LAILAPS (Laelaps) was a magical dog which was destined to always catch its quarry. It was first given to Europa of Krete (Crete) by Zeus and then passed down to Minos, Prokris (Procris), and finally the hero Kephalos (Cephalus).
Kephalos set the hound on the trail of the Teumessian Fox, a monstrous beast ravaging the countryside of Thebes. However, the fox was destined never to be caught, and so Zeus--faced with the paradox of an uncatchable fox being chased by an inescapable hound--turned the pair to stone. The neverending chase was also commemorated amongst the stars as the trailing constellations Canis Major and Minor.
Lailaps may be the same as the Golden Hound which was set to guard the infant Zeus in Krete.
FAMILY OF LAELAPS
LAELAPS (Lailaps), i. e. the storm-wind, which is personified in the legend of the dog of Procris which bore this name. Procris had received this extremely swift animal as a present, either from Artemis or Minos, and afterwards left it to her husband Cephalus. When the Teumessian fox was sent as a punishment to the Thebans, to which they had to sacrifice a boy every month, and when Creon had requested Amphitryon to deliver the city of the monster fox, Cephalus sent out the dog Laelaps against the fox. The dog overtook the fox, but Zeus changed both animals into a stone, which was shown in the neighbourhood of Thebes. (Apollod. ii. 4. § 6; Hygin. Fab. 189, Poet. Astr. ii. 35; Ov. Met. vii. 771.)
Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.
CLASSICAL LITERATURE QUOTES
Homerica, The Epigoni Frag 2 (from Photius, Lexicon s.v. Teumesia) (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th B.C.) :
"The Teumesian Fox . . . was sent by the gods to punish the descendants of Kadmos (Cadmus), and that the Thebans therefore excluded those of the house of Kadmos from the kingship. But they say a certain Kephalos (Cephalus), the son of Deion, an Athenian, who owned a Hound [Lailaps (Laelaps)] which no beast ever escaped, had accidentally killed his wife Prokris (Procris), and being purified of the homicide by the Kadmeans (Cadmeans), hunted the Fox with his Hound, and when they had overtaken it both Hound and Fox were turned into stones near Teumessos (Teumessus). These writers have taken the story from the Epic Cycle."
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2. 57 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"A wild Fox was creating havoc in the land [of Thebes]. But despite Amphitryon's attempts [to destroy it], it was fated that no one would subdue this Fox. As the land continued in torment, the Thebans once a month would set out one of the citizen's children for it, for otherwise it would have seized many of them. Amphitryon went to Deioneus' son Kephalos (Cephalus) at Athens, and after promising him a share of the booty from the Teleboan expedition, persuaded him to bring to the Fox hunt the Dog [Lailaps (Laelaps)] which Prokris (Procris) had received from Minos and brought from Krete (Crete), for it was also fated that this Dog would catch whatever it chased. Consequently, when the Fox was chased by the Dog, Zeus turned them both to stone." [N.B. They were turn to stone to resolve a paradox of fate--a Fox destined never be caught being chased by a Dog destined to catch whatever it chased.]
Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 19. 1 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"On this highway is a place called Teumessos, where it is said that Europa was hidden by Zeus. There is also another legend, which tells of a Fox called the Teumessian Fox, how owing to the wrath of Dionysos the beast was reared to destroy the Thebans, and how, when about to be caught by the Hound [Lailaps] given by Artemis to Prokris the daughter of Erekhtheus, the Fox was turned into a stone, as was likewise this Hound."
Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses 41 (trans. Celoria) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"[Prokris (Procris) cured Minos of the curse his wife Pasiphae had placed upon him :] Minos gave Prokris his spear and his dog [Lailaps (Laelaps)]. No animal could escape these two and they always reached their target. Accepting them, Prokris went to Thorikos (Thoricus) in Attika, where Kephalos (Cephalus) lived, and became a hunter with him. She had altered her clothes and had cut her hair as a man; no one who saw her recognised her. When Kephalos saw that he never caught anything when hunting, while everything went the way of Prokris, he yearned to have that spear for himself. Prokris promised to give him the dog as well, if he would agree to enjoy her youthful charms. Kephalos accepted the proposition and when they lay down together, Prokris revealed who she was and reproached him for having committed something far more disgraceful. But Kephalos acquired the dog and the spear.
Amphitryon who needed the dog, went to Kephalos and asked him if he would be willing to join him, with the dog, in going after the [Teumessian] Fox. He promised to hand over to him a share of the booty which he would take from the Teleboans.
