Category Archives: Harmony
Alternate Spelling: Ἁρμονια
Harmonia is best known in Greek mythology as the wife to the culture hero Cadmus. She is a minor goddess herself of harmony and the daughter of Ares and Aphrodite.
Surprisingly, there is one other figure in mythology, a nymph by the same name who also had an affair with Ares.
Parentage and Family
Father – Ares, the Greek god of War
Mother – Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of Love
Alternatively, if we are using the Samothracian connection, Harmonia’s parents are Zeus and Electra.
Iasion – Harmonia’s brother through the Samothracian connection, he is the founder of the mystical rites native to this island.
Anteros – A brother through Ares and Aphrodite.
Deimos – A brother through Ares and Aphrodite.
Eros – A brother through Ares and Aphrodite.
Hedylogos – A half-brother.
Hermaphroditus – A half-brother.
Himeros – A brother through Ares and Aphrodite.
Phobos – A brother through Ares and Aphrodite.
Pothos – A half-brother
This is the list as far as siblings whose parentage are Aphrodite and Ares go or whom Harmonia is a half-sister to with her mother.
The list gets much longer if I try to include all those whom Ares is to have fathered and with whom Harmonia would be a half-sister to.
Psyche – Through her marriage with Eros.
Cadmus – The culture hero who founded the city of Thebes.
Agave – Daughter, with her sisters Autonoe and Ino, she unknowingly killed her son Pentheus. She marries first the Spartoi Echion and then later King Lycotherses of Illyria whom she also murders in order to hand over the kingdom to her father.
Autonoe – Daughter, her son, Actaeon was killed by his hounds.
Illyrius – Youngest son and child born, from whom the Illyrians are descended.
Ino – Daughter, was driven mad by Hera leapt to her death to the sea with her only surviving son. Instead of dying, Ino becomes a sea goddess.
Polydorus – Eldest son, inherits the throne in Thebes, carrying on the family dynasty.
Semele – Daughter, she is killed later by Hera after a liaison with Zeus. In some stories, she is the mother of Dionysus. The controversy will say that Semele was raped from an unknown assailant and the blame is placed on Zeus in an effort to try keeping some dignity
Cults & Worship
As a minor goddess, Harmonia is the local goddess of Thebes. In Pausanias’ Description of Greece, he notes that there are the ruins of the bridal chamber that belonged to Harmonia. Also, there are three wooden statues of Aphrodite that are reputed to be so old that they may have been votive offerings to Harmonia. Pausanias goes on to explain that these statues may have once been the figureheads for the ships that Cadmus sailed in during his time of wandering while searching for his sister Europa.
These three statues also had names as follows:
Ourania – Urania or Heavenly, a name that Harmonia is to have given Aphrodite to represent a pure love free of lust.
Pandemos – Common or sexual intercourse.
Apostrophia – For humans to rejects unlawful passions and sinful acts.
Wedding Bells – The First Marriage
Harmonia typically enters Greek myths within the greater whole of Cadmus’ story where she is given away in marriage to the erstwhile hero.
Now, there are two versions of Harmonia and Cadmus’ marriage. The first happens as the final chapter of Cadmus’ Founding of Thebes.
Originally, Cadmus, along with his brothers have been sent out by their father, King Agenor of Tyre to find and bring home their sister Europa who has been seduced by Zeus and carried away to the island of Crete.
As Cadmus and none of his brothers knew where to search, each eventually gave up their searches and would go on to settle in other places. After Cadmus’ mother Telephassa died of grief, he consults with the Oracle of Delphi. The oracle tells him to follow a cow and that wherever this bovine settles down at, Cadmus is to build a town.
That sounds easy enough and the cow eventually lays down of exhaustion. With plans to make an offering to Athena, Cadmus sends his companions Deileon and Seriphus to get some water from the Ismenian spring. While the two were there, the guardian of the spring, a water-dragon belonging to Ares rose up and slew both Deileon and Seriphus.
There’s an entire episode of Cadmus coming to slay the dragon to avenge his friends, the birth of the Spartoi who will become some of the founding members of Thebes and of course, Ares the god whom the dragon belonged too not being very happy.
As punishment, Cadmus is to serve Ares for an everlasting year, meaning eight years. At the end of this period, to signify peace and an end to the grievances, Ares gives his daughter Harmonia to the repentant hero in marriage.
