rescuer of Ariadne after she had been abandoned by Theseus. Dionysus also rescued his mother from the Underworld, after Zeus showed her his true nature as storm god and consumed her in lightning. It was Dionysus who granted Midas the power to turn whatever he touched into gold, then was kind enough to take the power back when it proved inconvenient.
Dioscuri (dye-us-KOO-ree). The Hero Twins of Sparta, Castor and Polydeuces. When Theseus abducted their sister, later renowned as Helen of Troy, they succeeded in rescuing her. Since Polydeuces was immortal and Castor was not, they were at first separated after death. Polydeuces was admitted to Olympus while Castor was sent to the Underworld. But the gods relented and allowed them to spend eternity together, half the year in one place and half in the other.
Dorians (DOR-ee-unz). Iron Age invaders of Greece, destroyers of Mycenae and other kingdoms according to one theory partly supported by myth. It is certain that the Bronze Age culture called Mycenaean was brought to a violent end, and some look to Dorian invaders from the north with superior weapons of iron. Others look to internal dissent, uprising and rebellion, or some combination.
dryads (DRY-adz). Nymphs who lived in trees and died when the tree died. Like the freshwater nymphs known as naiads and the ocean-going Nereids, dryads were minor deities of a less-than-Olympian order, with limited powers and lacking immortality.
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D entries
Daedalus (DEED-uh-lus or DED-uh-lus). Builder of the Labyrinth for King Minos of Crete. Daedalus was a renowned craftsman and inventor. Before his time statues had their arms fixed stiffly to their sides – Daedalus gave them naturalistic poses and, some say, the power of movement. Daedalus claimed to have invented the saw, but credit instead went to his nephew, whom Daedalus consequently murdered in a fit of professional jealousy. Because of this homicide, he fled his native Athens for the court of King Minos on the island of Crete.
King Minos was a notorious ingrate. One day when his son Glaucus turned up missing, he sought the aid of the seer Polyeidus, hoping to draw on the latter's powers of prophesy and inner vision. Polyeidus was the same seer who had advised Bellerophon on how to tame the flying horse Pegasus. True to his reputation, he soon found the boy, smothered headfirst in a huge jar of honey. In thanks for this service, Minos locked Polyeidus in a room with the dead boy, telling him that he'd be released when he had returned Glaucus to life.
Polyeidus, a visionary not a magician, hadn't an inkling what to do, until a snake crawled into the room and died. Its mate slithered away and returned moments later with an herb, which it rubbed on the body. The first snake was brought back to life. Polyeidus applied the same herb to Glaucus and it did the trick. Reasonably expecting thanks and a reward, he was stunned to be told by Minos that he couldn't even go home again until he had taught Glaucus all his mystical powers. Resignedly, this he did. And in the end, with his freedom in sight, he bid King Minos farewell. "One last thing," he said to young Glaucus. "Spit into my mouth."
With what distaste may be imagined, Glaucus did as instructed – and instantly forgot everything he had been taught.
King Minos behaved with similar ingratitude to Daedalus. In return for numerous services, notably the building of the Labyrinth, Minos had Daedalus imprisoned, either in his workroom or the Labyrinth itself. Admittedly, Daedalus had been compelled to design the Labyrinth in the first place owing to an indiscretion on his part. Minos's queen, Pasiphae, had fallen in love with a bull – through no fault of her own but in consequence of divine vengeance on Minos for – you guessed it – ingratitude to the gods. To help the queen, Daedalus fashioned a lifelike hollow cow inside which Pasiphae could approach the bull. As a result she gave birth to the Minotaur, half-man, half-bull.
The Labyrinth was invented by Daedalus in order to confine the Minotaur and, some say, Pasiphae and her accomplice. But there was no cooping up a genius like Daedalus. Having been locked up in his own architectural masterpiece, the great inventor knew better than to attempt the portal. Naturally Minos had placed this under heavy guard, knowing that if anyone could negotiate the twisting passages to the exit it was the creator of the Labyrinth himself. So Daedalus gave thought to other means of escape.
Minos had been kind enough to provide him with a room with a view, looking out over the Cretan landscape many stories below. The king was quite confident that his prisoner would not be leaping to his freedom. What he had overlooked was the probability that the caged bird might fly. Indeed, Daedalus might well have been inspired by the soaring flight of the birds outside his window. It is certain that there were in fact birds in the vicinity because Daedalus managed to possess himself of a goodly supply of feathers. Like the great Leonardo da Vinci many centuries yet in the future, he sketched out on his drafting table a winglike framework to which these feathers might be applied. Building a wooden lattice in the shape of an outsized wing and covering it with the feathers, he set to testing his prototype.
It must have created quite a stir in the dank passages of the Labyrinth when Daedalus began waving this monumental feather duster around. The trials were important, though, for the ultimate invention would be freighted with the risk not just of his own life but that of his son Icarus as well. For Minos had wickedly imprisoned the guiltless boy together with his father.
At last the day was at hand to take to the skies. As he attached one pair of wings to Icarus and another to himself, Daedalus cautioned his son repeatedly.
"Remember all the trouble I had getting these feathers to stick?" he said for the sixth or seventh time. "The binding agent I resorted to is unstable," he pointed out as Icarus fidgeted impatiently. "I had to heat it to make it work. If it gets heated again – by the sun, say – it'll give way and the feathers will come loose. Do you understand, boy?"
