Building made up of intricate, mazelike chambers or passages so designed that a person entering one would find it difficult to find a way out.
Among the many labyrinths in the ancient world, perhaps the most celebrated was a funeral temple built by Amenemhet III in Egypt, near Lake Moeris, which contained 3000 chambers. Equally famous was the labyrinth on Crete, which may have existed only in myth. Its conception was possibly derived from the elaborate floor plan of the palace at Knossos.
In Greekmythology, the Cretan labyrinth was skillfully designed and constructed by the Athenian craftsman Daedalus as a maze prison for the Minotaur ― a part-man, part-bull man-eating monster ― commissioned by King Minos of Crete. Daedalus revealed the secret of the labyrinth only to Ariadne, Minos' daughter, who aided her lover, the Athenian hero Theseus, to slay the monster and escape. In return, Minos imprisoned Daedalus and his son Icarus in the labyrinth.
Unable to find the way out, Daedalus made waxwings so that he and his son could fly out of the maze. Icarus, however, flew too close to the sun; his wings melted, and he fell into the sea and drowned. Daedalus flew to Sicily, where he was welcomed by King Cocalus. King Minos later pursued Daedalus but was killed by Cocalus' daughters.
Other ancient labyrinths were on the island of Lemnos (Lemnian) and at Clusium (now Chiusi), Italy.
The term labyrinth is also applied to mazelike patterns on the floors of some medieval churches, intended perhaps to symbolize the tortuous journey of Christian pilgrims toward salvation. Garden mazes walled by clipped hedges are also called labyrinths, as, for example, that at Hampton Court, London, planted in the 17th century and still existent. Another British turf maze deserving note is the one at Alkborough in Lincolnshire.
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