For at that time there had appeared in the land of the people of Kadmos (Cadmus), a Fox was a monstrous creature. It would regularly issue out of Teumessos (Teumessus) snatching up Kadmeans (Cadmeans). Every thirty days they would put out a child for it and the Fox would take it and eat it up. Amphitryon had asked Kreon (Creon) and the Kadmeans to help in making war against the Teleboians. They refused unless he helped them do away with the Fox. Amphitryon accepted these conditions from the Kadmeans and went to Kephalos and told him about the agreement and urged him to go to Thebes with the dog. Kephalos accepted the proposal and set out to hunt the Fox. But it had been ordained that the Fox could not be taken by any hunter, and that nothing should escape that dog when it went hunting. Zeus saw them when they reached the plain of Thebes and turned them both into stones."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 189 (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"[Prokris (Procris) fled to Krete (Crete) when she discovered her husband Kephalos (Cephalus) was having an affair with the dawn-goddess Eos :] Procris fled to the island of Crete, where Diana [Artemis] used to hunt. When Diana saw her, she said to her : ‘virgins hunt with me, but you are not a virgin, leave my company.’ Procris revealed to her her misfortune and told her that she had been deceived by Aurora [Eos the Dawn]. Diana, moved by pity, gave her a javelin which no one could avoid, and the dog Laelaps which no wild beast could escape, and bade her go contend with Cephalus. With her hair cut, and in young man's attire, by the will of Diana, she came to Cephalus and challenged him, and surpassed him in the hunt. When Cephalus saw that javelin and Dog were so irresistible, he asked the stranger to sell them to him, not knowing she was his wife. She refused. He promised her also a share in his kingdom [of Phokis]; she still refused. ‘But if,’ she said, ‘you really continue to want this, grant me what boys are won to grant.’ Inflamed by desire for the javelin and the Dog, he promised he would. When they had come into the bed-chamber, Procris took off her tunic and showed that she was a woman and his wife. Cephalus took the gifts and came again into her favour."
Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 35 :
"[Constellation Canis :] He is said to have been given by Jove [Zeus] as a guardian for Europa, and later to have come to Minos. When Minos was ill, Procris, wife of Cephalus, is said to have cured him, and received the dog as a reward for her services, as she was very fond of hunting and the dog was so swift that no beast could escape. After her death the dog came to Cephalus her husband, who brought it to Thebes with him when he came. There was a fox there which was said to be so swift that it could outrun all dogs. So when the two animals met, Jupiter [Zeus], in a dilemma, as Istrus says, changed them both to stone."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 7. 745 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"She [Prokris (Procris)] gave me [Kephalos (Cephalus)] too, as though herself were gift of small account, a hound [Lailaps (Laelaps)] her own Cynthia [Artemis] had given her, saying ‘He'll outrun them all.’ The javelin too she gave me which you see. You ask the story of the other gift? I'll tell a tale to take your breath away. The riddle that had baffled earlier brains was solved by Laiades [Oidipous (Oedipus) son of Laius] and headlong down the Carmina [Sphinx] had fallen, her mysteries forgotten. At once a second plague was launched on Thebae Aoniae (Aonian Thebes), a savage beast [the Teumessian Fox] that killed and feasted on the farmfolk and their flocks. We, the young squires, ringed the broad pastures with our hunting nets, but with a bound the beast was over them, clearing the tops of our entanglements. We slipped our dogs; the beast, as they gave chase, fled like a bird and mocked our hundred hounds. With one accord my comrades called to me for Laelaps (Whirlwind)--my find gift-hound--, who for long had fought the leash that checked him. He was loosed and straightway lost to sight; the hot dust held his footprints; he had vanished; not so swift a lance's flight or bullets from a sling or slender arrows from a Cretan bow. Some rising ground commanded the wide fields; I climbed the top and gained a grandstand view of that strange chase; one moment the beast's caught the next the death-wound's missed him - he's escaped. His course was cunning, never straight for long; he doubled back and circled to deceive the chasing jaws, to foil his foe's assault. The hound pressed close, clung step for step; it seemed he'd got him, but he failed and snapped the air. My javelin must help, I thought, and while I weighed it in my hand and tried to fit my fingers in the loop, I glanced aside, and when I looked again--amazing sight!--there in the open plain below I saw two marble statues, one of them, you'd swear, in flight, the other pouncing on its prey. Some god, if gods were watching, must have willed that both should be unbeaten in that chase."
- Epic Cycle, The Epigoni Fragments - Greek Epic C8th - 7th B.C.
- Greek Lyric IV Corinna, Fragments - Greek Lyric C5th B.C.
- Apollodorus, The Library - Greek Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Antoninus Liberalis, Metamorphoses - Greek Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Hyginus, Fabulae - Latin Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Hyginus, Astronomica - Latin Mythography C2nd A.D.
- Ovid, Metamorphoses - Latin Epic C1st B.C. - C1st A.D.
A complete bibliography of the translations quoted on this page.