Mythos by Stephen Fry

Mythos by Stephen Fry

Author:Stephen Fry [Fry, Stephen]
Language: eng
Format: epub, azw3
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Published: 2017-09-13T04:00:00+00:00

The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmonia

The Five Founding Lords of Thebes were given the names ECHION, UDAEUS, CHTHONIUS, HYPERENOR and PELOR.fn8 Under the supervision of Cadmus and his loyal army of Tyrian followers they slowly built up a citadel (the Cadmeia) from which grew a flourishing town. In time this town became the powerful city state of Thebes.fn9 The strong wall that encircled it was pierced by seven great bronze gates, each dedicated to the glory of an Olympian god.

The wall was constructed by AMPHION and ZETHUS, twin sons of Zeus by ANTIOPE, the daughter of the local river god ASOPOS. Hermes had been a lover of Amphion and taught him to play the lyre. When it came to the construction of the great wall around the Cadmeia, Amphion sang to the accompaniment of the lyre and the heavy stones carried by Zethus were so enchanted by the music that they floated into place and the city walls were finished in no time. As a result Amphion and Zethus, as well as Cadmus, are credited as co-founders of Thebes.

The work completed, Cadmus and Harmonia turned to the matter of their marriage. Descended from Titans and gods, allied to and punished by Olympians, but very mortal and very human, the pair might nowadays be called an ‘iconic power couple’. Today’s press and social media, one suspects, would hardly be able to resist dubbing them ‘Cadmonia’.

Their status as the foremost lovers of the known world meant their wedding feast was an honour never before accorded a mortal union, attended by the highest in the land and the highest from heaven. The gifts were stupendous. Aphrodite lent Harmonia her girdle, a magical item of lingerie that had the power to provoke the most dizzying and rapturous desire.fn10 It is said that Harmonia was bed-shy and that her love for Cadmus had yet to be consummated. This girdle, loaned for the duration of her honeymoon by the goddess of love and beauty (who may well have been Harmonia’s natural mother), was therefore a gift of great value.

But no wedding gift outshone the necklace that Cadmus conferred upon his bride. It was the most beautiful piece of jewellery yet seen. Fashioned from the choicest chalcedony, jasper, emeralds, sapphires, jade, lapis, amethyst, silver and gold, it caused gasps of wonder amongst the guests when he clasped it about his beautiful wife’s neck.fn11 The whisper went round that it too had been given by Aphrodite.

The whisper added that it had been made by Hephaestus. The whisper went further and suggested that Hephaestus had been urged to make it by his wife Aphrodite because she in turn had been urged to do so by her lover Ares, who – if you remember – nursed a grievance against Cadmus for slaying the Ismenian Dragon. For the cruel and shocking truth about the necklace was that it was cursed. Deeply and irrevocably cursed. Miserable misfortune and tragic calamity would rain down upon the heads of whosoever wore or owned it.

This is all confusing and fascinating in equal measure.


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