About Teumessian Fox – Creature of Greek Mythology

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The Teumessian fox was a gigantic fox sent to ravage the city of Thebes by one of the gods, probably Dionysius, as a punishment for some crime. The fox was said to be so swift that it was always able to elude its pursuers.

Creon, the ruler of Thebes, eventually asked Amphitryon to kill the fox. Amphitryon had the idea of using the hound Laelaps which was so fast that it always caught its prey. This created the paradox of an inescapable hound pursuing an uncatchable fox.

Zeus realized that the two animals were locked in a chase that would last for eternity. He thus turned them into stone and then into the constellations Canis Major (Laelaps) and Canis Minor (Teumessian Fox). Here’s more information:

Teumessian Fox and the People of Thebes

It really isn’t clear what the Thebans had done; it isn’t even entirely clear if it was Dionysius who was angry with them. Nor is it clear when the crime had been committed. It might have taken place during Cadmus’ time, or it might have been more recent.

As the Teumessian fox often targeted children, the Thebans would try to placate the beast by sending a child to it every month in the hopes that it would leave their other children alone.

Laelaps and the Teumessian Fox

Laelaps had originally been a gift from Zeus to one of his lovers, Europa. She was a mortal woman who had borne him three sons, Sarpedon, Rhadamanthys, and Minos. Zeus brought her to Crete but eventually had to return to Olympus. He gave her three gifts: Laelaps, a spear that always hits its mark, and a man of bronze called Talos who guarded the Cretan coast.

Minos eventually inherited both the kingship of Crete and his mother’s gifts. He gave Laelaps and the spear to the Athenian princess Procris, who had healed him of an affliction. Procris eventually returned to her estranged husband Cephalus, who became the new owner of the spear and Laelaps.

The Teumessian fox was named for a region near Thebes called Teumessus. It was also sometimes called the Cadmean Vixen since Cadmea was an old name for Thebes. Some ancient writers said the fox was one of the monstrous children of Typhon and Echidna, but not everybody believed this. In addition to attacking children, the Teumessian fox would also kill farmers and their livestock.

All About Amphitryon

Amphitryon was the step-father of Heracles, and he had come to Thebes hoping to enlist Creon’s aid in a war against a people called the Teleboians. Creon agreed to send troops – if Amphitryon would kill the Teumessian fox. Amphitryon agreed. After several unsuccessful attempts, he approached Cephalus, the current owner of Laelaps, and asked permission to borrow his hound.

He promised Cephalus a share of the spoils from his war. He also promised to help Cephalus secure an audience with Creon to ask for absolution for accidentally killing his wife. Cephalus agreed, and he and Laelaps went to Thebes with Amphitryon.

After Zeus had dealt with the Teumessian fox and Laelaps, Creon kept his bargain with Amphitryon and supplied troops for his war. The Thebans, however, enjoyed only a brief respite, for another monster, the Sphinx, soon came to ravage their beleaguered city.



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