Wedding Bells – The Samothracian Connection
The island of Samothrace is one of the places that Cadmus, his mother, and nephew are said to have stopped at in their search for a missing Europa.
Samothrace is one of two locations where Cadmus and Harmonia are wed when Zeus and Electra are placed as Harmonia’s parents. The connection seems to stick a little better when Harmonia is given a brother Iasion who is the founder of the mystical rites native to this island.
A quick note, in Nonnus’ Dionysiaca, when Aphrodite and Ares had their affair that resulted in the birth of Harmonia, this source has Aphrodite giving up the baby to Electra to be raised.
I mentioned when writing about Cadmus, how he’s a descendant of Poseidon and that his story very likely dates back to the Mycenaean Greek era. Zeus’ insertion to the story of Cadmus and Harmonia comes about as a potential theological take over to push Zeus to prominence as the head of the Greek pantheon, thus replacing Poseidon. Plus, there is a lot of equating local gods (whose names often survive as epitaphs) with the main Grecian deities.
I think it’s safe to say that the marriage of Cadmus with Harmonia is very symbolic too. For the longest time, marriages were how alliances between different houses and kingdoms were formed.
Then the idea that a hero or king weds the goddess of the land to symbolize the prosperity of the land. This would fit with mistaking Cadmus’ name with a local Samothracian fertility god, Kadmilus.
Plus, the changes of when Zeus becomes the head of the Greek pantheon, replacing Poseidon of whom Cadmus is descendant from. There may have been an idea to show an easier transition of power. Or not.
The ideas and seeds are there that this is may be what the ancient Greeks revising all these local myths into one were thinking of.
Bridal Gifts With A Curse
This marriage is a huge deal, it is the first one to be conducted on earth and all the gods, any god who is anyone, is coming. This is a thing not to be missed. All of these guests bring gifts, the muses sing, Athena brings a dress and Hephaestus brings a necklace.
Some of Harmonia’s bridal gifts were a peplos (a type of dress) gifted by Athena and a necklace made by Hephaestus. This necklace will become known as the Necklace of Harmonia and it would bring misfortune to anyone who had possession of it. Sure, the necklace will make any woman who wears it eternally young and beautiful.
Necklace of Harmonia – It is generally described as being made of gold with two snakes intertwining and jewels decorating it.
Following a timeline for after Cadmus’ eight years of servitude to Ares and then marrying Harmonia with both Ares and Aphrodite as her parents seems far more likely the correct lineage. It would explain too, so much better why Hephaestus would gift Harmonia a cursed necklace.
Knowing the backstory between Hephaestus, Aphrodite and Ares, the cursed necklace that is given to Harmonia makes more sense. Hephaestus was angry at Aphrodite for her affair with Ares and yes, he makes the necklace a means to punish Aphrodite’s infidelity by placing a curse on the child that resulted from hers and Ares’ affair.
Thus, all the misfortunes that Cadmus and Harmonia suffer are from the necklace, not slaying the dragon. After all, Cadmus had already paid penance to Ares and then is rewarded his daughter for marriage. It’s even in Harmonia’s name, harmony, there was to be an end to the strife and conflicts.
Gift-Giver Variations – Slight variations of who Harmonia received the necklace from are the gods in general, her mother Aphrodite, Hera and Europa herself. Given that Europa is missing, it seems unusual that she would show up here as she was the whole reason in the first place that Cadmus went wandering.
Another variation that that all of Harmonia’s godly powers for peace stem from the necklace and that it’s a robe “dripped in crime” given to her either by Athena or by Hephaestus and Hera that caused all of the misfortunes that Cadmus and Harmony would face.
I think the necklace is more likely cursed given there’s a lineage and history of who receives the necklace and the misfortunes that befall each of them before the necklace just vanishes from history.
Generational Curse – Well, only in as far as Harmonia’s necklace kept getting passed on from one descendant to the next or when it changes hands to a different owner.
After Hamornia and Cadmus’ misfortune, Polynices inherits the necklace and gives it to Eriphyle. The necklace than changes hands to Eriphyle’s son Alcmaeon and on to Arsinoe (or Alphesiboea) and to their sons Phegeus, Pronous and Agenor, and lastly into those of the sons of Alcmaeon, Amphoterus and Acarnan who dedicated a temple to Athena at Delphi.
