The Routledge Handbook of Greek Mythology

By Robin Hard | Go to book overview

CHAPTER NINE

THE MYTHICAL HISTORY OF THEBES

THE FOUNDATION AND EARLY HISTORY OF THEBES

The great city of Thebes in southern Boeotia, which ranked with Argos as the most important centre in mythical Greece, was ruled by the second main branch of the Inachid family. As was explained above (see p. 231), an early Argive princess, Io, a descendant (or even daughter) of the Argive river-god Inachos, wandered far away from her native Argos to settle in Egypt; and in that land, her granddaughter Libye subsequently bore twin sons to Poseidon called Belos and Agenor, who were the founders of the two principal branches of the family. Danaos, a son of Belos, returned to his ancestral homeland of Argos to found its Belid ruling line (see p. 233), while Kadmos and Europa, two children of Agenor who were born in Phoenicia where their father had settled, were destined to found the Agenorid ruling lines at Thebes and Crete respectively. We will follow the history of Kadmos’ Theban line in the present chapter before returning to Europa and her descendants on Crete in the next.


Agenor sends Kadmos and his other sons in search of Europa

To pick up the story of AGENOR where we left off in Chapter 7, he emigrated from Egypt to Phoenicia on the easternmost shore of the Mediterranean, where he founded a kingdom of his own and married Telephassa (of unrecorded parentage) or Argiope, daughter of the Nile. She bore him a daughter, Europa, and various sons including Kadmos, Phoinix, Kilix and Thasos. 1Europa grew up to be so beautiful that she attracted the love of Zeus, who assumed the form of a bull to carry her across the sea to Crete, where he fathered Minos and other sons by her (see pp. 337ff). Mystified by her sudden disappearance, Agenor ordered his sons to set off in search of her, telling them that they were not to return in any circumstances until they had found her. They all failed in their search, however, and were therefore obliged to settle abroad. 2Kilix, who is little more than an eponym, made his home in the south-eastern province of Asia Minor that was known as Cilicia (Kilikia) thereafter, while

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