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the Greeks the Phoenician Alphabet and Founded Thebes
founder of Thebes and brother of Europa taught the the Greeks the
alphabet, which he had brought from Phoenicia. Cadmus, in search
of his abducted sister Europa, settled in Boeotia, which some say he
invaded with a Phoenician army, founding in this new land the city of
Cadmea, later called Thebes. Cadmus is credited for having combined
consonants with vowels, thus teaching the secrets of correct speech.
These events took place approximately 00 years before the Trojan War.
Alphabet Taught to the Greeks
Greek alphabet, its order of letters, and their form, were borrowed
from the Phoenician alphabet; alpha, beta,
gamma, delta, are but Grecized sounds of the Phoenician language.
times Greek was also written from right to left, like Phoenician, Aramaic,
Syriac, Arabic and Hebrew.
the legendary hero who came to Greece from Phoenicia and founded Thebes
in Boeotia, is credited with the introduction of the Phoenician alphabet
to the Greek language; in its Hellenized early form the alphabet is
called Cadmeian. As Herodotus tells the story,
Phoenicians who came with Cadmus . . . introduced into Greece, after
their settlement in the country, a number of accomplishments, of which
the most important was writing, an art till then, I think, unknown
to the Greeks. At first they used the same characters as all the other
Phoenicians, but as time went on, and they changed their language,
they also changed the shape of their letters. At that period most
of the Greeks in the neighborhood were Ionians; they were taught these
letters by the Phoenicians and adopted them, with a few alterations,
for their own use, continuing to refer to them as the Phoenician charactersas
was only right, as the Phoenicians had introduced them."
Cadmus, the founder of Thebes, preceded by several generations the Trojan
War; on this the Greek tradition is unanimous. Tradition also has it
that the Cadmeian alphabet originally consisted of sixteen letters and
that four additional characters were introduced later, about the time
of the Trojan War.
cycle of legends deals with the time preceding the Trojan War. Thebes
in Boeotia was outside of the Mycenaean dominion. No contingent from
Thebes participated with the other Greek cities in the Trojan War for,
according to tradition, Thebes as a city had been reduced shortly before
the new war started. With the conventional date of the Trojan War in
the beginning of the twelfth century, Cadmus needed to be placed in
the fourteenth: his dynasty comprised several generations of rulers
before the Epigoni conquered and ruined the Boeotian Thebes; some of
the Epigoni later participated in the siege of Troy.
of events in the semi-historical, semi-legendary Greek past conflicts
with the fact that the Cadmeian alphabet has not been found in Greece
before about the middle of the eighth century. Furthermore, because
of certain characteristics in their form, the earliest Cadmeian letters
bear the best resemblance to the Phoenician letters.
Sister, Europa Kidnapped
sister, Europa was carried away by Zeus in the form of a bull, he went
to the oracle at Delphi to ask about her and was told she was happy
and well, and he need not search for her any longer. Instead, he should
stay in Greece and found a new kingdom, he was told. A white cow would
lead him to a good site for a walled city.
left Delphi, he soon ran into a white cow. He followed her a long way,
over hill and mountain, through valleys and across rivers. Finally,
the cow lay down on a knoll in the middle of a large plain-the perfect
spot for a walled city. Then Cadmus sent one of his men to get water
from a nearby spring. While he was gone, Cadmus sacrifice the cow to
thank the gods. When the man he sent never returned, he sent two more
men to see what had happened. They did not return either and he sent
the rest of his men, a few at a time, after the others. Finally, he
was left alone and went to see for himself what was keeping his men.
When he reached the spring, he saw a dragon guarding the spring. At
first, Cadmus was afraid it would eat him too, but the dragon was very
sluggish and sleepy after eating so many men and Cadmus slew the dragon
now Cadmus had no men. He looked to the gods and since he had sacrificed
the cow, Athena answered his plea. "Don't worry," said the
goddess. "Just plow a field and sow the dragon's teeth in the furrows."
