previous next


When Telephassa died, Cadmus buried her, and after being hospitably received by the Thracians he came to Delphi to inquire about Europa. The god told him not to trouble about Europa, but to be guided by a cow, and to found a city wherever she should fall down for weariness.1 After receiving such an oracle he journeyed through Phocis; then falling in with a cow among the herds of Pelagon, he followed it behind. And after traversing Boeotia, it sank down where is now the city of Thebes. Wishing to sacrifice the cow to Athena, he sent some of his companions to draw water from the spring of Ares. But a dragon, which some said was the offspring of Ares, guarded the spring and destroyed most of those that were sent. In his indignation Cadmus killed the dragon, and by the advice of Athena sowed its teeth. When they were sown there rose from the ground armed men whom they called Sparti.2 These slew each other, some in a chance brawl, and some in ignorance. But Pherecydes says that when Cadmus saw armed men growing up out of the ground, he flung stones at them, and they, supposing that they were being pelted by each other, came to blows. However, five of them survived, Echion, Udaeus, Chthonius, Hyperenor, and Pelorus.3 [2] But Cadmus, to atone for the slaughter, served Ares for an eternal year; and the year was then equivalent to eight years of our reckoning.4

After his servitude Athena procured for him the kingdom, and Zeus gave him to wife Harmonia, daughter of Aphrodite and Ares. And all the gods quitted the sky, and feasting in the Cadmea celebrated the marriage with hymns.5 Cadmus gave her a robe and the necklace wrought by Hephaestus, which some say was given to Cadmus by Hephaestus, but Pherecydes says that it was given by Europa, who had received it from Zeus.6 And to Cadmus were born daughters, Autonoe, Ino, Semele, Agave, and a son Polydorus.7 Ino was married to Athamas, Autonoe to Aristaeus, and Agave to Echion. [3] But Zeus loved Semele and bedded with her unknown to Hera.8 Now Zeus had agreed to do for her whatever she asked, and deceived by Hera she asked that he would come to her as he came when he was wooing Hera. Unable to refuse, Zeus came to her bridal chamber in a chariot, with lightnings and thunderings, and launched a thunderbolt. But Semele expired of fright, and Zeus, snatching the sixth-month abortive child9 from the fire, sewed it in his thigh. On the death of Semele the other daughters of Cadmus spread a report that Semele had bedded with a mortal man, and had falsely accused Zeus, and that therefore she had been blasted by thunder. But at the proper time Zeus undid the stitches and gave birth to Dionysus, and entrusted him to Hermes. And he conveyed him to Ino and Athamas, and persuaded them to rear him as a girl.10 But Hera indignantly drove them mad, and Athamas hunted his elder son Learchus as a deer and killed him,11 and Ino threw Melicertes into a boiling cauldron,12 then carrying it with the dead child she sprang into the deep. And she herself is called Leucothea, and the boy is called Palaemon, such being the names they get from sailors; for they succour storm-tossed mariners.13 And the Isthmian games were instituted by Sisyphus in honor of Melicertes.14 But Zeus eluded the wrath of Hera by turning Dionysus into a kid,15 and Hermes took him and brought him to the nymphs who dwelt at Nysa in Asia, whom Zeus afterwards changed into stars and named them the Hyades.16 [4]

Autonoe and Aristaeus had a son Actaeon, who was bred by Chiron to be a hunter and then afterwards was devoured on Cithaeron by his own dogs.17 He perished in that way, according to Acusilaus, because Zeus was angry at him for wooing Semele; but according to the more general opinion, it was because he saw Artemis bathing. And they say that the goddess at once transformed him into a deer, and drove mad the fifty dogs in his pack, which devoured him unwittingly. Actaeon being gone, the dogs sought their master howling lamentably, and in the search they came to the cave of Chiron, who fashioned an image of Actaeon, which soothed their grief.

