The story so far:
The Second Speech of Aristophanes
ARISTOPHANES: I can assure you, Gentlemen: Pausanias’ speech could not have been closer to the truth. There is, indeed, an Aphrodite of the Heavens. She, in a sense, did spring from the head of a male, but her “birth” could not have been more tied to sexual love. Heavenly and Earthly Aphrodite are one and the same, in fact. Has no one here been told the story of how Heavenly Aphrodite got her wings? I was told it by a certain Piraean by the name of Athanasius. But this tale, I fear, has no place among praises for love, for it inspires one not to praise but scorn it. Since Agathon is still awake, however, I feel I need to tell it so he might listen. He may someday do this story the honor my lack of knowledge of his trade prevents me from giving.
The season was spring. Pan sat on a mossy stone near Minos’ tower. He was playing another song on his mesmerizing flute. With breath and tune, he hoped to steal that uncorrupted spirit which the nymphs had denied him. He played a song of memory and pain. He played a song of anguish and regret. He played a song for Syrinx.
The lovely Aphrodite lied floating on a pond nearby, her body lolling there tranquil, motionless: divine.
When Pan saw Aphrodite, he changed his tune. His flute began to play the song of Dionysius; it was blissfully intoxicating. It travelled through the bushes towards the pond. Pan conspired with notes and the air of spring to caress the goddess. The waves of sound reverberated on Aphrodite’s skin. She began to dance. She danced so fervently, so swiftly her air thin dress began to lag behind. She danced so freely, so seductively, the jealous Boreas made a cloak of fallen leaves and used the wind to chase her with it. He never could catch up to dancing Aphrodite. She was entranced but fully in control.
Pan brought up the tempo of the song. The lovely goddess bit her bottom lip and closed her eyes. She and the tune fused into one with every rising note.
The song of Pan possessed her body.
The last crescendo came, she ascended in her daze—her ecstasy left trails of blooming orchids in the pond. She came back down from up high, and lied down once again as though unconscious. Pan left the mossy stone well satisfied and ran.
All this while, Daedalus sat inside his cell in Mino’s tower. When he looked towards the bed where Icarus slept, he was taken by a deep sense of pride and tenderness. They had been Mino’s prisoners for a long time now. Icarus was beginning to show the first signs of manhood. The smooth and youthful cheeks he remembered caressing when his son was really young were giving way to a slight beard. Icarus had grown a lot taller in the prison. He was a little thin from malnutrition but his back and shoulders were growing wider. Daedalus loved his son. At that moment, he would have done anything to spare his son one more day in the prison. He stroked Icarus’ curls with his fingers and walked towards the window.
He could never have imagined the sight he was about to behold. The very window that had made him witness of the countless courting rites of birds in spring, the window that had given him so many sunsets now gave way to the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. He looked outside and for a second he saw her in her trance. Her brief flight while she danced to Pan’s tune had given Daedalus a glimpse of Aphrodite.
Eros struck our hero at once. The arrow hit so quickly, he did not see she was a goddess. He was captivated. No muse of craftsmanship could ever match the inspiration that he felt. Her beauty left his artificer’s mind with a new task. What gift could he concoct to catch her fancy? He pondered day and night for weeks on end. He pondered walking circles in his cell in Minos’ tower. What gift could be enough to give to lovely Aphrodite?
Cabeiro, a witness to all this—and Hephaestus’ mistress—went back to the island of Lemnos to tell the story to the god. The story warmed the heart of the lord of crafts. It brought to mind an old affair of his with the fair goddess. He knew at once the best thing for Daedalus was to leave Crete.
He gathered the finest phoenix feathers in his workshop. He took three bars of gold mined by the satyrs in Siderocausa. He also grabbed his finest anvil and strongest forging hammer. He put supplies and tools together in a bundle and fastened them with a giant seal of wax. He gave this to Cabeiro and told her to take it back to Crete.
Immediately, Cabeiro began her journey. She feared a confrontation with Poseidon about the Hephaestus affair, so she took the longer route. After miles and miles of travel, she grew tired of the weight. She stopped her journey at a very short distance from Crete, in the island of Gavdos. Kalypso and Melpomene the muse came out to greet her. Kalypso relieved Cabeiro of the weight and took her inside her cave to let her rest. Cabeiro told her story as Kalypso gave her wine. The nymph kept passing glasses and the time came when Hephaestus’ mistress could not stand up.
Kalypso told her not to worry about her errand. She told the sea nymph that she was going to send her friend the muse to finish the task. Cabeiro tried to protest but the wine had already gotten the best of her. She fell asleep in Kalypso’s chambers.
That silent night the muse Melpomene came down to Minos’ tower. She grabbed a gust of wind and stole Daedalus’ coverlet. He struggled naked for a moment then. He felt cold. He looked all over the room for something to put on. He grabbed his only robe. Once he was a little more awake he looked towards his only window. Melpomene, the muse was dancing. The muse danced faster and faster until her figure became like a wave. The waves became like images. He saw what he thought was a golden eagle soaring into the sky with a white rose in its claws. He did not see the head, just the amazing wingspan from behind. It turns out that the bird was not an eagle but a hawk owl. He also did not see that the rose was shedding petals as the owl ascended. Finally, he did not know that Melpomene, the muse of tragedy, does not inspire by sparking great ideas but by prophesying great disaster. Under that same window, he found the bundle with Hephaestus’ seal. Presented with the tools and the materials, without delay, his artificer’s mind set out to work.
 Pausanias was a legal expert in Athens during the time of Socrates. Aristophanes is referring to Pausanias’ speech in the Symposium where he distinguishes between Heavenly Aphrodite, the patron of non-sexual same sex pederastic relationships and Earthly Aphrodite, the patron of lustful desire for the opposite sex.
 Minos was the king of Crete, his wife was Pasiphae. Through a curse of Poseidon she gave birth to the Minotaur whom Minos imprisoned in Daedalus’ labyrinth. Daedalus was imprisoned in the tower so the secret of the labyrinth would be safe.
 Syrinx was a follower of Artemis known among the nymphs for her chastity. She let herself be turned to reeds to avoid Pan’s sexual advances. When Pan found her, he made her into the chambered flute named after her.
 Boreas was one of the Anemoi (winds) in Greek Mythology. Each of the Anemoi controls one direction of the wind and one of the four seasons. Boreas was the northern wind and bringer of cold air.
 Cabeiro was a sea nymph from the island of Lemnos. Hephaestus became involved with her when he was thrown out of Olympus for freeing Hera.
 Hephaestus was given Aphrodite as wife by Zeus. She slept with his brother Ares. Ares was the Greek god of bloodlust and war. He was the son of Zeus and Hera and brother of Hephaestus. Ares had a love affair with Aphrodite, who was Hephaestus’ wife at the time. The sun-god Helios saw them and told Hephaestus. Hephaestus proceeded to create a web to ensnare and humiliate them. After Hephaestus’ plan was executed, Ares was so embarrassed that he left Olympus for Thrace.
 Siderocausa is a mountain in the Chalcidice peninsula. It is rich in gold and silver. Mining of the mountain did not begin until the Byzantine Empire under Constantine I( A.D. 306-337)
 Kalypso was a daughter of Atlas. According to Homer’s The Odyssey she was responsible for keeping Odysseus from reaching home. She offered him immortality in exchange for sexual slavery
 Melpomene was the muse of tragedy
Owls are known as death birds in many cultures.