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The Spartoi

By Elani Temperance

[Snip] The name ‘Spartoi’ literally means ‘the sown men’. Starting with the myth of Kadmos, the Spartoi were involved in the founding of the city of Thebes. In short, Kadmos was the brother of Europe, who got taken by Zeus. During his quest to recover her, he was ordered, by the oracle in Delphi, to follow a cow with a half moon on her flank and to built a town on the spot where the cow laid down. The animal led him to Boeotia, where he founded the city of Thebes. Hygenus has written a nice summary of the myth in his Fabulae:

“Cadmus in his wanderings came to Delphi. There the oracle told him to buy from farmers an ox which had a moon-shaped mark on its side, and to drive it before him. Where it lay down it was fated that he found a town and rule. When Cadmus heard the oracle, he did as he was told. While seeking water he came to the fountain of Castalia [N.B. Hyginus’ error, it was actually the Ismenian spring], which a Dracon, the offspring of Mars [Ares], was guarding. It killed the comrades of Cadmus, but was killed by Cadmus with a stone. Under Minerva’s [Athena’s] instructions he sowed the teeth and ploughed them under. From them sprang the Sparti. These fought themselves, but from them five survived, namely, Chthonius, Udaeus, Hyperenor, Pelorus, and Echion. Moreover, Boeotia was named from the ox Cadmus followed.” [179]

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