The abduction of Europa triggered many events. 3624: The Abduction of Europa. Mosaic. Landesmuseum Oldenburg, Das Schloß.
"I saw in Hades hateful Eriphyle, who took precious gold as the price of the life of her own lord." (Odysseus. Homer, Odyssey 11.325).
"Senseless passions shipwreck many men, and even more women." (Pausanias, Description of Greece 8.24.8).
The entangled story of two interesting objects: follow below its episodes of betrayal and other nonsensical behavior while you get acquainted with the origin of the city of Thebes, its unwise
rulers, and the scandals and destruction that their
These events originated when Zeus fell in love with the
Phoenician princess Europa, and having taken
the form of a bull, carried her off and took her
across the sea to the island of Crete. Nobody has ever reported whether Europa ever complained
about her fate. In Crete, Zeus made love to her and
she bore sons who became famous, both in this world
and in the next. Afterwards, she married Asterius 3, who probably was a very gentle man, since nothing is told about him except that he brought up her children with Zeus, and reigned in Crete until Minos 1, son of Europa and the god,
succeeded him on the throne.
Foundation of famous city
But the girl's father, King Agenor 1, being disturbed by her disappearance, told his sons to look for her in foreign countries and never return until they had found her. That is how Cadmus, one of her
brothers, became an emigrant and came to Thrace,
while the other brothers, after looking in vain for Europa, settled in different countries. Having expended some time in fruitless search, Cadmus traveled to Delphi to inquire about
his sister, but the oracle told him not to trouble
about her. Insted, the oracle said, he should let
himself be guided by a cow, and found a city
wherever the animal should fall down for weariness.
He obeyed, and after journeying through several
landscapes the cow resolved to rest in the place
where Cadmus, following
the oracle's instructions, built the city of Thebes.
Boeotia in mainland Greece
Others say that Cadmus was not just an emigrant striving to reunite with
his beloved sister, but that he led a Phoenician
army that invaded Boeotia. But, either emigrant or
conqueror, Cadmus was a
clever man, and he is remembered for having managed
to combine consonants with vowels, thus teaching
the secrets of a correct speech. He was bold too,
for when he needed water in order to sacrifice the
gentle cow that had shown him the way, he did not
hesitate, when he saw that the spring was guarded
by a Dragon, in destroying the beast, which used to
kill all those who came to the spring for water.
Teeth turned into armed men
Having killed the Dragon, Cadmus received advice
from Athena, who told him
to sow the Dragon's teeth. He did as the goddess
said, and there rose from the ground armed men,
called SPARTI, who cared
for nothing except killing each other. Some say
that they did this because Cadmus flung stones at
them, and they supposed that they were being pelted
by each other. Not all of the SPARTI died; at least
five survived, and Cadmus had to serve Ares for a whole year for having killed his darling Dragon, which, some say, was this god's offspring. That was not little time, since the year was then equivalent to eight years of our reckoning. Cadmus did not sow all
the Dragon's teeth; it is known that King Aeetes of Colchis
received half of the teeth from Athena, since some time
after he ordered the Argonaut Jason to yoke two wild
bulls and sow the teeth, as Cadmus had done in Thebes. And when Jason had sown the teeth
there rose once more armed men from the ground, and
he pelted them unseen with stones so that they
fought each other and then, drawing near, he slew
Kingdom and wife
After serving Ares during that long year, Athena granted Cadmus the kingdom, and Zeus gave him to wife Harmonia 1, daughter of the same Ares and Aphrodite. Some affirm that Harmonia 1 was instead the daughter of Zeus and Electra 3, but the others argue that Electra 3 was only her nurse. Some tell that this Electra 3 is the one among the PLEIADES who does not appear because of the death of Dardanus 1, her son, and the loss of Troy. But others assert that the one Pleiad who does not appear is Merope 1, who, repenting for having married a mortal man (Sisyphus), hides herself out of shame. The kingdom was Cadmea after its founde, and
