It began as it usually does in Greek myth, with young girls playing by the edge of the wine-dark sea; in this case Princess Europa and her maids frolicking among the springing roses and the sound of the waves. As usually, there is something beautiful to attract the maiden. In this case it was a beautiful bull. “all his body was of a yellow hue, save that a ring of gleaming white shined in the midst of his forehead and the eyes beneath it were grey and made lightning of desire; and the horns of his head rose equal one against the other” (Moscus 2.77) The girls petted him, played with him, garlanded his horns and then most unusually Europa climbed atop his broad shoulders. He trotted through the soft sand, waded into the water and before the startled girl knew swam towards the west, racing across the deep bellows of the Mediterranean. The bull was actually Zeus King of the Gods. Europa and Zeus spent many years together as man and wife. Europa bore him three exceptional sons, who lived exceptionally long lives and ended up as judges in the underworld. Most unexpectedly the bachelor-brother wed in the afterlife the mother of Heracles. Europa was the sole daughter of the Oceanid Telephassa.
Telephassa and her son high-spirited Cadmus set out in search of her daughter, his sister. But before we can tell of their adventures and the gods born of their blood, we must first follow the history of bullish Zeus.
Cadmus and his mother Telephassa headed west looking for Europa. Somewhere around Thrace in Northern Greece, Telephassa supposedly passed away. Cadmus traveled upon eventually asking the oracle at Delphi for advice on how to find his sister. The Oracle at Delphi was ruled by the archer god Apollo. This son of Zeus had his own monster to slay. When Apollo looked for a place to build his oracle, he asked the advice of the Naiad Telphusa (Tilphousa) in central Greece. She recommended Delphi. Apollo went there and encountered the Python. This bloody serpent terrorized the neighboring country-side when not fostering the monster Typhon. Apollo slew the monster and established his oracle.
The oracle told Cadmus to follow a cow and where it lay down to build a city. The son of Telephassa and his men did as the god directed. Upon arriving at the locations Cadmus sent his men to fetch water so they could sacrifice the cow to Apollo. Instead of water they found a serpent just as Apollo had when following the directions of Telphusa. Most of Cadmus’s men were killed, but Cadmus succeeded in slewing the monster. The goddess Athena appeared instructing him to plow the land and sow it with the serpent’s teeth. Cadmus did as instructed. The crop that grew was armed warriors. Just as when the blood of Uranus splattered across the broad fertile earth and the Giants clothed in bronze armor appeared, so did warriors appear around Cadmus. Either one told him to mind his own business or he tossed the bones of our mother (gold from the earth) amidst these dogs of war. In either case the earth-born warriors attached one another. Unlike Zeus who slew all the giants when they arose, Cadmus befriended the survivors of this wild melee. The survivors were called the Spartoi and their descendants intermarried with the descendants of Cadmus.
But there was one problem. The dragon at Thebes was not just a dragon it was the daughter of the war god Ares. The serpent was also the daughter of the erinnye Tilphousa or maybe it was the goddess Demeter furious over the kidnapping of her daughter. In either case the god Poseidon raped the goddess at the spring Telphusa. In order to make up for the crime, he served Ares for some time, just as Apollo served Laomedon and Admetus for crimes against Zeus.
At the end of his incarceration, Zeus rewarded his brother-in-law with a bride of his own; Harmonia the daughter of Ares and Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Their divine descendant’s included two of his daughters were goddesses. Whom Pindar in the Olympian Ode II refers to as, "Daughters of Cadmus; Semele from your high place amidst the queens of heaven, and Ino Leukothea, you who dwell by the immortal sea-nymphs,” Additionally, his grandson Dionysius was an Olympian, grandson Melicertes was worshipped throughout the whole of Greece (Cicero, De Natura Deorum 331) and son-in-law Aristaeus was a god per Chiron and Pindar. (Pythian Ode IX) And of course, Heracles was a member of the royal house of Thebes.
Images thanks to New York Public Library