Learn more about Cadmus

Jump to: navigation, search
For the mountain in Asia Minor, see Mount Cadmus.

Cadmus, or Kadmos (Greek: Κάδμος), in Greek mythology, was the son of the king of Phoenicia (Currently Lebanon)and brother of Europa. His father is either Agenor, or Phoenix, son of Agenor. Cadmus founded the city of Thebes, its acropolis originally named Cadmeia in his honor. Cadmus was credited by the Hellenes with the introduction of the Phoenician alphabet, phoinikeia grammata (Herodotus, Histories V. 58). According to Greek myth, Cadmus' descendants ruled at Thebes on-and-off for several generations, including the time of the Trojan War. For a discussion of the mythical kings of Thebes, see Theban kings - Greek mythology.

After his sister Europa had been carried off by Zeus, Cadmus was sent out to find her. Unsuccessful in his search, he came in the course of his wanderings to Delphi, where he consulted the oracle. He was ordered to give up his quest and follow a cow which would meet him, and to build a town on the spot where she should lie down exhausted.

The cow was given to Cadmus by Pelagon, King of Phocis, and it guided him to Boeotia, where he founded the city of Thebes. Robert Graves (The Greek Myths) suggested that the cow was actually turned loose within a moderately confined space, and that where she lay down, a temple to the moon-goddess (Selene) was erected: "A cow's strategic and commercial sensibilities are not well developed," Graves remarked.

Intending to sacrifice the cow to Athena, Cadmus sent some of his companions to the nearby Castalian Spring, for water. They were slain by the spring's guardian water-dragon (compare the Lernaean Hydra), which was in turn destroyed by Cadmus, the duty of a culture hero of the new order.

By the instructions of Athena, he sowed the dragon's teeth in the ground, from which there sprang a race of fierce armed men, called Spartes ("sown"). By throwing a stone among them, Cadmus caused them to fall upon one another until only five survived, who assisted him to build the Cadmeia or citadel of Thebes, and became the founders of the noblest families of that city.

Cadmus, however, because the dragon was sacred to Ares, had to do penance for eight years by serving that god. At the expiration of this period, the gods gave him as wife Harmonia, daughter of Ares and Aphrodite, by whom he had a son Polydorus, and four daughters, Ino, Autonoe, Agave, and Semele.

At the wedding, all the gods were present; Harmonia received as bridal gifts a peplos worked by Athena and a necklace made by Hephaestus. Notwithstanding the divinely ordained nature of his marriage and his kingdom, Cadmus lived to regret both: his family was overtaken by grievous misfortunes, and his city by civil unrest. Cadmus finally abdicated in favor of his grandson Pentheus, and retired with Harmonia to Illyria, whose inhabitants proclaimed him their king.

Nevertheless, Cadmus was deeply troubled by the ill-fortune which clung to him as a result of his having killed the sacred dragon, and one day he remarked that if the gods were so enamored of the life of a serpent, he might as well wish that life for himself. Immediately he began to grow scales and change in form. Harmonia, seeing the transformation, thereupon begged the gods to share her husband's fate, and she did.(Hyginus)

In a variation of the story, the bodies of Cadmus and his wife were changed after their deaths; the serpents watched their tomb while their souls were translated to the Elysian fields.

To this day, some in Greece contend that Cadmus was originally a Boeotian, that is, a Greek hero, and that in later times, the story of a Phoenician immigrant of that name became current, to whom was ascribed the introduction of the alphabet, the invention of agriculture and working in bronze and of civilization generally. But the name itself is Greek; and the fact that Hermes was worshipped in Samothrace under the name of Cadmus or Cadmilus seems to show that the Theban Cadmus was originally an ancestral Theban hero corresponding to the Samothracian. Another Samothracian connection for Cadmus is offered via his wife Harmonia, who is said in some accounts to be daughter of Zeus and Electra and of Samothracian birth. The name Cadmus may mean "order," and may be used to characterize one who introduces order and civilization.

In Phoenician, as well as Hebrew, the root qdm signifies "the east," the Levantine origin of "Kdm" himself, according to the Greek mythographers.


[edit] Classical sources

[edit] Cadmus in popular culture

  • In the Italian sword and sandal film Arrivano i titani (The Arrival of the Titans; 1961), Cadmus has become a megalomaniac and declared himself a living god. The Titans are released from Hades to confront him and to ensure his punishment.
  • Cadmus is depicted in the act of slaying the dragon on the cover of the Sufjan Stevens album A Sun Came. The song "Oracle Said Wander," a likely reference to the Delphic oracle's message to Cadmus, is on that same album.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

8Kerenyi, Karl, 1959. The Heroes of the Greeks

[edit] Further reading

  • R.B. Edwards, Kadmos, the Phoenician (Amsterdam, 1979)

[edit] External links

  • []
Wikimedia Commons has media related to:

cs:Kadmos da:Kadmos de:Kadmos et:Kadmos el:Κάδμος es:Cadmo fr:Cadmos it:Cadmo he:קדמוס lb:Kadmos nl:Kadmos ja:カドモス pl:Kadmos pt:Cadmo ru:Кадм sr:Кадмо sv:Kadmos uk:Кадм


Personal tools
what is world wizzy?
  • World Wizzy is a static snapshot taken of Wikipedia in early 2007. It cannot be edited and is online for historic & educational purposes only.