only later was called Thebes. So came to an end
the rule of King Ogygus of the Ectenes, who was the
first to occupy the land of Thebes, and from whom is
derived the epithet Ogygian, often applied to the
The Wedding present
Harmonia 1 received from Cadmus, as a wedding
present, a Robe and a Necklace. The only certain
about the origin of these items is that they came
from the gods. It is said sometimes that Hephaestus wrought
the Necklace, and that he himself gave it to Cadmus. Others say that
it came from Europa (perhaps they knew of each other after all), and
that she had received it from Zeus. Still others affirm
that Athena provided the
renowned Necklace and Robe, and also a flute. But
there are those who assert that the golden Necklace
was the present that Aphrodite gave Harmonia 1. The golden Necklace has been described thoroughly, but, briefly stated, it represented an amphisbaina, which is a two headed serpent, with open mouths as if hissing. The two mouths on each side enclosed with their jaws a golden eagle upright, its wings covered with yellow jasper and moonstone. The whole clever work was set with sparkling gems in masterly refinement. Cadmus and Harmonia 1 ended their days when they turned into serpents; after that they were sent by Zeus to dwell among the
happy immortals, either in the Elysian Fields or in
the Islands of the
Incessant trouble in Thebes
After Cadmus came King Pentheus 1, an usurper
who profoundly disliked the god of the vine Dionysus 2, for
causing the Theban women to abandon their houses
and rave in frenzy. Pentheus 1 tried to stop what he believed to be civil disorder, but the women torn him limb from limb. After his death, Polydorus 2, son of Cadmus, became king. When he died the care of his little son Labdacus 1, along with the government of Thebes, was entrusted to Nycteus 2. However, the latter's daughter Antiope 3 married a man, Epopeus 1, whom Nycteus 2 disliked. So, when Antiope 3 fled to Sicyon, where Epopeus 1 ruled, a war broke up between Thebes and Sicyon, and Nycteus 2 died, probably in battle, although some say that he killed himself. After him, Polydorus 2's son Labdacus 1 became king, and during his reign he was at war with Athens for a matter of
boundaries. Some say that he had the same ideas
about the nature of civil disorder as Pentheus 1, and that,
for this reason, he was also killed by the MAENADS. It was then that Lycus 5, brother of Nycteus 2, usurped the government in Thebes, reigning for 20 years. He and his brother had previously fled from Euboea after murdering Phlegyas 1. They first resided at Hyria, and having thence come to Thebes, they were
enrolled as citizens through their friendship with Pentheus 1. When Nycteus 2 died, he asked his brother to punish Epopeus 1 and Antiope 3 (the daughter of Nycteus 2). So Lycus 5 marched with an army against Sicyon, subdued it, slew Epopeus 1, and led Antiope 3 away captive. While in custody, she was treated spitefully by Lycus 5 and his wife Dirce. The girl, however, having been loved by Zeus, gave birth
to twins: Amphion 1 and
Zethus, and one day she escaped and reunited with
her sons, who, coming to Thebes, slew both usurper and first lady. Having expelled Laius 1, son of Labdacus 1 and legitimate successor on the throne of Thebes, Amphion 1 and Zethus
succeeded to the sovereignty of and fortified the
city, the stones following Amphion 1's lyre in a
miraculous way. Thebes was named after Zethus' wife Thebe, who, some say,
was also his aunt. The government of Amphion 1 ended in
tragedy because of what happened with his
offspring, the NIOBIDS,
who were so severely punished by Apollo and Artemis. He himself is
still being punished in the Underworld, for being
among those who made a mockery of Leto and her children.
Laius 1 became king of Thebes after the death of Amphion 1, but during
the latter's reign and while he still was a young
man, Laius 1 resided in
Peloponnesus, being hospitably received by Pelops 1. While he was there, he conceived a passion for Chrysippus 2, an illegitimate son of Pelops 1, and carried him off. This episode ended with the death of Chrysippus 2, and Pelops 1's wife Hippodamia 3 was blamed for it. When he was king, an oracle came from Delphi warning Laius 1 not to have a son
because that son was fated to kill his own father.
