Cadmium (Classical Greek: Κάδμος; Romaniz.: Kádmos), in Greek mythology, was a legendary hero, founder of the Greek city of Thebes and introducer of the Phoenician alphabet in Greece. He was the son of King Agenor of Tyre and the older brother of Europa, Cilix and Phoenix.
When Europa was kidnapped by Zeus, her father ordered his three sons to go in search of her and not to return without her. During their tour, Europa's brothers founded several cities and eventually settled permanently in other regions. Phoenix settled in Phoenicia; Cilix, in Cilicia; and Cadmo, in Greece.
Cadmium traveled with his mother, Telephasia, and initially headed to Thrace (or Samothrace), where he lived for some time. Shortly after his mother's death, advised by the Oracle of Delphi, he stopped looking for Europe and founded Cadmeia, the fortified acropolis of the future city of Thebes.
According to tradition, the oracle had ordered Cadmium to choose the site by following a cow until it fell down from exhaustion.
Upon finding a cow with a different sign, Cadmo followed it to Beotia and decided to found the city on the spot where it stopped. Before, to get water from a nearby spring, he had to stone a dragon (thought to be the son of Ares) that guarded a sacred forest. Soon after, on Athena's advice, he sowed the dead dragon's teeth.
From the teeth were born several warriors, fully armed and menacing-looking. Urged on by Athena, Cadmo threw a stone at them without being seen. The stone sparked a violent dispute and, at the end of the fight, only five warriors remained alive, the Spartans (i.e., "the seeded"). They assisted Cadmium in the founding of the city and were considered ancestors of the noble families of Thebes.
Because of the dragon's death, Cadmo was condemned by the gods to serve Ares for eight years. At the end of the period, Zeus granted him the hand of Harmonia, daughter of Ares and Aphrodite.
The immortal gods attended the wedding in great numbers, the muses sang during the festivities, and the bride received two fabulous gifts: a wonderful dress, woven by the graces, and a beautiful gold necklace, made by Hephaestus.
Cadmium became king of Thebes and his reign was long and prosperous; he is said to have civilized Beotia and taught the Greeks the use of writing. Cadmo (and Harmonia) had several children, Autônoe, Ino, Sêmele, Agave, and Polidoro.
Although Thebes prospered under Cadmo's reign, misfortune overcame his descendants. In his old age, two of his daughters and two of his grandsons were violently killed.
In his old age, Cadmium gave the throne of Thebes to Pentheus, son of Agave and Equiont (one of the Spartans), and retired with Harmonia to Illyria, where he became king and had another son, Illyrius. He lived a while longer and, at the end of his life, was transformed by the gods into a serpent, together with his wife.