I love stories about the foundations of cities, it is always fun to see what kind of tales did the ancients made to explain the birth of their towns. So while I was thinking of finishing the story of Oedipus, I remembered another good story about Thebes, the legendary founding of the city by the hero Cadmus. Don't worry, I'll make sure of it that we finish Oedipus' story and then discuss the great story of the epic Seven Against Thebes. For now however, let us get to the roots of Thebes history, let us go to the very foundation of a city.
While he was into many weird sexual fetishes, it seems that Zeus was really into the transformation fetish
Our story begins in the land of Phoenicia (located in modern day coastal regions of Northern Israel/Syria/Lebanon) where the daughter of King Agenor, Europa, was abducted by Zeus in the form of a great white bull that flew to god knows where (though the name Europa does give a good clue where). Upset of her daughters divine kidnapping, the king ordered his son Cadmus to go get her. Cadmus thus began a quest that ended in futility, for no one save someone from the mighty lust of Zeus (I mean just look at that image of him up there, sticking his tongue out and saying "yeah this young mare is mine, what are you going to do about it? I'm the god of lighting bitch! No one gets between me and my quarry!") It was Cadmus, his mother, and his brother who found the island of Samothrace and there they met another group of travelers. There was the matriarch Elektra, her two sons, and her daughter Harmonia. Now knowing how it feels to have a loved one taken away by unbridled passion, Cadmus abducted Harmonia and made her his wife. (Wait what?) Oh yes it gets better, for this was the first wedding that was celebrated so the gods themselves came down with gifts to the newly weds. However, perhaps I am looking at this through a modern perspective, because they really did seem to love each other.
Yeah man I can see like the future man, the FUTURE!
So eventually Cadmus makes his to the famous oracle of Delphi and in the hallowed ground of the seer he is given a unique order by the priestess of Apollo. He is told to follow a cow (wow the Greeks and Gary Larson sure have a thing for cows) that had a special mark on its side, a half moon. Cadmus was told to follow it until the cow fell to exhaustion, there he would found a new city that would rival all others. Eventually he was given a cow that had this mark by the king Pelagon of Phocis. Heeding the words of the seer, he followed the cow until it fell exhausted in the region of Boeotia.
Don't you things have something better to do?
With the location of the new city found, Cadmus thought it to be proper to sacrifice the cow to Athena, but first he sent some companions to fetch some water from a nearby spring. They were immediately killed by a the dragon that lived by the spring and in retaliation, Cadmus was able to slay the beast. It was then that wise Athena told him that he needed to take the teeth of the dragon and sow them into the ground.
Weird, but I ain't going to disagree with the goddess of wisdom.
For when he sowed the dragon's teeth into the ground, there arose fierce warriors known as the Spartoi (meaning "sown"). They would have killed Cadmus, but the man knew a little trick. He threw a rock at one of them and it caused all of them to fight until five remained. He then led these five to back to the to city where they helped constructed the acropolis of Thebes and were the beginnings of the five richest and oldest families of Thebes. There was a problem still however, for that dragon he slayed was sacred to the god of war himself. So Ares ordered him to work for him for the next eight years in order to redeem himself of his transgression.
What? You don't like the new me?
And so Cadmus ruled Thebes pretty well with his queen Harmonia in the early years. They had some kids, there was relative peace, and the kingdom was thriving; however something bothered Cadmus. At his wedding he had been given a necklace by Athena that was made by the lame smith Hephaestus. He gave it to his wife hence why it is called the "necklace of Harmonia", but it seemed to bring misfortune all the time. Civil war, famines, and civil unrest finally resulting in Cadmus abdicating the throne to his grandson and deciding to leave to the land of Illyria where he founded the cities of Ohrid and Budva. Nevertheless, he was upset that all this misfortune seemed to be result of him slaying that dragon. So he 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, which they granted. And so ends the tale of Cadmus, where it began with something turning into something because of love and ended basically the same way.