Cadmus (KAD-muhs), the founder of Thebes. Told by his father not to return to Phenicia without Europa, his kidnapped sister, he goes off to found the Greek city of Thebes, aided by five warriors who spring from a dragon’s teeth. Harassed by Mars for killing the dragon, he leaves Thebes for the land of the Enchelians. But he finds no peace and is finally changed into a serpent by the gods.
Agenor (ah-JEE-nohr), Cadmus’ father, King of Phenicia. He commands his son to bring back Europa when she is stolen by Jupiter.
Europa (yew-ROH-pah), Cadmus’ sister. When Jupiter, in the form of a bull, kidnaps her, her brother is sent to find her and bring her back to her father.
Jupiter, king of the gods. Enamored of Europa, he steals her from her family.
Minerva (mih-NUR-vah), the goddess of wisdom, daughter of Jupiter. She tells Cadmus to sow the teeth of a dragon he has slain, from which spring a host of warriors. All but five kill one another in battle; the remaining warriors become Cadmus’ servants and help him build the city of Thebes.
Harmonia (hahr-MOH-nee-uh), the daughter of Mars and Venus. She is given by Jupiter to Cadmus to be his wife. Because she loves her husband, she begs to be turned into a serpent when he is transformed into one. The gods grant her request.
Mars, god of war. He seeks revenge for Cadmus’ slaying of a dragon and puts a curse on the man and his children. He causes the children to die and harasses Cadmus so relentlessly that he asks to be turned into a serpent.
Calasso, Roberto. The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony. Translated by Tim Parks. New York: Knopf, 1993. An imaginative exploration of the Greek myth cycles, ending with a discussion of the Cadmus story in chapter 12. Offers an interpretation of the complex and troubled relationship between gods and humans.
Edwards, Ruth B. Kadmos the Phoenician: A Study in Greek Legends and the Mycenaean Age. Amsterdam: Adolf M. Hakkert, 1979. Discusses the origins of the Cadmus story and locates such myths in the context of the Mycenaean civilization.
Euripides. The Adorers of Dionysus (The Bakchai). Translated by James Morgan Pryse. Los Angeles: J. M. Pryse, 1925. This edition contains an interpretation of the myth of Cadmus that shows him as a man who devotes his soul to the quest for divine wisdom.
Fontenrose, Joseph. Python: A Study of Delphic Myth and Its Origins. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1959. A useful study of the mythological context in which the Cadmus story exists; there are many similarities between Cadmus’ slaying of the dragon and Apollo’s killing of the Python and between the foundation myths of Thebes and Delphi.
Green, Roger L. The Tale of Thebes. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1977. Tells the Theban myths in a narrative, simplified format that is suitable for nonspecialists.