“ [ The names of Actaeon's dogs from the . . . . So
Now surrounding his fair body, as it were that of a beast,
The strong dogs rent it. Near Arcena first.
. . . . after her a mighty brood,
Lynceus and Balius goodly-footed, and Amarynthus. —
And these he enumerated continuously by name.
And then Actaeon perished at the instigation of Zeus.
For the first that drank their master's black blood
Were Spartus and Omargus and Bores, the swift on the track.
These first ate of Actaeon and lapped his blood.
And after them others rushed on him eagerly . . . .
To be a remedy for grievous pains to men. ]


1 With this story of the foundation of Thebes by Cadmus compare Paus. 9.12.1ff., Paus. 9.19.4; Scholiast on Hom. Il. ii.494; Scholiast on Eur. Ph. 638 (who quotes the oracle at full length); Scholiast on Aesch. Seven 486; Hyginus, Fab. 178; Ov. Met. 3.6ff. The Scholiast on Hom. Il. ii.494 agrees almost verbally with Apollodorus, and cites as his authorities the Boeotica of Hellanicus and the third book of Apollodorus. Hence we may suppose that in this narrative Apollodorus followed Hellanicus. According to Pausanias, the cow which Cadmus followed bore on each flank a white mark resembling the full moon; Hyginus says simply that it had the mark of the moon on its flank. Varro says (Varro, Re Rust. iii.1) that Thebes in Boeotia was the oldest city in the world, having been built by King Ogyges before the great flood. The tradition of its high antiquity has been recently confirmed by the discovery of many Mycenaean remains on the site. See A. D. Keramopoullos, in Ἀρχαιολογικὸν Δελτίον (Athens, 1917), pp. 1ff.

2 That is, “sown.” Compare Eur. Ph. 939ff. For the story of the sowing of the dragon's teeth, see Paus. 9.10.1; Scholiast on Hom. Il. ii.494; Hyginus, Fab. 178; Ov. Met. 3.26-130. Similarly, Jason in Colchis sowed some of the dragon's teeth which he had received from Athena, and from the teeth there sprang up armed men, who fought each other. See Apollod. 1.9.23. As to the dragon-guarded spring at Thebes, see Eur. Ph. 930ff.; Paus. 9.10.5, with my note. It is a common superstition that springs are guarded by dragons or serpents. Compare The Magic Art and the Evolution of Kings, ii.155ff.

3 The names of the five survivors of the Sparti are similarly reported by Paus. 9.5.3; the Scholiast on Ap. Rhod., Argon. iii.1179; and Hyginus, Fab. 179. From the Scholiast on Ap. Rhod., Argon. iii.1179, we learn that their names were given in like manner by Pherecydes as indeed we might have inferred from Apollodorus's reference to that author in the present passage. Ov. Met. 3.126 mentions that five survived, but he names only one (Echion).

4 The “eternal year” probably refers to the old eight years' cycle, as to which and the period of a homicide's banishment, see the note on Apollod. 2.5.11.

5 As to the marriage of Cadmus and Harmonia, see Pind. P. 3.88(157)ff.; Eur. Ph. 822ff.; Theognis 15-18; Diod. 4.2.1, Diod. 5.48.5, Diod. 5.49.1; Paus. 3.18.12; Paus. 9.12.3; Scriptores rerum mythicarum Latini, ed. Bode, i. p. 101 (Second Vatican Mythographer 78), (who calls the wife Hermiona).

6 According to another account, this golden necklace was bestowed by Aphrodite on Cadmus or on Harmonia. See Diod. 4.65.5; Scholiast on Pind. P. 3.94(167); Scholiast on Eur. Ph. 71. But, according to yet another account, the necklace and robe were both bestowed by Athena. See Diod. 5.49.1. Second Vatican Mythographer 78 (see preceding note) says that the necklace was made by Vulcan (Hephaestus) at the instigation of Minerva (Athena), and that it was bestowed by him on Harmonia at her marriage.

