AskDefine | Define laius

Dictionary Definition

Laius n : (Greek mythology) king of Thebes who was unwittingly killed by his son Oedipus

Extensive Definition

In Greek mythology, King Laius, or Laios of Thebes was a divine hero and key personage in the Theban founding myth. Son of Labdacus, he was raised by the regent Lycus after the death of his father.

Abduction of Chrysippus

While Laius was still young, Amphion and Zethus usurped the throne of Thebes. Some Thebans, wishing to see the line of Cadmus continue, smuggled Laius out of the city before their attack, in which they killed Lycus and took the throne. Laius was welcomed by Pelops, king of Pisa in the Peloponnesus. Laius became infatuated with the king's son, Chrysippus, and carried him off to Thebes while teaching him how to drive a chariot, or as Hyginus records it, during the Nemean games. This abduction was the subject of one of the lost tragedies of Euripides. 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 or Epicasta, the daughter of Menoeceus, a descendant of the Spartoi. Laius received an oracle from Delphi 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 with her. Laius ordered the baby, Oedipus, to have his feet pierced and to be exposed on Mount Cithaeron, but he was taken by a shepherd and given to King Polybus and Queen Merope (or Periboea) 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. Laius was buried where he died by Damasistratus, the king of Plataea.
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 child, or because he ignored the oracle's warning not to have children, or some combination of these, is not clear.

Spoken-word myths - audio files


Modern sources

laius in Catalan: Laios
laius in Danish: Laios
laius in German: Laios
laius in Estonian: Laios
laius in Modern Greek (1453-): Λάιος ο Λάμβακος
laius in Spanish: Layo
laius in French: Laïos
laius in Italian: Laio
laius in Korean: 라이오스
laius in Latin: Laius
laius in Dutch: Laios
laius in Polish: Lajos
laius in Portuguese: Laio
laius in Romanian: Laios
laius in Russian: Лай
laius in Finnish: Laios
laius in Swedish: Laios
laius in Ukrainian: Лаій
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