Cadmus (Κάδμος) is the son of the Phoenician king Agenor and the brother of Europe (the myth of Europe here). Cadmus is the founder of the city of Thebes, the acropolis is named after him – Cadmea. The historian Herodotus mentions Cadmus as a person who introduced the Phoenician script, and it was reworked into the Phoenician alphabet.

When he goes to rescue his abducted sister Europa from Zeus, he seeks help from the Delphic oracle, who points to him (a moon-spotted cow), finds the cow and builds the city of Thebes in its place, kills Ares’ son, a dragon, and at the suggestion of a goddess. Athens sows part of the teeth of the monster from which the Spartans, who help Jason, sprout.

Myth of Cadmus

When Zeus, turned into a bull, kidnapped Europa, her father, Agenor, the king of Sidon, sank into grief. Nothing could comfort him. He called his three sons – Phoenix, Cilix and Cadmus – and sent them to find Europe. He told them not to return home without their sister, otherwise they would be killed. Agenor’s sons rushed to look for her. Phoenix and Cilix soon separated from Cadmus. They founded two kingdoms: Phoenix – Phenicia, and Cilix – Cilicia, and remained in them.

Cadmus continued to travel alone, looking for his sister. He traveled the world for a long time, inquiring everywhere about Europe. But could he find her, since Zeus himself hid her from everyone! Finally, losing hope of finding his sister and fearing to return home, Cadmus decided to stay abroad forever. He went to the holy city of Delphi and asked there the oracle of the archer Apollo in which country he should settle and establish a city. The oracle of Apollo answered him thus:

“In a secluded meadow you will see a cow that has not been harnessed. Follow her and where she lies on the grass, build city walls and call the country Boeotia.”

Upon receiving this answer, Cadmus left the holy city of Delphi. As soon as he came out of the door, he saw a snow-white cow grazing in the meadow without anyone guarding it. Cadmus followed her with his faithful servants of Sidon, glorifying the great Apollo. He was crossing the valley of the Kefis River when the cow suddenly stopped, raised her head to the sky, groaned loudly, looked at the warriors following her, and lay quietly on the green grass. Cadmus, filled with gratitude to Apollo, fell to his knees, kissed the land of his new homeland, and called on the gods to bless the unknown mountains and valleys. He immediately built an altar of stone to offer a sacrifice to the aegis of Zeus, but since there was no water for the sacrifice, he sent his faithful Sidonians for water.

Not far away was a centuries-old forest that had never been touched by a lumberjack’s axe. In the middle of this forest was a deep cave, all overgrown with bushes, and around it were piled a huge amount of stones. From this cave gushed, roaring between the stones, a spring with crystal clear water. But in the cave lived a huge dragon, which was dedicated to the god of war Ares. His eyes shone like fire, three blades of tongue appeared from his large mouth with three rows of poisonous teeth, a golden crest swayed terribly on the dragon’s head. When Cadmus’s servants approached the spring and had already immersed the vessels in its cold water, the dragon crawled out of the cave with a terrible hiss, writhing between the stones with its huge body. The servants of Cadmus, pale with fear, dropped their vessels, and an icy terror bound their hands and feet. The dragon stood on its tail – its head with its open mouth protruded above the centuries-old trees of the forest. The terrible dragon attacked the Sidonians before any of them even considered fleeing or defending themselves. Camus’ servants were killed.

Cadmus waited a long time for his servants to return. The sun was already setting in the west, the shadows on the ground were lengthened, and the servants were still gone: Agenor’s son wondered where the Sidonians had gone, why they were lingering. At last he followed in their footsteps to the forest, covered with lion skin like armor, girded with a sharp sword and a spear in his hand. And an even more secure defense for the hero was his courage. Cadmus entered the forest and saw there the torn bodies of his faithful servants, and on their bodies lay the huge dragon. In his grief and anger, Cadmus shouted:

“O faithful servants, I will avenge you! Either I will take revenge, or I will descend with you into the dark realm of shadows!”

Cadmus grabbed a rock the size of a rock and, stepping up, threw it into the dragon. The impact of this stone would have knocked down a fortress tower, but the dragon remained unharmed – it was protected by steel-hard scales that covered his entire body. Then Agenor’s son waved his spear and, gathering all his strength, stabbed him in the back of the monster. The steel scales of the dragon could not keep him from Cadmus’ spear. It slammed into the dragon’s body next to the handle. Writhing, the dragon grabbed the spear with its teeth and wanted to pull it out of the wound. His efforts were in vain; the blade of the spear remained deep in the wound; The dragon of Ares broke only the handle. The dragon’s neck swelled with black venom and foam of rage flowed from his large mouth, a fierce hiss spread far and wide, the air filled with stench from his breath. The dragon now twists in large hoops on the ground, now spins furiously and rises high. He felled trees, uprooting them, and scattering huge stones with his tail on all sides. He wants to grab Cadmus with his poisonous mouth, but the hero, disguised in lion skin like a shield, repulses the dragon with his sword. The dragon gnaws the sharp sword with its teeth, but only grits its teeth against its steel.