7 Compare Hes. Th. 975-978ff.; Diod. 4.2.1. As to the daughters Semele and Ino, compare Pind. O. 2.22(38)ff.

8 For the loves of Zeus and Semele and the birth of Dionysus, see Hes. Th. 940-942; Eur. Ba. 1ff.; Eur. Ba. 242ff.; Eur. Ba. 286ff.; Diod. 4.2.2ff.; Diod. 5.52.2; Philostratus, Im. i.13; Paus. 3.24.3; Paus. 9.5.2; Scholiast on Hom. Il. xiv.325 (who copies Apollodorus without mentioning him); Scholiast on Pind. O. 2.25(44); Lucian, Dial. Deorum ix.; Nonnus and Nicetas, in Westermann's Mythographi Graeci, Appendix Narrationum, lxxi. p. 385; Ov. Met. 3.259ff.; Hyginus, Fab. 167, 179; Fulgentius, Mytholog. ii.15; Lactantius Placidus on Statius, Theb. i.12; Scriptores rerum mythicarum Latini, ed. Bode, i. pp. 38ff., 102 (First Vatican Mythographer 120; Second Vatican Mythographer 79).

9 So the infant Dionysus is described by the Scholiast on Hom. Il. xiv.325, who however may be copying Apollodorus, though he refers to the Bacchae of Euripides. But Lucian, Dial. Deorum. ix.2 and Nonnus, in Westermann's Mythographi Graeci, p. 385, speak of the infant as a seventh-month child at birth.

10 So Achilles is said to have been dressed in his youth as a girl at the court of Lycomedes, king of Scyros. See below, Apollod. 3.13.8 note. These traditions may embody reminiscences of an old custom of dressing boys as girls in order to avert the evil eye. See “Frazer, The Youth of Achilles,” The Classical Review, vii. (1893), pp. 292.ff., and Frazer, note on Paus. i.22.6.

11 Compare Paus. 1.44.7; Paus. 9.34.7; Tzetzes, Scholiast on Lycophron 229; Scholiast on Hom. Od. v.334; Hyginus, Fab. 2, 4; Ovid, Fasti vi.489ff.; Ov. Met. 4.512ff.; Lactantius Placidus on Statius, Theb. i.12; Serv. Verg. A. 5.241; Scriptores rerum mythicarum Latini, ed. Bode, i. p. 102 (Second Vatican Mythographer 79).

12 Compare Tzetzes, Scholiast on Lycophron 229; Scholiast on Pind. I., Arg. p. 514, ed. Boeckh.

13 On Ino and Melicertes see also Paus. 1.42.6, Paus. 1.44.7ff., Paus. 2.1.3, Paus. 4.34.4; Zenobius, Cent. iv.38; Tzetzes, Scholiast on Lycophron 107, 229-231; Scholiast on Hom. Il. viii.86, Od. v.334; Scholiast on Eur. Med. 1284; Hyginus, Fab. 2, 4; Ov. Met. 4.519-542; Ovid, Fasti vi.491ff.; Serv. Verg. A. 5.241; Lactantius Placidus on Statius, Theb. i.12; Scriptores rerum mythicarum Latini, ed. Bode, i. p. 102 (Second Vatican Mythographer 79).

14 On the foundation of the Isthmian games in honour of Melicertes, see Paus. 1.44.8, Paus. 2.1.3; Scholiasts on Pind. I., Arg. pp. 514, 515, ed. Boeckh; Scholiasts on Eur. Med. 1284; Clement of Alexandria, Protrept. ii.34, p. 29, ed. Potter; Zenobius, Cent. iv.38; Tzetzes, Scholiast on Lycophron 107, 229-231; Hyginus, Fab. 2.

15 Dionysus bore the title of Kid. See Hesychius, s.v. Ἔριφος διόνυσος; Stephanus Byzantius, s.v. Ἀκρώρεια. When the gods fled into Egypt to escape the fury of Typhon, Dionysus is said to have been turned into a goat. See Ant. Lib. 28; Ov. Met. 5.39; Scriptores rerum mythicarum Latini, ed. Bode, i. p. 29 (First Vatican Mythographer 86). As a god of fertility, Dionysus appears to have been conceived as embodied, now in the form of a goat, now in the form of a bull; and his worshippers accordingly entered into communion with him by rending and devouring live goats and bulls. See Spirits of the Corn and of the Wild, i.12ff., ii.1ff. The goat was the victim regularly sacrificed in the rites of Dionysus, because the animal injured the vine by gnawing it; but the reason thus alleged for the sacrifice may have been a later interpretation. See Verg. G. 2.380-384, who refers the origin both of tragedy and of comedy to these sacrifices of goats in honour of the wine-god. Compare Varro, Re. Rust. i.2.19; Ovid, Fasti i.353ff.; Cornutus, Theologiae Graecae Compendium 30; Serv. Verg. A. 3.118.

