The myths and legends of Greece record the Greek's recognition of their debts to the older civilizations of the ancient Mediterranean: CADMUS, who founded the great city of Thebes, was the son of a king (Palestine). The Phoenicians of Canaan had invented an alphabet for their Semitic language. Cadmus is credited with adapting it for Greek. Cadmus was the son of King Agenor of Canaan--his brother Phoenix was the supposed ancestor of the Phoenicians. Cadmus came to Greece while looking for his sister Europa, who had been carried off by Zeus.
Cadmus built Thebes with the aid of some warriors he had acquired by sowing serpent's teeth in the ground. Although he had offended Ares by killing the serpent involved, he expiated his crimes and married HARMONIA, a daughter of Ares and Aphrodite. All of the Olympians attended their wedding. Semele, the mother of Dionysus, and Ino, his nurse, were among their daughters, while King Pentheus, who opposed the god's worship, was their grandson.
A later princess of Thebes, ANTIOPE, was seduced by Zeus and married the King of Sicyon--though the order of events isn't clear. After she gave birth she was imprisoned, but her sons Amphion and Zethus grew up to rescue her and to kill their Sicyon step-mother, Dirce, who had persecuted her. Amphion and Zethus expelled Laius from Thebes, and built new walls when Amphion's singing moved the blocks in place.
As the new King of Thebes, Amphion married Niobe, a daughter of Tantalus and sister of Pelops. With seven sons and seven daughters, she boasted that she was a greater mother than Leto, who had only one of each. Leto then had her kids (Apollo and Artemis) use their arrows to kill all (or perhaps all but two) of Niobe's. The Thebans were afraid to bury them, but the gods did so. The weeping Niobe became a weeping stone.
Laius married Jocasta, but the Oracle at Delphi told him that he was cursed that one of his children would kill him. Laius therefore had his son OEDIPUS left on a hillside to die, but a shepherd found him and took him to another city, where he was raised as the king's own son. Told he was fated to kill his father, Oedipus fled, but running into Laius at a crossroad, he killed him in a fight for the right of way. Oedipus now went to Thebes, which was being terrorized by a monstrous Sphinx with a women's head and lion's body. Her riddle asked all who passed by what being had sometimes two feet, sometimes three, and sometimes four. Oedipus escaped being eaten by pointing out that humans use four feet to crawl as infants and walk with a cane late in life. The Sphinx killed herself, and the grateful Thebans made Oedipus their king. Part of being king meant marrying Jocasta, and Oedipus did. Many years later, a plague broke out, and the Delphic Oracle advised the city to expel the murderer of Laius. Oedipus pronounced a solemn curse on the murderer. Imagine his surprise when he learned that it was he that had murdered his father-and married his mother to boot. Oedipus blinded himself and Jocasta hung herself in shame.
Oedipus's sons Eteocles and Polyneices agreed to share the throne, but Eteocles reneged on his promise. His brother then raised an army to attack Thebes, with seven great champions known as the Seven Against Thebes. The leader was Polyneices's father-in-law Adrastus, King of Argos. Another was his nephew Capaneus, who died for boasting that he'd destroy Thebes even if Zeus was for it. Others mentioned as of the Seven were Amphiareus, Hippomedon, Mecisteus, Parthenopaus, Tydeus, and Polyneices himself. Their attack failed because Menoeceus, son of Jocasta's brother Creon, threw himself from the walls of Thebes as a sacrifice. All of the Seven died in the siege, and Eteocles and Polyneices killed each other.
CREON became king and ordered that Eteocles be buried with royal honors and Polyneices be left to rot as a rebel. Their sister Antigone secretly buried Polyneices, for which Creon had her put to death, although she may have been betrothed (or even married) to his son Haemon, who then killed himself. [This is the version told by Sophocles, whose treatment of the Oedipus sequence is especially well known. In some variants, the lovebirds escape, at least for a time.] Later, the sons of the Seven champions-the sons were known as the "Epigoni"-succeeded in taking Thebes.
The prophet TEIRESIAS was on
the scene at Thebes from
the time of Cadmus to its fall to the Epigoni. He
had been changed into a
woman for awhile after seeing two snakes copulating. He was therefore
asked to settle an argument between Zeus
and Hera as to whether men or women had
more pleasure in sex. He said women did by far, for which Hera blinded
him, but Zeus gave him prophetic inner sight.
[Last posted July 15, 2002, by Bob Canary, mail comments to email@example.com]