Cadmus followed Athena's strange advice and as soon as the teeth were
sown, fully grown warriors sprang up. They all ran at Cadmus and again
he feared for his life, but again Athena stepped in. "Throw a rock
among them!" she told Cadmus. Again, Cadmus did as the goddess
said, and at once the warriors fought each other fiercely, accusing
their neighbor of being the thrower of the rock. In the end, only five
remained living, and those were wounded badly. Cadmus nursed them back
to health and they helped Cadmus establish the city of Thebes.
the Lost Phoenician Princess
princess Europa disappeared from the coasts of Phoenicia on the back
of a bull her father Agenor, son of King Belus of Egypt and Anchinoe,
the daughter of the river god Nilus, sent his sons in search of her,
telling them not to return until they had found their sister.
nothing was ever found resembling the lost princess, except for the
name of the land called Europa, which is that part of the inhabited
world lying north of the Peloponnesus and beyond, for she, after having
being conveyed through the sea by Zeus the bull, was set down by him,
quite dry, upon the shore by Mount Dicte in Crete.
Phoenix gave up the search for Europa and settled in some part of Phoenicia,
which was called after him, and so did Cilix, who became king in Cilicia,
which is the southeasternmost coastal region of Asia Minor, and so did
Thasus, who also gave up the search and settled in an large island off
Thrace, in the northern section of the Aegean Sea, founding a city Thasos.
Also other relatives, brothers or perhaps cousins, went away in search
of Europa. Cepheus, son of Belus or of Phoenix and father of Andromeda,
the wife of Perseus settled in Ethiopia; and Phineus.
of Tyros (Tyre), sailing northwards from Sidon
in Phoenicia, put ashore at Calliste, the island north of Crete later
called Thera (Santorini), he left on this island a group of settlers
under the leadership of Membliarus, son of Poeciles. Calliste came to
be called Thera because many generations later Theras, son of Autesion,
son of Tisamenus, son of Thersander, son of Polynices, son of Oedipus,
son of Laius, son of Labdacus, son of Polydorus, son of Cadmus, came
to the island to claim his rights. On Theras' arrival to Calliste the
descendants of Membliarus gave up the kingship to him of their own accord,
for they considered that Theras' family went back to Cadmus himself.
And so Theras, having become king, renamed the island and called it
Thera after himself.
left Calliste then, Cadmus came, accompanied by his mother Telephassa,
to Thrace, which is the region between the Black and Aegean seas, and
said that Cadmus was taught initiatory rites by Iasion when he, in search
of her sister Europa came to Samothrace, the island in the northern
Aegean sea, and they suppose that it was here that Cadmus married Harmonia.
Consults the Oracle in Delphi
mother's death Cadmus came to Delphi to inquire about Europa, but the
oracle told him no to worry about his sister and instead, letting himself
be guided by a cow, found a city in the place where the animal should
stop to rest.
obeying the oracle, journeyed through Phocis, which is the region bordering
the northern coast of the Gulf of Corinth, and having met a cow, followed
it behind until it fell down for weariness in that same spot in Boeotia
where Cadmus founded the city of Cadmea, later called Thebes.
the Dragon of Ares
place for the new city was, through such an amazing method, determined,
Cadmus decided to sacrifice the cow to the goddess Athena, and with
that purpose in mind he sent some of his men to draw water from the
spring later called Dirce (some have said Castalia), belonging to Ares,
which happened to be guarded by a dragon said to be the offspring of
the god or sacred to him. This dragon, which had a golden crest, flashed
fire from his eyes, had a triple tongue, teeth ranged in triple row
and the body swollen with poison, devoured Cadmus' companions. But when
he discovered that the beast was the reason why those who were sent
after water never returned, he confronted it and killed it, sowing,
by the advice of Athena, its teeth in the earth. But Cadmus, because
of having slaughtered Ares' darling dragon, had to atone for it, being
forced to serve the god for what was called an eternal year, which is
equivalent to eight regular years.
he had sown the teeth there rose from the ground armed men who are called
Sparti, brawling for nothing and killing each other, some say because
of provocations staged by Cadmus himself, who flung stones at them inducing
them to believe that they were being pelted by each other. Some of them,
however, survived the massacre they had themselves produced, and it
is said that in Cadmus' time the greatest power, next after his, was
in the hands of the Sparti, who also helped him to build the new city.
