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Cadmus

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For the mountain in Asia Minor, see Mount Cadmus.

Cadmus Sowing the Dragon's teeth, by Maxfield Parrish, 1908


Cadmus, or Kadmos (Greek: ), in Greek mythology, was the son of the king of
Phoenicia (Modern day Syria and Lebanon) and brother of Europa. His father is either
Agenor, or Phoenix, son of Agenor. Cadmus founded the city of Thebes, and its acropolis
was 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. Also Cadmus is a town
in Syria between Latakia and Tartus.

Contents
[hide]

1 Legend
2 Classical sources
3 Cadmus in popular culture
4 See also
5 References
6 Further reading

7 External links

Legend
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 special cow, with a
half moon on her flank, 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.
The dragon had been sacred to Ares, so the god made Cadmus to do penance for eight
years by serving him. 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, Agave, Autonoe, Ino 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.
In the play The Bacchae Cadmus is depicted as being turned into a dragon, or
alternatively a serpent, after Dionysius overthrows Thebes.
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

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheke III, i, 1-v, 4;


Hyginus, Fabulae 178;
Ovid. Metamorphoses III,1-137; IV, 563-603.

[edit] Cadmus in popular culture

In the DC Comics universe, a government organization specializing in genetic


engineering and cloning is known as Project Cadmus. This project tends to
involve Superman. A version in Justice League Unlimited was deeply involved in
the plot of the show's first season.

In the Italian sword and sandal film Arrivano i titani (The Arrival of the Titans;
1961; US titles My Son The Hero or The Titans), Cadmus has become a
megalomaniac and declared himself a living god. The Titans - most prominently
the smartest of them, Crios (Giuliano Gemma) - 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.