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Greek Gods and Goddess: Harmonia

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She was the daughter of Ares the god of war and Aphrodite the goddess of love, she had several brothers and sisters, including Adrestia [she who cannot be escaped] Deimos [dread, terror] Phobos [fear] Phlegyas [fiery] although his mother is not Aphrodite, and also Eros (desire) so Harmonia had a pretty despicable bunch of siblings around her. In Samothrace she was said to be the sister of the Titan Iasion, thus daughter of Zeus and Electra, it would seem she is anything but harmonious. She is almost without fail recorded as the wife of Cadmus and it there we must start our journey.


After many previous adventures Cadmus founded the city of Thebes, but in doing so had upset the war god Ares, when he killed one of his pet serpents who guarded a well nearby, and after serving Ares for eight years in penance he was given or allowed to marry Harmonia, but it is not clear whether he had abducted her, or simply brought her with him when had previously visited Samothrace, in which case it may have been at Athena’ suggestion, or command; but it matters little as the marriage was agreed and to be held at Thebes.

Divine marriage

, and it was to be a right royal affair, twelve thrones of gold were set up for the gods and each brought a gift.

Electra, Iasion’ mother taught her the rites of the great goddess
(something old),
Athena gave her a golden robe which gave her divine dignity
(something new)
and also, a set of flutes;
Her mother Aphrodite gave her a golden necklace fashioned by the smith god Hephaestus, which made the wearer look irresistibly beautiful, a love token that he had made a Zeus’s command originally intended for Europe, Cadmus’s sister (something borrowed);
Hermes gave her a Lyre
(something on which to play the blues);
And Demeter assured her of prosperous barley harvest
by lying with Iasion in a thrice-ploughed field
(a silver sixpence in her shoe);
while Cadmus gave her another rich robe; while Apollo strummed his lyre and the muses played the flute and sang, but as the French say.
Tousiours ne sont pas nopces
A wedding day lasts not always,
jollity and good cheer,
continue not forever.

The divine or devil’s children

As the divine couple, now king and queen began their reign, things were not all they might hoped for, but nevertheless, they produced five principle offspring, a son named Polydorus [twice gifted] and four daughters, Agave [high born, or illustrious], Autonoe [self-willed], Ino [she who causes leanness] and Semele [moon?]. We no nothing of Polydorus as far as myth goes, except, He married Nycteis, daughter of Nycteus, and they produced on child called Labdacus. Polydorus died while Labdacus was a young child, leaving Nycteus as his regent, although Lycus [wolf] soon replaced her in that position. When Labdacus had come of age, he ruled Thebes for a short time, but he also died while he was still young, after he lost a war with the king of Athens, Pandion, over their borders. Apollodorus reports that he, like his cousin Pentheus, was ripped apart by women in a Dionysic ritual for disrespecting the god Dionysus. But not before producing an heir named Laius; Lycus became regent once more after Labdacus’ death, this time for Laius. His descendants were called the Labdacids, his son Laius, fathered Oedipus; in turn Oedipus' fathered Polynices, Eteocles, Antigone, and Ismene. so, let us consider their daughters.


Agave married Echion who was one of the surviving Spartoi, who had sprung from the ground when Cadmus having defeated Ares serpent, who was guarding Ismenian spring near the site Thebes. Athena had ordered Cadmus to remove the serpent’s teeth and scatter them on the ground, immediately he did so the Spartoi rose from the earth fully armed for war. Thinking they going to attack the Cadmus hurled a stone amongst them, they all blamed each other and a fight broke out, after which only five were left alive, they helped Cadmus build Thebes. Agave brought forth first Pentheus [sorrow, grief], who was destined to replace Cadmus as king, and a daughter called Epirus, who was a follower of Dionysus, and therefore became a Maenad.


