Show Summary Details

Page of

Printed from Oxford Classical Dictionary. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a single article for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 27 January 2023



  • A. Schachter


  • Greek Myth and Religion

Legendary Phoenician founder of Boeotian Thebes (1), whose origins are still disputed: Phoenicia, Egypt, Mycenaean Greece, Archaic Greece, have all been proposed (see bibliog. below).

In Homer, he appears indirectly, as father of Ino-Leucothea (Od. 5. 333), and through the names Cadmeii, Cadmeiones given to the inhabitants of Thebes attacked by the Seven (see seven against thebes) and the Epigoni (Cadmeii: Il. 4. 388, 391, 5. 807, 10. 288, Od. 11. 276; Cadmeiones: Il. 4. 385, 5. 804, 23. 680).

The generally accepted story (see Frazer) is that Cadmus was sent by his father Agenor to find his sister Europa, who had been abducted (by Zeus, as it turned out). He failed in his search (Europa ended up in Crete, while Cadmus went to the Greek mainland), but was ordered by Delphi (see delphic oracle) to be guided by a cow and establish a city where the animal lay down. Thus he founded Thebes, having killed a dragon, and peopled the place with men sprung from the dragon's teeth (Spartoi). His dynasty ended with Thersandrus, son of Polynices.


  • Apollodorus mythographus, The Library, trans. J. G. Frazer, Loeb Classical Library (1921), 3. 1. 1, 3. 4. 1–2, 3. 5. 4.
  • F. Vian, Les Origines de Thèbes (1963), chs. 2, 3, 11.
  • M. Astour, Hellenosemitica (1967), 147–159.
  • R. B. Edwards, Kadmos the Phoenician (1979), passim.
  • A. Schachter, in La Béotie antique (1985), 143–152.
  • Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae 5/1 (1990), 863–882 (in art).
  • M. Bernal, Black Athena 2 (1991), esp. 497–504.
  • D. W. Berman, Transactions of the American Philological Association 134 (2004), 1–22.
  • T. Gantz, in R. Fowler, Early Greek Mythography 1 (2000), 2 (2013), 467–473.
  • A. Kühr, Als Kadmos nach Boiotien kam (2006), esp. 83–133.