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Laius

Laius

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In Greek mythology
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

, King Laius, or Laios of Thebes
Ancient Thebes (Boeotia)
See Thebes, Greece for the modern city built on the ancient ruins.Ancient Thebes was a Boeotian city-state , situated to the north of the Cithaeron range, which divides Boeotia from Attica, and on the southern edge of the Boeotian plain...

 was a divine hero and key personage in the Theban founding myth
Founding myth
A national myth is an inspiring narrative or anecdote about a nation's past. Such myths often serve as an important national symbol and affirm a set of national values. A national myth may sometimes take the form of a national epic...

. Son of Labdacus
Labdacus
In Greek mythology, Labdacus was the only son of Polydorus and a king of Thebes. Labdacus was a grandson of Thebes' founder, Cadmus. His mother was Nycteis, daughter of Nycteus. Polydorus died while Labdacus was a young child, leaving Nycteus as his regent, although Lycus soon replaced him in that...

, he was raised by the regent Lycus
Lycus (brother of Nycteus)
In Greek Mythology, Lycus was a ruler of the ancient city of Ancient Thebes . His rule was preceded by the regency of Nycteus, and he was succeeded by the twins Amphion and Zethus.-Genealogy:...

 after the death of his father.

Abduction of Chrysippus


While Laius was still young, Amphion and Zethus
Amphion and Zethus
Amphion and Zethus , in ancient Greek mythology, were the twin sons of Zeus by Antiope. They are important characters in one of the two founding myths of the city of Thebes, because they constructed the city's walls....

 usurped the throne of Thebes. Some Thebans, wishing to see the line of Cadmus
Cadmus
Cadmus or Kadmos , in Greek mythology was a Phoenician prince, the son of king Agenor and queen Telephassa of Tyre and the brother of Phoenix, Cilix and Europa. He was originally sent by his royal parents to seek out and escort his sister Europa back to Tyre after she was abducted from the shores...

 continue, smuggled Laius out of the city before their attack, in which they killed Lycus and took the throne. Laius was welcomed by Pelops
Pelops
In Greek mythology, Pelops , was king of Pisa in the Peloponnesus. He was the founder of the House of Atreus through his son of that name....

, king of Pisa
Pisa (Greece)
Pisa was the name of an ancient town in the western Peloponnese, Greece. The area controlled by Pisa was called Pisatis, which included Olympia, the site of the Ancient Olympic Games. Pisa and Pisatis were subjugated by Elis in 572 BC. Currently, it is a village within the municipality of Olympia...

 in the Peloponnesus. Laius abducted and raped the king's son, Chrysippus
Chrysippus (mythology)
In Greek mythology, Chrysippus was a divine hero of Elis in the Peloponnesus, the bastard son of Pelops king of Pisa in the Peloponnesus and the nymph Axioche. He was kidnapped by the Theban Laius, his tutor, who was escorting him to the Nemean Games, where the boy planned to compete...

, and carried him off to Thebes while teaching him how to drive a chariot, or as Hyginus
Gaius Julius Hyginus
Gaius Julius Hyginus was a Latin author, a pupil of the famous Cornelius Alexander Polyhistor, and a freedman of Caesar Augustus. He was by Augustus elected superintendent of the Palatine library according to Suetonius' De Grammaticis, 20...

 records it, during the Nemean games
Nemean Games
The Nemean Games were one of the four Panhellenic Games of Ancient Greece, and were held at Nemea every two years ....

. This abduction was the subject of one of the lost tragedies of Euripides
Euripides
Euripides was one of the three great tragedians of classical Athens, the other two being Aeschylus and Sophocles. Some ancient scholars attributed ninety-five plays to him but according to the Suda it was ninety-two at most...

. With both Amphion and Zethus having died in his absence, Laius became king of Thebes upon his return.

Later misfortunes


After the rape of Chrysippus, Laius married Jocasta
Jocasta
In Greek mythology, Jocasta, also known as Jocaste , EpikastĂȘ, or IokastĂȘ was a daughter of Menoeceus and Queen consort of Thebes, Greece. She was the wife of Laius. Wife and mother of Oedipus by Laius, and both mother and grandmother of Antigone, Eteocles, Polynices and Ismene by Oedipus...

 or Epicasta, the daughter of Menoeceus
Menoeceus
In Greek mythology, Menoeceus was the father of Creon and Jocasta and both grandfather and father-in-law of Oedipus. Another Menoeceus was the son of Creon, named after his grandfather...