The sowing of dragon teeth, Peter Paul Rubens 

Finally, with a strong blow, Agenor’s son pierces the dragon’s neck and nails it to an oak – so strong was the blow of the mighty hero.

The hundred-year-old oak bent under the weight of the monster’s body. Cadmus stared in amazement at the dragon he had fallen, marveling at its size. Suddenly an unfamiliar voice was heard:

“Why are you standing like that, son of Agenor, wondering at the dragon you killed? Soon you too will be turned into a dragon and people will wonder.”

Cadmus looked around, he didn’t know where the mysterious voice came from. The hero shuddered at the horror of hearing such a prophecy; his hair stood on end. He stands in front of the slain dragon, barely unconscious. Then the beloved daughter of Zeus, Athena Paladas, appeared to Cadmus. She ordered him to pull out the dragon’s teeth and sow them like seeds in plowed fields.

Cadmus did as the warrior goddess commanded him with the eyes of an owl. He had barely planted the dragon’s teeth, and – oh miracle! – first the blades of spears came out of the ground; behold, the combs of helmets rose above the plow, then the heads of warriors, their shoulders covered with armor, their hands with shields in them, and finally from the dragon’s teeth grew a whole detachment of armed warriors. Seeing the new unknown enemy, Cadmus drew his sword, but one of the warriors born of the earth shouted:

“Don’t reach for the sword! Beware of interfering in the internecine battle!”

A terrible bloody battle begins between the warriors. They inflicted deadly blows with swords and spears and fell one after another on the land that had just given birth to them. There are only five left. Then one of them, by order of Athena Paladas, threw his weapon on the ground as a sign of peace. The warriors formed a close, fraternal friendship. These warriors, who the earth gave birth to from the dragon’s teeth, were Cadmus’ helpers when he built Cadmea, the fortress of the seven-door Thebes.

Cadmus laid the foundations of the great city of Thebes, gave the citizens laws and settled the whole country. The Olympian gods gave Cadmus the beautiful daughter of Ares and Aphrodite, Harmony, as his wife. The wedding feast of the great founder of Thebes was magnificent. All the Olympians gathered at this wedding and gave rich gifts to the newlyweds.

Since then, Cadmus has become one of the most powerful kings of Greece. His riches were innumerable. His army was numerous and invincible, led by the warriors who gave birth to the earth from the serpent’s teeth. One would say that eternal joy and happiness should reign in the home of Agenor’s son, but not only happiness was sent to him by the Olympians. He happened to experience many misfortunes. His daughters Semela and Ino died in front of their father. It is true that after their death they were accepted in the midst of the Olympian gods, but still Cadmus lost his tenderly loved daughters. Actaeon, the grandson of Cadmus, son of his daughter Autonomous, fell victim to the wrath of Artemis. Cadmus had to mourn his grandchildren as well.

In his old days, ruined by severe misfortunes. Cadmus left the seven-door Thebes. He wandered abroad for a long time with his wife Harmony and finally arrived in distant Illyria. With a pain in his heart, Cadmus remembered all the misfortunes that had befallen his home, remembered his struggle with the dragon, and the words uttered by the unfamiliar voice:

“Wasn’t the dragon I killed with my sword dedicated to the gods?”, Cadmus wondered. “Since the gods punish me so severely for destroying him, I’d better turn myself into a dragon.”

Cadmus has just uttered this, and his body lengthened and flaked, his legs fused and turned into a long meandering serpent’s tail. Horrified and with tears in his eyes, he extends his still-preserved hands to Harmony and calls out to her:

“Oh, come to me, Harmony! Touch me, touch my hand, until I have become a dragon!”

He shouts to Harmony, he wants to tell her many more things, but his tongue splits and a snake’s tongue is already moving in his throat, and only a hiss comes out of his mouth. Harmony comes to him:

“Oh, Cadmeus!”, she exclaims. “Get rid of that image sooner! Oh gods, why didn’t you turn me into a dragon too!”

Cadmus, turned into a huge dragon, wrapped himself around his faithful wife; he licks her face with his forked tongue. Sadly strokes Harmony covered with scales back of the dragon. The gods also turned Harmony into a snake, and here are two dragons – Harmony and Cadmus.

Cadmus and his wife ended their lives as dragons.

Exposed according to Ovid’s poem “Metamorphoses”