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From Greek and Roman Mythology & Heroic Legend, by Professor H. Steuding, Translated from the German and edited by Lionel D. Barnett. The Temple Primers, London: J. M. Dent; 1901; pp. 71-74.


Heroic Poetry

I.  Theban Legends.   § 123.  Kadmos, the builder of the Kadmeia, from which he himself as ‘eponymous’ hero derives his name, is the mythical ancestor of the princely race of Kadmeiones dwelling on the citadel of Thebes. He destroyed a dragon born of Ares that lurked by a spring. From its teeth when sown in the earth grew the brazen Spartoi or ‘sown men,’ i. e. the earliest inhabitants of Thebes. When they had for the most part slain one another in a fratricidal strife aroused by Kadmos’ devices, he founded the Kadmeia with the aid of the five survivors, i. e. the ancestors of the noble families of Thebes. He then wedded Harmonia (‘Union’), the daughter of the national Boiotian deities Ares and Aphrodite; this points to the creation of an ordered civic life. Of their children, Ino and Semele should be mentioned. Finally Kadmos with his wife, like other heroes, took the form of a snake; both however were removed by Zeus into Elysion. In Sparta Kadmos had a heroon, or place of worship as a hero.

Later legend, which was especially propagated from Delphoi, placed the home of Kadmos in Phoenicia, and made him a son of King Agenor of Tyre. By the latter, it is said, he was despatched with his brothers, the tribal heroes, Phoinix, Kilix, and Thasos, to seek for his sister Europe when she had been carried away by Zeus; but on arriving at Boiotia he founded Thebes. While playing with her comrades on the shore of Sidon or Tyre, Europe had been led by Zeus, appearing in the form of a bull, to mount upon his back, and was then suddenly borne away by him over the sea to Crete, where Zeus Laterios may have been once worshipped in bull’s form. Minos and Rhadamanthys were reputed her sons; the feast of the Hellotia was celebrated in honour of Europe Hellotia or Hellotis in Crete, and in it an enormous crown of myrtle was carried about.


§ 124.  Antiope is a heroine of Boiotia and Sekyon. In the hills of Kithairon she bears to Zeus the twins Amphion and Zethos, who probably are in origin akin to the Lakonian Dioskoroi. Being later cruelly tortured by Dirke, the jealous wife of her uncle Lykos, she flees to Kithairon, and there unrecognised she meets her sons, whom a herdsman had brought up. On a festival of Dionysos however she is captured again by Dirke, and in punishment of her flight she is bound to the horns of a bull to be crushed to death. Then her sons learn from their fosterfather the secret of their birth, free their mother, and execute the punishment to which she has been doomed on Dirke herself, who as she dies is transformed into the spring of that name near Thebes. The binding of Dirke to the bull was represented at the beginning of the second century by Apollonios and Tauriskos of Tralles in the marble group well known under the name of the ‘Farnese Bull,’ which is now in Naples.

The twins now make themselves masters of Thebes and surround the lower town with the seven-gated wall, the stones dragged thither by the powerful Zethos setting themselves in ordered rows by the magic of Amphion’s harping. It is a story probably meant to extol the regulative influence of music, in which the same law of proportion rules as in the art of building.

§ 125.  Amphion wedded Niobe, the daughter of Tantalos, who had inherited the pride of her father. As she had borne six sons and six daughters, she boasted that she was richer than Leto, who had but two children. Apollon and Artemis avenged the insult offered to their mother by slaying all the children of Niobe, who in grief for her bereavement turned into a stone and was removed to Mount Sipylos in Lydia; but she was invoked in Greece too as a goddess, and a spring of Argos bore her name. Amphion slew himself; his grave was shown near Thebes.

The slaughter of the Niobids was represented in a group by Skopas or Praxiteles, probably for the city of Seleucia in Cilicia, and this was later brought to Rome. Most of the 74 figures in it have come down to us in Roman imitations, now in Florence.

Next :
Heroic Poetry :

II.  The Legends of Argos, Mykenai, and Tiryns.

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