, a descendant of the Spartoi. Laius received an oracle
Oracle
In Classical Antiquity, an oracle was a person or agency considered to be a source of wise counsel or prophetic predictions or precognition of the future, inspired by the gods. As such it is a form of divination....

 from Delphi
Delphi
Delphi is both an archaeological site and a modern town in Greece on the south-western spur of Mount Parnassus in the valley of Phocis.In Greek mythology, Delphi was the site of the Delphic oracle, the most important oracle in the classical Greek world, and a major site for the worship of the god...

 which told him that he must not have a child with his wife, or the child would kill him and marry her. One night, however, Laius was drunk and fathered Oedipus
Oedipus
Oedipus was a mythical Greek king of Thebes. He fulfilled a prophecy that said he would kill his father and marry his mother, and thus brought disaster on his city and family...

 with her. On Laius's orders the baby, Oedipus, was exposed on Mount Cithaeron with his feet bound (or perhaps staked to the ground), but he was taken by a shepherd, who did not have the resources to look after him, so he was given to King Polybus and Queen Merope (or Periboea
Periboea
In Greek mythology, nine people shared the name Periboea .#Periboea was the daughter of either King Cychreus of Salamis or of Alcathous, her mother in the latter case being either Pyrgo or Evaechme, daughter of Megareus. She married Telamon and became and mother of Ajax...

) of Corinth who raised him to adulthood.

When Oedipus desired to know more about his parentage, he consulted the Delphic Oracle, only to be told that he must not go to his home or he would kill his father and marry his mother. Thinking that he was from Corinth, he set out toward Thebes to avoid this fate. At the road called 'Cleft Way,' he met Laius, who was going to Delphi to consult the oracle because he had received omens indicating that his son might return to kill him. Oedipus refused to defer to the king, although Laius's attendants ordered him to. Being angered, Laius either rolled a chariot wheel over his foot or hit him with his whip, and Oedipus killed Laius and all but one of his attendants, who claims it was a gang of men. Laius was buried where he died by Damasistratus, the king of Plataea
Plataea
Plataea or Plataeae was an ancient city, located in Greece in southeastern Boeotia, south of Thebes. It was the location of the Battle of Plataea in 479 BC, in which an alliance of Greek city-states defeated the Persians....

. Later, Thebes is cursed with a disease because his murderer has not been punished.

Many of Laius's descendants met with ill fortune, but whether this was because he violated the laws of hospitality and marriage by carrying off his host's son and raping him, or because he ignored the oracle's warning not to have children, or some combination of these, is not clear. Another theory is that the entire line of Cadmus was cursed, either by Ares
Ares
Ares is the Greek god of war. He is one of the Twelve Olympians, and the son of Zeus and Hera. In Greek literature, he often represents the physical or violent aspect of war, in contrast to the armored Athena, whose functions as a goddess of intelligence include military strategy and...

, when Cadmus killed his serpent, or else by Hephaestus
Hephaestus
Hephaestus was a Greek god whose Roman equivalent was Vulcan. He is the son of Zeus and Hera, the King and Queen of the Gods - or else, according to some accounts, of Hera alone. He was the god of technology, blacksmiths, craftsmen, artisans, sculptors, metals, metallurgy, fire and volcanoes...

, who resented the fact that Cadmus married Harmonia
Harmonia (mythology)
In Greek mythology, Harmonia is the immortal goddess of harmony and concord. Her Roman counterpart is Concordia, and her Greek opposite is Eris, whose Roman counterpart is Discordia.-Origins:...

, the daughter of Ares and Aphrodite
Aphrodite
Aphrodite is the Greek goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation.Her Roman equivalent is the goddess .Historically, her cult in Greece was imported from, or influenced by, the cult of Astarte in Phoenicia....

, Hephaestus's straying wife. Certainly many of Cadmus's descendants had tragic ends.

Modern sources