In spite of this oracle Laius 1, flushed with wine,
had intercourse with his wife and she conceived a
son Oedipus. The child was exposed by his parents when he was born (since they feared the oracle), and having been found was adopted by Periboea 4, Queen of Corinth. Later, Oedipus, fulfilling the
oracle, unwittingly killed his father, and having
found the solution to the riddle of the Sphinx,
became king of Thebes. Oedipus married, also
unwittingly, Queen Jocasta, his own mother; but
when the truth came out, he was driven into exile.
After Oedipus had put
out his own eyes, he cursed his sons, who let him
be cast out of the city and yet did not help him.
Jocasta hanged herself and Oedipus died in exile.
Inheritance deal fails
The accursed twin sons of Oedipus, Polynices and Eteocles 1, made a deal with each other concerning the kingdom of Thebes, resolving that each should rule alternately for a year at a time. Apparently, Eteocles 1 was the first to rule, and at the end of the year he refused to hand over the kingdom to his brother, whom he banished. The exile Polynices found appropriate, as he
left for Argos, to take with him at least a part of the city's treasure, since it could be used to seize power again. And that is how the Robe and Necklace of Harmonia 1 left Thebes.
The Necklace as bribe
When Polynices came to Argos, he married a
daughter of Adrastus 1. At that time, the kingdom of Argos was divided in three
kingdoms, the kings being Adrastus 1, Amphiaraus and Iphis 1. Adrastus 1 promised
his new son in law Polynices that he would restore
him to his native land, and for that purpose, he
made himself ready to attack Thebes (see SEVEN AGAINST
THEBES). On the matter of the approaching war, the
opinions were almost as divided as Argos itself. King Iphis 1 agreed, and in time he sent his son Eteoclus to join the alliance. But King Amphiaraus, who was a seer and knew that the expedition would fail, refused to participate, and warned Adrastus 1. Now Amphiaraus was
married to Adrastus 1's sister Eriphyle. And once before, when a
difference arose between the two men, Amphiaraus had sworn
to let Eriphyle decide any future dispute he might
have with Adrastus 1. Knowing this, King Iphis 1 told Polynices that Amphiaraus could be forced to yield, if Eriphyle were conveniently bribed by means of the Necklace of Harmonia 1. And although Amphiaraus had forbidden Eriphyle to accept gifts from
Polynices, the latter succeeded in giving her the
Necklace so that she would persuade her husband to
join the coalition. Accordingly, when war was
advocated by Adrastus 1 and opposed by Amphiaraus, Eriphyle,
having accepted the Necklace, decided in favor of Adrastus 1, and Amphiaraus had to
Inheritance divided by the sword
The SEVEN AGAINST
THEBES perished, as Amphiaraus knew they would, and now both Polynices and Eteocles 1 were dead (they killed each other in single combat). But Thebes remained untaken
and a regent, Creon 2, seized power after Eteocles 1. Creon 2 forbade the
burial of the Argives after the war, which caused a conflict with King Theseus of Athens, and further civil
disorder in the city, as Oedipus' daughter Antigone 2, opposing
the dictates of the regent, stole the body of
Polynices and secretly buried him.
The Robe as bribe
Ten years after, the sons of the SEVEN AGAINST
THEBES, known as the EPIGONI, purposed to
march against Thebes to avenge the death of their fathers. When they consulted the oracle, the god predicted victory under the leadership of Alcmaeon 1, son of Amphiaraus and Eriphyle. Alcmaeon 1 joined the expedition, though he was loath to lead the army until he had punished his mother (for Eriphyle had received the Necklace of Harmonia 1, from Polynices, thus causing the death of Amphiaraus).
Now Eriphyle persuaded also her sons to go to the
war. When after the capture of Thebes, Alcmaeon 1 learned that his mother Eriphyle had been bribed by Polynices' son Thersander 1, by means of the Robe of Harmonia 1, he was more enraged than ever, and killed his mother upon his return.
