Cadmus had a
sister named Europa.
She was carried off by Zeus, who was disguised as
a bull, and became the mother of King
Minos of Crete. When Europa
disappeared, Cadmus went in search of her. For
many months he scoured the lands around his home,
but he could find no sign of his sister. At last
he went to Delphi
to consult the oracle, where the advice and
prophecies of the god Apollo were revealed.
Cadmus asked the oracle what he should do.
"Your sister is safe. Search for her no
more," said the oracle. "Your destiny
lies elsewhere. When you leave here, you
will see a cow. Follow it, and when it
falls to the ground, exhausted, there you must
build a great city."
Outside Delphi, Cadmus saw
a cow, just as the oracle had promised. With a
group of men he followed it for many miles until
at last it sank to the ground. "Here we will
found our city, and call it Thebes
," said Cadmus.
"But first, we must sacrifice this cow to
thank the gods for their guidance. Go and
fetch some water from the spring to honour
them." When his men took water from
the nearby spring, they disturbed a terrible
serpent. It killed them all with its
fearsome, snapping jaws. In fury Cadmus
slew the serpent with a blow from a huge rock.
Grieving for the loss of
his men Cadmus went ahead and sacrificed the
cow. The goddess Athena
appeared and told him not to worry. "I
will supply you with better men than any king can
command. Just take the serpent's teeth and
sow them in the soil!"
Cadmus did as he ws told,
and from the soil sprang fully grown men,
warriors all. Before the men could turn on him,
Cadmus threw a stone among them, and they fought
so fiercely about who had thrown it that in the
end only five survived. Cadmus made peace
with them, and these warriors, the strongest and
the fiercest of all the sown men, helped him
establish the great city of Thebes.