It came to pass that Cadmus, Pentheus’ grandfather grew tired of being the king of Thebes and all the ill luck it had brought him and he gave his kingship into the hands of Pentheus. Not long after becoming king he banned the worship of the god Dionysus, whose drunken, orgies were tearing the fabric of the kingdom apart; but Dionysus was not only the son of his aunt Semele, his mother Agave and her sisters Ino and Autonoe, and his own sister Epirus were dedicated followers of Dionysus, as were the majority of the women of Thebes. In retaliation the banned god sent all the women into a Dionystic frenzy and they all rushed to mount Cithaeron, where his sacred rites were performed. Dionysus who had remained behind at this point, and was shabbily dressed, was mistaken by Pentheus as just another follower and had him arrested and placed in chains, but the jail door opened and his chains fell off. He then dressed himself as a woman, and persuaded Pentheus that he was on his side and would lead him to a place where he could watch what went on in safety. Whether Pentheus had good reasons or dark ones for going, he went and from a tree Dionysus led him to he watched the unfolding events. Unfortunately, Cadmus’s daughters saw him and thinking he was a wild animal they pulled him down from the tree and tore him into pieces, his own mother ripped off his arm and head. Agave placed his head on a stick and only on bumping into her father Cadmus did she realise it was her own son. When Agave came to her senses and the horror of what she had done sunk in, she fled to Illyria where she later married king Lycotherses [summer wolf]. After this event Cadmus’ son Polydorus was made king and Cadmus and Harmonia went to Enchelli of Illyria.


After her brother Pentheus was slain, she helped her grandmother and grandfather, Harmonia and Cadmus carry his body home, but on the way, she died at Ephyri and was buried in a thicket, which became a sacred place of Necromancy, (a place to talk to the dead) and for a time the area was renamed Epirus.

Autonoe and Aristaeus

This daughter of Cadmus was the wife of Aristaeus and mother of Actaeon. Aristaeus was the son of Apollo via the huntress goddess Cyrene, he was credited with the invention of many useful skills, including that of bee keeping, indeed, one day when he went to tend his hives, he found the bees were sick, and many dying, so he ventured to the spring of Arethusa, who advised to make altars on which he should sacrifice cows, but that he should leave the carcasses to rot, when he returned to them he found bees had made hives in them and swarms of bees arose from them. We should take note that this was exactly what happened when Samson of the Old Testament slaughtered the lion on his way to the vineyards of Timnah, he left the dead lion to rot, and went home by a different route, but when he returned with his mother and father, taking his original course, not long after, he found a colony of bees had made a hive in carcass, he took some of the honey and shared it with his parents but did not tell them where he found it. Aristaeus was pretended to have taught mankind many agricultural arts, cheese making, bee keeping, how to make the wild oleaster bear olives, the making of nets and traps for hunting, when he grew up he sailed to Boeotia from Libya and once there was taught all the sciences of Chiron the centaur and married Autonoe.


What we know of him is seemingly confusing, it is stated that like his father Aristaeus he was educated and trained by the centaur Chiron, he was definitely a hunter; apparently, he was turned into a stag and torn to pieces by his own hounds, most think it likely that he saw Artemis naked, and thus she transformed him into a stag so he would not be able to tell anyone what he really saw; but others had seen the likes of Artemis, and Athena naked but death was not usually the punishment, so while reasons have been proposed past and present, we cannot be sure of the true reason, for it is not given or lost; yet undoubtedly the truth lies in older myths.


It had come to pass that the king of Boeotia, Athamas, the son of Aeolus and Enarete, had been commanded to marry the cloud goddess Nephele by Hera the wife of Zeus, (for reason see Phrixus and Athamas, book GK 35). But despite bearing him two children, Phrixus and Helle, there was no love-loss between them, and when he met Ino, [she who makes sinewy] (she was a goddess of the harvest moon, or corn goddess) the daughter of Cadmus, he fell in love instantly with her, and she with him, but he dared not risk Hera’s anger, for her dogged determination to destroy those who upset her was well known. So, he brought Ino secretly back with him and kept her in another part of his palace. Ino soon conceived and bore him two children, Learchus [leader of people], and Melicertes [sweet power]. Soon enough Nephele found out about her husband’s betrayal, and complained to Hera, who cursed him and his family, but Nephele’ attempt to have Athamas executed failed. Which led Ino to seek revenge on her children, Ino’ plan would have succeeded if it had not been for Herakles timely intervention. As a result of this Athamas himself nearly ended up being sacrificed, but once again Herakles intervened.