Wedding present again
It is said that Alcmaeon 1 committed matricide following an oracle of Apollo, and that he either murdered her alone or in conjunction with his brother Amphilochus 1. For this crime, Alcmaeon 1 was pursued by the ERINYES of his mother's
murder, and, afflicted with madness, he left his
country. After having been in Arcadia, he came to Psophis, where Phegeus 1 purified him and gave him as wife his daughter Arsinoe 1, who received from Alcmaeon 1, as a wedding present, the Robe and the Necklace.
However, because of his crime, the ground became barren in Psophis, and an oracle told him to depart to Achelous and to stand another trial on the river bank. So he went to the springs of Achelous, and was purified by him, receiving Achelous' daughter, Callirrhoe 2 to wife. Alcmaeon 1 settled in the region about that river and colonised it.
Robe & Necklace coveted again
After some time, Callirrhoe 2 told Alcmaeon 1 that she would not live with him if she did not get the Robe and Necklace of Harmonia 1, which now were in his first wife's possession. Alcmaeon 1 then went to Psophis and told Phegeus 1, as a way of getting back the treasure, that it had been predicted that he should be rid of his madness when he had brought the Robe and Necklace to Delphi and dedicated them. Phegeus 1 believed him and gave them to him, but a servant disclosed that Alcmaeon 1 was taking the Robe and Necklace to Callirrhoe 2. So Phegeus 1's sons Pronous 1 and Agenor 3, following their father's instructions, waited for him in an ambush and killed him. Their sister Arsinoe 1, former wife of Alcmaeon 1, found this solution too drastic; so they, not feeling happy with her reproaches, put her into a chest, carried her to Tegea, and gave her as a slave to Agapenor, falsely accusing her, at the same time, of Alcmaeon 1's murder.
Robe & Necklace dedicated at Delphi
When Callirrhoe 2 learned with grief that she was a widow, she requested of Zeus that the sons she had by Alcmaeon 1 might be full-grown in order to avenge their father's murder. And Zeus, who at the time courted her, granted her wish. So when Pronous 1 and Agenor 3, carrying their sister in a chest, along with the Robe & Necklace (which they intended to dedicate at Delphi) arrived at the house of Agapenor, they met the suddenly grown-up children of Alcmaeon 1 and Callirrhoe 2, Amphoterus 1 and Acarnan 1, who happened to arrive at the same time. The sons of Alcmaeon 1 killed on the spot their father's murderers, and going afterwards to Psophis, entered the palace and slew both Phegeus 1 and his wife. At their return, Amphoterus 1 and Acarnan 1 told their mother what had happened and thence went to Delphi to dedicate the
Robe and Necklace. After Delphi they went to
Epirus, and having collected settlers, colonised
Acarnania. However, it is also told that the Robe &
Necklace were dedicated at Delphi by the sons of Phegeus 1, and that they were kings at the time of the Trojan War, although they did not participate in that war. It is said that the reason why they took no part in the expedition was that they were in bad terms with the other Argive leaders, who were related by blood to Alcmaeon 1, and had joined him in the war of the EPIGONI against Thebes.
About 700 or 800 years after these eventsduring one of the wars that are known in history under the name of Sacred Warsthe tyrant Phayllus of Phocis fell in love with the wife of an Oetan leader, and in order to get her, he promised her much gold and silver, inviting her to ask whatever else she wished. This woman asked for the Necklace of Harmonia 1, that having been dedicated, either by the sons of Phegeus 1 or by the sons of Alcmaeon 1, was now hanging at Delphi in the sanctuary
of Athena Forethought. So when Phayllus seized Delphi, he took a great
booty of the offerings that had been made over the
years, and among them the Necklace, which he gave
to the aforementioned woman. But after some time,
her youngest son went mad and set fire to the
house: His mother died in the course of the
conflagration, and most of the family's possessions
were lost. After this incident, there has been no
trace either of the Necklace or of the Robe.