When the necklace got stolen by Phayllus, he gave it to his mistress, the wife of Ariston. She wore it for a while only to see her youngest son, became seized by madness and set fire to the house. It’s here that the necklace gets lost to history or myth as there’s no further mention of it.
Every possessor and owner of the necklace saw mischief and mishaps of one kind, or another befall them.
Maybe it means peace doesn’t last and you have to work at it, or it could, just no one knew about the curse laid on it. I can assume that someone took it to an Oracle and found out, which is why there is mention of it in the myths at all.
Something Rotten In Thebes
Married and the City of Thebes founded, no matter how divinely ordained this was, peace and harmony wouldn’t last.
Due to the cursed necklace that Harmonia received, she and Cadmus’ family would soon see misfortune befall them and a series of civil unrest. Eventually, Cadmus would abdicate his throne to his grandson, Pentheus.
Cadmus would go with Harmonia to Illyria to fight a war brewing over there as they took the side of the Enchelii. From there, Cadmus would go on and found the city of Lychnidus and Bouthoe.
Despite leaving Thebes and establishing other cities, misfortune continued to plague and follow both Cadmus and Harmonia. It got so bad that Cadmus cried out that all this had to because of his slaying Ares’ dragon, if the gods were so obsessed with its death, why not turn him into one.
At that pronouncement, Cadmus begins to grow scales and to change into a serpent. Horrified by this transition of her husband, Harmonia begged the gods to change her too so she could share in Cadmus’ fate.
A slight variation is a distraught Harmonia strips herself and pleads for Cadmus to come to her. Embracing her serpentine husband, Harmonia sits in a pool of wine. It is out of mercy that the gods turn Harmonia into a snake as they couldn’t bare to see her in such a state.
Variations to this ending are that both Cadmus and Harmonia are changed into snakes when they died. Both snakes watched over their tombs while their souls were sent by Zeus to the Elysian Fields.
Famous Grecian playwright Euripides’ in his The Bacchae, has Cadmus given a prophecy from Dionysus that both he and his wife will be turned into snakes before getting to enjoy an eternity of bliss in the Elysian Fields.
Zeus Versus Typhon
This episode ties back to the Samothracian connection for Cadmus and Harmonia’s wedding.
This version is found in Nonnus’ Dionysiaca where he recounts the story of Zeus battling the monstrous serpentine monster known as Typhon. Zeus asks the hero Cadmus to help him by recovering his lightning bolts by playing his pipes, to play a tune. Zeus promises Cadmus that if he helps, that he will receive the hand of Harmonia in marriage.
The Dionysiaca is written in the 5th century C.E. and reflects there having been plenty of time to have rewritten the myths. This is the only myth to involve Cadmus with Pan, playing the pipes to distract Typhon so this fearsome monster can be defeated.
Earlier versions of this story have where it is Hermes and Aeigipan (Pan) stealing back Zeus’ tendons and there’s no mention of the thunderbolts.
Once again, if we are confusing Cadmus with Kadmilus, the Samothracian deity identified with Hermes. I can see the confusion if you can’t keep it straight.
Goddess Of Harmony
Harmonia is a goddess, even if she ended up being perceived as minor or a local goddess of the city state Cadmeia, later Thebes. Among the Greeks and Romans, she was viewed as the goddess of harmony and concord. This could extend from marital harmony, easing tensions and strife. For the Romans this went further to mean cosmic balance.
As I previously mentioned earlier, there is a nymph who also went by the name of Harmonia. These two should not be confused.
According to Apollonius of Rhodes in the Argonautica, this Harmonia is a naiad from the Akmonian Woods and with Ares, she would be the mother of the Amazons.
In the same book, the Argonautica, the Argonauts while on the island of Thynias swore an oath to each other to stand together no matter what. The Argonauts built a temple of Harmonia that marks where they swore their oath.
Homonoia – Greek Goddess
Another minor Greek goddess who is similar to Harmonia in concept. She embodies the concepts of concord, unity and like-mindedness. The ideas of Harmony have changed so much over time, that the two are nearly identical.
Like Harmonia, her opposite goddess is Eris.
Concordia – Roman Goddess
She is very simply the Roman version of Harmonia.
If Harmonia is the goddess of peace, then there must be a polar opposite. This honor falls to Eris, often cited as the goddess of chaos; with her Roman counterpart being Discordia.