To judge by Icarus's expression, he felt his father was belaboring the point. As it turned out, he might have given his old dad more credit for a caution worth repeating. For as soon as they had leapt from the windowsill and caught an updraft which bore them high into the sky about Mount Juktas, Icarus became giddy with exhilaration. Now he knew what a falcon felt like, dipping and soaring at will.
Perhaps with some notion of going down in the annals of aviation with the first high-altitude record, he started flapping with a vengeance. And as he climbed into the thinner air aloft, the sun's proximity began to work as Daedalus had anticipated. The feathers came loose, and Icarus plunged headlong into the sea, which – scant consolation – henceforth bore his name.
Danae (DAN-ay-ee). Mother of Perseus by Zeus, who entered her locked room in a shower of gold. Danae's father, King Acrisius of Argos, had been warned that he would be killed eventually by a son born to Danae. So he locked Danae in a tower. And then when Perseus was born, he put mother and infant into a bronze chest and set them adrift on the sea. They survived, and Danae became the object of the unwanted affections of the King of Seriphos. To protect his mother, Perseus agreed to seek the head of the Gorgon Medusa.
Danaides (duh-NAY-i-deez). The fifty daughters of King Danaus of Argos, who were married on a single occasion to fifty suitors. As instructed by their father, all but one of them murdered their husbands on their wedding night. As a result, they were condemned to an afterlife of unending labor, carrying water from the Styx in leaky jars.
Danaus (DAN-ay-us). King of Argos, who instructed his fifty daughters to kill their husbands on their wedding night. The fifty husbands were duly murdered. And in consequence, the daughters of Danaus were condemned to an afterlife of perpetual labor, carrying water from the river Styx in leaky jars.
Dark Age. Period, roughly from the twelfth to ninth centuries B.C.E., following the destruction of the Mycenaean kingdoms. Some speculate that Dorian invaders from the north with iron weapons laid waste the Mycenaean culture. Others look to internal dissent, uprising and rebellion, or perhaps some combination.
Delphi (DELL-fye). Delphi was the shrine of Apollo and site of the famous Oracle, whose often inscrutable advice was sought down through historical times. It was the Oracle of Delphi who advised King Croesus of Lydia that if he rebelled against the Persians as proposed, a mighty empire would fall. Croesus took this as an endorsement of his plan, and the prediction came true. Unfortunately the empire that fell was his own.
Demeter (dee-MEE-tur). Roman name Ceres. Demeter was goddess of agriculture, sister of Zeus, and mother of Persephone. When Persephone was abducted to the Underworld by its ruler Hades, Demeter was heartbroken. She wandered the length and breadth of the earth in search of her daughter, during which time the crops withered and it became perpetual winter.
Dia (DYE-uh). Small island off Iraklion, Crete, just beyond the harbor of ancient Knossos. When Theseus abandoned Ariadne after she saved him from the Labyrinth, some say that he left her on the island of Naxos. But others claim he was so anxious to be rid of her that he left her on Dia, within sight of her father's domain.
Diana (dye-AN-uh). Roman name of Artemis (AR-ti-mis). Artemis was the virgin goddess of the hunt and one of the Olympians. Her brother Apollo, noticing that she was spending a great deal of time hunting with the giant Orion, decided to put an end to the relationship. So he challenged Artemis to prove her skill at archery by shooting at an object floating far out at sea. Her shot was perfect. The target turned out to be the head of Orion.
Dicte (DIK-tee). Cretan mountain, site of the cave in which Zeus was born. Here he was sheltered from his father Cronus, who intended to eat him like he had swallowed all his siblings. When Zeus grew up, he gave his father a potion which made Cronus vomit up his brothers and sisters. Guides at the cave today shine their flashlights to reveal the shadow of the sleeping infant Zeus.
Dictys (DIK-tis). Fisherman or shepherd of Seriphos. Dictys gave shelter to Perseus and his mother Danae when the tide washed them up on his island. They had been set adrift in a chest by Perseus's grandfather, who had been warned by an oracle that he would die by the hand of a son born to Danae. After the death of King Polydectes, Dictys ruled the island kingdom.
Dionysus (dye-oh-NYE-sus). Roman name Bacchus. Dionysus was the god of wine, the son of Zeus and Semele, and the rescuer of Ariadne after she had been abandoned by Theseus. Dionysus also rescued his mother from the Underworld, after Zeus showed her his true nature as storm god and consumed her in lightning. It was Dionysus who granted Midas the power to turn whatever he touched into gold, then was kind enough to take the power back when it proved inconvenient.
Dioscuri (dye-us-KOO-ree). The Hero Twins of Sparta, Castor and Polydeuces. When Theseus abducted their sister, later renowned as Helen of Troy, they succeeded in rescuing her. Since Polydeuces was immortal and Castor was not, they were at first separated after death. Polydeuces was admitted to Olympus while Castor was sent to the Underworld. But the gods relented and allowed them to spend eternity together, half the year in one place and half in the other.
Dorians (DOR-ee-unz). Iron Age invaders of Greece, destroyers of Mycenae and other kingdoms according to one theory partly supported by myth. It is certain that the Bronze Age culture called Mycenaean was brought to a violent end, and some look to Dorian invaders from the north with superior weapons of iron. Others look to internal dissent, uprising and rebellion, or some combination.
dryads (DRY-adz). Nymphs who lived in trees and died when the tree died. Like the freshwater nymphs known as naiads and the ocean-going Nereids, dryads were minor deities of a less-than-Olympian order, with limited powers and lacking immortality.
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