Hera’ curse comes true

But Hera was even more enraged that Athamas had escaped twice from her promised vengeance for his deeds, but if that wasn’t bad enough Athamas had aided and abetted Ino, in hiding the bastard son of her sister Semele [moon,] Dionysus, by her adulterous husband Zeus, who was living in the palace disguised as a girl. So, Hera brought madness upon Athamas, and suddenly grabbing his bow, he shouted that he could see a white stag, pushing past those near him he aimed and let an arrow fly, his son Learchus by Ino, dropped to the floor transfixed and shaking in the throes of death, and Athamas started to ripe him apart. Ino grabbed her other son Melicertes and ran, but only escaped because Dionysus temporarily blinded him, and he attacked a female goat thinking it was her.

Death of Ino

Ino ran to the Molurian rock and jumped into the sea with her son, and they both drowned. However, Zeus remembering Ino’ kindness to his son Dionysus deemed that they should not languish in Hades and deified them, Ino, was renamed Leucothea (the white goddess) and Melicertes became known as Palaemon [the wrestler].


Was a mortal priestess, who was spotted by the Eagle-Eyed Zeus, as she was bathing, to clean off the blood of sacrifice. Zeus seduced her and she conceived Dionysus. But when Hera, Zeus’s ever spiteful and jealous wife found out about the affair, and pregnancy, she befriended Semele in the guise of an old woman. Her suspicions were confirmed when soon enough Semele confided in her, and revealed that Zeus was indeed the father. But Hera laughed and mocked her so much, that even Semele began to question it, the seeds of doubt were sown. The next time Zeus came to visit her, she tricked him into swearing on oath, that he would grant her anything she desired. Zeus without thinking agreed and then she demanded that he reveal his true form to her. Despite all his attempts to dissuade she insisted. Eventually bound by oath he did as she commanded, and she was instantly consumed by fire. But Zeus managed to save the unborn Dionysus by cutting open his thigh and placing him inside before closing the wound.


It is not necessary to go into full details in this story (see under his name,) it is enough to say that he represented humanity in its basest form, totally intoxicated with the lusts of human character and depravity.


He was apparently the last child of Cadmus and Harmonia, I have neglected to mention him until this point, the reason being that there is little to say, except that it appears to be name given to encompass a great many people and tribes, that existed throughout the top of Europe, that is above Greece, or beyond it, generally Celtic in nature, but such things are beyond the scope of our present story.

Departure from Thebes

After the gruesome death of their grandson Pentheus, Cadmus fearing worse was to come, decided to leave Thebes and appointed his son Polydorus as king, while with Harmonia, he travelled to the land of the Illyrian Enchelli tribe, which was in modern day Albania, they were at war with the other Illyrian tribes, and Cadmus joined forces with them, some say they elected him leader on the advice of Dionysus. It appears their daughter Agave who had fled there and married the king of one of the other Illyrian tribes, was still alive, and it was her husband king Lycotherses who had initiated the war against the Enchelli, and on finding out her father had become their leader she murdered her husband and gave the kingdom to him, either way the victorious Cadmus was made king of the Illyrians, so in reality Harmonia did not bear him a son called Illyrius, but as their king he metaphorically became their father, thus she their mother.

Demise of Polydorus

It seems Cadmus’ slaughter of the serpent, had never been forgiven by Ares, and deadly fate prevailed, for it appears that Polydorus followed in his predecessors foot steps and tried to ban the worship of Dionysus, but like Pentheus, he met a grisly fate at the hands of the gods servants the Maenads; but not before Nycteis his consort had produced a son called Labdacus, Necteus the father of Nycteis ruled as regent for Labdacus for a short while, and upon his death, Lycus [the wolf] took over as regent.

Death of Harmonia and Cadmus

Cadmus perhaps hearing of Polydorus’ fate was still very aware of the danger that seemed to dog every moment of his life, apparently said that if he was to live like hounded serpent he might as well be one, and the gods obliged, and turned him into one; Harmonia it was said filled a pool with wine and jumped in, and invited Cadmus to join her, and as the intoxicated pair writhed in passionate embrace, the gods embarrassed by such things turned her into a serpent also, presumably they drowned for that was the end of their earthly story.

Concluding thoughts

If there is a moral story here, it might well be that ‘those that live by the sword die by’, or in the case of Echion and the Spartoi, ‘you reap what you sow’ yet it seems harmony is born of strife, and if war brings people together peace sooner or later tears them apart, and the price of peace is constant vigilance; of course Cadmus and Harmonia, like their offspring were all children of the serpent, but peace and harmony follows a straight and course, yet we all know there is no such thing as a straight line, or an even road to life.