16 Apollodorus seems here to be following Pherecydes, who related how the infant Dionysus was nursed by the Hyades. See the Scholiast on Hom. Il. xviii.486; Hyginus, Ast. ii.21; Scholiast on Germanicus, Aratea (in Martianus Capella, ed. Fr. Eyssenhardt, p. 396); Fragmenta Historicorum Graecorum, ed. C. Müller, i.84. Frag. 46. Nothing could be more appropriate than that the god of the vine should be nursed by the nymphs of the rain. According to Diod. 3.59.2, Diod. 3.64.5, Diod. 3.65.7, Diod. 3.66.3, Nysa, the place where the nymphs reared Dionysus, was in Arabia, which is certainly not a rainy country; but he admits (Diod. 3.66.4, Diod. 3.67.5) that others placed Nysa in Africa, or, as he calls it, Libya, away in the west beside the great ocean. Herodotus speaks of Nysa as “in Ethiopia, above Egypt” (Hdt. 2.146), and he mentions “the Ethiopians who dwell about sacred Nysa and hold the festivals in honor of Dionysus” ( Hdt. 3.97). But in fact Nysa was sought by the ancients in many different and distant lands and was probably mythical, perhaps invented to explain the name of Dionysus. See Stephanus Byzantius and Hesychius, s.v. Νύσα; A. Wiedemann on Herodotus, ii.146; T. W. Allen and E. E. Sikes on HH to Dion. i.8, p. 4.

17 As to Actaeon and his dogs, see Diod. 4.3-5; Nonnus, Dionys. v.287ff.; Palaephatus, De incredib. 3; Nonnus, in Westermann's Mythographi Graeci, Appendix Narrationum, 6, p. 360; Hyginus, Fab. 181; Ov. Met. 3.138ff.; Fulgentius, Mytholog. iii.3; Scriptores rerum mythicarum Latini, ed. Bode, i. p. 103 (Second Vatican Mythographer 81). Hyginus and Ovid give lists of the dogs' names.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Greek (Sir James George Frazer)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Nysa (Turkey) (6)
Thebes (Greece) (4)
Egypt (Egypt) (2)
Boeotia (Greece) (2)
Phocis (Greece) (1)
Libya (Libya) (1)
Ethiopia (Ethiopia) (1)
Delphi (Greece) (1)
Colchis (1)
Asia (1)
Arabia (1)
Africa (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide References (45 total)
  • Cross-references to this page (4):
  • Cross-references in notes from this page (41):
    • Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library, 1.9.23
    • Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library, 3.13.8
    • Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library, 2.5.11
    • Euripides, Bacchae, 1
    • Euripides, Bacchae, 242
    • Euripides, Bacchae, 286
    • Euripides, Phoenician Women, 930
    • Euripides, Phoenician Women, 939
    • Euripides, Phoenician Women, 822
    • Herodotus, Histories, 2.146
    • Herodotus, Histories, 3.97
    • Hesiod, Theogony, 940
    • Hesiod, Theogony, 975
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.44.7
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.44.8
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 3.18.12
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.10.5
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.34.7
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.42.6
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 2.1.3
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 3.24.3
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 4.34.4
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.10.1
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.12.1
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.12.3
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.19.4
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.5.2
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.5.3
    • Pindar, Pythian, 3
    • Pindar, Olympian, 2
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 3.126
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 3.259
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 3.26
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 4.512
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 3.6
    • Servius, Commentary on the Aeneid of Vergil, 3.118
    • Servius, Commentary on the Aeneid of Vergil, 5.241
    • Vergil, Georgics, 2.380
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 3.138
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 4.519
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 5.39
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: