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SPARTI
Σπαρτοί

9302: Warrior from the Temple of Athena at Aegina. Marmorversion på Glyptothek, München. Her afstöbning i Kunstmarmor udfört 1980. The Thorvaldsen Museum, Copenhagen.

"And Agenor's son Cadmus, sowed the teeth on the Aonian plains and founded an earthborn people ..." (Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 3.1185).


The SPARTI are the armed men who rose from the teeth of the dragon of Ares that had been sown by Cadmus. Most of them slew each other, but some survived. A new phalanx of SPARTI came to life when, much later, half of the teeth that had been given by Athena to King Aeetes of Colchis, were sown by Jason, captain of the ARGONAUTS. Of these, who also staged a massacre destroying themselves, no one survived, but of the Theban SPARTI five are said to have survived (see below). Descendants of the SPARTI were Menoeceus 1, Creon 2, and the latter's sons.

Cadmus' men killed by the dragon

When still at the dawn of the short Heroic Age (for these events took place aproximately 200 years before the Trojan War) Cadmus was about to found the city of Thebes in Boeotia in mainland Greece, some of his men were taken by surprised, and killed by a dragon sacred to Ares (or perhaps the god's own offspring) when they came to a spring, Dirce or Castalia, to draw water.

Cadmus kills the dragon

Cadmus then, having gone in search of his comrades, discovered the dragon of Ares and killed it, a deed that costed him dear, for he was forced to serve Ares during an eternal year, which is eight years of our reckoning, and in addition he and his wife were transformed into serpents at the end of their lives, many years later.

The dragon's teeth

Cadmus was adviced by Athena to sow the teeth of the dragon of Ares, and when he did so, men in full armour rose from the earth. These SPARTI, sown-men, came up from the earth brawling for nothing, and fighting each other to death. Others have said that Cadmus provoked them to fight each other by casting stones, the SPARTI supposing, in their ignorance, that they were being pelted by each other.

They wish to fight in peace

It is also told that the SPARTI themselves exhorted Cadmus, who was preparing to take his arms, not to intervene:

"Take not your arms ... and take no part in our fratricidal strife." (One of the SPARTI to Cadmus. Ovid, Metamorphoses 3.126).

Historical descendant of the SPARTI

The Theban commander Epaminondas, who in historical times crushed the invading Spartan army at Leuctra, dying of wounds several years later at Mantinea (362 BC), and whose innovative strategic ideas put an end to the military supremacy of Sparta, was believed to belong to the race of the SPARTI, which was shown on his tomb; for there, they say, stood a pillar, and on it a shield with a dragon in relief, the emblem of the SPARTI.

The surviving SPARTI

The survivors of the massacre of the SPARTI enjoyed in the times of Cadmus the greatest power next to his, which is shown below:

Chthonius 2. The sons of Chthonius 2 replaced the descendants of Cadmus in the throne of Thebes for many years. Chthonius 2 was father of Nycteus 2, to whom the government of Thebes at the death of Polydorus 2, son of Cadmus, was entrusted. Polydorus 2 had married Nycteis, daughter of Nycteus 2, and their son Labdacus 1 was still a child when his father died. Chthonius 2's other son Lycus 5 usurped the government in Thebes and reigned for 20 years. During his time the Thebans marched against Sicyon and subdued it. Lycus 5 killed, some say, their king Epopeus 1 and emprisoned his wife Antiope 3, who being the daughter of Nycteus 2, was his own niece. Antiope 3 was tormented by Lycus 5's wife Dirce, but was later avenged by her sons Amphion 1 and Zethus, who took power in Thebes after killing the usurper and his wife (Apd.3.4.1-2, 3.5.5).
Echion 2 married Agave 2, daughter of Cadmus. They had a son Pentheus 1 who took power in Thebes and is best known for having opposed the introduction of the rites of Dionysus 2. However, his mother was a supporter of the god, and she induced the Theban women to leave their houses and abandon themselves to what is called Bacchic frenzy. In the conflict that ensued Agave 2 torn her son limb from limb, or else Pentheus 1 was killed by the MAENADS, attendants of Dionysus 2, when he was spying on them. Echion 2 and Agave 2 had a daughter Epirus (Apd.3.4.1-2, 3.5.2; Pau.9.5.4; Parth.32.4).
Hyperenor 2 (Apd.3.4.1-2).
Pelorus (Apd.3.4.1-2).
Udaeus. Ancestor of the seer Tiresias (Apd.3.4.1-2).


Family 

Parentage

 

Dragon's Teeth

 


The SPARTI were born from the teeth of the dragon of Ares which were sown by Cadmus.


Related sections Thebes, Cadmus  
Sources
Abbreviations

Apd.1.9.23, 3.4.1; Nonn.4.421ff.; Val.7.610ff.

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