Takes a Bride and a Kingdom
paid this penalty Cadmus, with Athena's help, became king, receiving
Harmonia, daughter of Ares & Aphrodite, as wife from Zeus. She received,
as a wedding present, a couple of interesting items, known as the Robe
& Necklace of Harmonia, which provoked, through the ambitions, betrayals
and other nonsensical behaviours of many men and women, a number of
murders, wars and other tragedies including the utter ruin of the city
that Cadmus founded, and that of those who possessed them.
was one of the greatest men of his time, and that is why his wedding
was magnificent, many gods and goddesses attending, besides the parents
of the bride. And in his wedding day, they say, Cadmus attained the
highest honour and prosperity a mortal man can receive, for he, like
later Achilles' father Peleus, was able to hear the MUSES sing.
and Harmonia received a number of gifts from the gods: a jewelset throne
from Hera, a lyre or perhaps a sceptre from Hermes, a crown from Hephaestus,
a spear from Ares, the Robe & Necklace from Athena or perhaps Aphrodite
or Hephaestus or even Europa, and sacred rites of the mother of the
gods (Rhea) along with cymbals and kettledrums from Electra the Pleiad,
who is said to have nursed Harmonia.
so closely acquainted with the gods Cadmus also taught some of their
mysteries to men. For some have believed that the excellent soothsayer
who understood the language of birds and worms named Melampus, son of
Amythaon, son of Cretheus, son of Aeolus, taught the name of Dionysus
and the way of sacrificing to him and the phallic procession to all
Greeks, having learned all these things, along with the prophetic art,
are those who deny this, saying that Cadmus' daughter Semele was violated
in Egyptian Thebes, where Cadmus lived, and that Cadmus, in order to
avert slander from his outraged daughter, said that her son was the
son of Zeus, and not, as he really was, the son of an unknown rapist.
And they add that, as this son was then identified with Osiris, the
Egyptian god, many generations later Orpheus found it convenient to
say that Osiris was Dionysus, thus instituting new rites for the son
of Zeus & Semele. They also say that mankind forgets its own achievements
because of various kinds of catastrophes, as for example the Flood,
and that consequently Cadmus cannot be considered to be the first to
bring the letters to Greece, for the alphabet had existed before and
had been forgotten.
again the Laconians used to say that Semele, after giving birth to Dionysus
by Zeus, was discovered by Cadmus, who put her together with her child
into a chest, which was washed up by the waves in Laconia. They said
that Semele was already dead when they were found, but little Dionysus
they brought up.
said that Zeus gave Harmonia to Cadmus in recompense for having helped
him to restore the harmony of the world, destroyed by Typhon's attack
on heaven. For Pan, following Zeus' instructions, gave Cadmus a flute
and disguised him as a shepherd, and Zeus asked Cadmus to bewitch Typhon's
wits with a delusive tune. So when Cadmus tuned up, Typhon, attracted
by the deceitful notes of the syrinx, appeared and Cadmus, through a
stratagem, convinced him to bring the sinews of Zeus which Typhon had
in his power, thus leading him to his doom. And when Zeus recovered
his power, they say, he also informed Cadmus of his sister's fate.
the land where Cadmus founded his city was not empty when he arrived,
for there a couple of nations, the Hyanteans and the Aonians, occupied
Boeotia. Before them, it is said, the Ectenes, ruled by King Ogygus,
lived in Boeotia, until they were decimated by pestilence and perished.
Ogygus had two daughters, Aulis and Alalcomenia, after whom the Boeotian
cities are called, and some say that Eleusinus, after whom the city
of Eleusis in Attica is called, was his son. But according to others
Eleusinus is the son of Hermes and Daira.
his arrival Cadmus, with the help of his Phoenician army, defeated both
Hyanteans and Aonians, expelling the former nation and assimilating
the latter, and some say that he also defeated the Temmicans, who were
early inhabitants of Boeotia as well.
Building of Thebes
city that Cadmus founded had, they say, many streets measured at right
angles and was embellished with Phoenician art. It has been told that
Cadmus planned the future seven gates of Thebes, said to correspond
to the seven zones of heaven, but they were not built until the times
of King Amphion.
of Thebes were dedicated to the following celestial bodies: the first
to the Moon, the second to Hermes (Mercury), the third to Aphrodite
(Venus), the fourth, for being in the middle of the planets, to Helius
(Sun), the fifth to Ares (Mars), the sixth to Zeus (Jupiter), and the
seventh to Cronos (Saturn). For Cadmus considered the sun to be in the
middle, whereas a couple of millennia after him some thought that not
the sun but the earth was in the middle, and yet others coming after
them thought again, as Cadmus did, that the sun is in the middle.
that the city was called Cadmea after Cadmus, and that only afterwards,
during the reign of Amphion, was called Thebes after Thebe, the wife
of Amphion's brother Zethus. But others say that Cadmus himself called
the city Thebes after Egyptian Thebes, which was founded by his father.
ruled as a great king and the gods favoured him.
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