The Spread of Civilization
The Tale of Taurus


The eyes of Zeus roamed like clouds over the earth, coming to rest on a girl named Europa. She was the beautiful daughter of Agenor, king of Sidon.

Aphrodite, always alert for opportunities to add to her power, noticed Zeus' attention. "Quick," she commanded Eros, "grab your sharpest arrow, dip it in the ointment of desire and shoot it straight into Zeus' heart." Without a second's hesitation Eros did as he was told and Europa became the object of Zeus' affection.

"Hermes, I have a job for you. You're the best at herding cattle and the fastest of the gods," Zeus said. "Please help me. In the kingdom of Sidon you will find a huge herd of cattle grazing on the mountainside. They wear the brand of Agenor. Drive them to where the mountain stream joins the sea." Hermes never asked questions and immediately did as he was told.

The seaside was a favorite place for Europa and the young women from the surrounding hills. Every day they came to this spot to gather berries and flowers, and they washed and played in the river as it widened to join the sea. This day was no exception. As the girls played hide and seek among the herd, Zeus took the form of a huge snow-white bull with gentle, peaceful eyes and powerful rippling flanks. His horns were twisted spirals of ivory, perfectly shaped as if carved by a master sculptor. A lock of silvery white hair curled in the middle of his forehead.

Europa saw him and was charmed by his calm and playful manner. She stroked his back and head. He softly nuzzled her arm and then moved to her breasts, as he was a very affectionate creature. She held flowers out to feed him and he delicately sniffed them and licked her hands. He danced lightly around her as she wove a flower garland and placed the flowers as a crown upon his head, then she wrapped the strands around his horns as he kneeled on the sand, inviting her to climb on his back.

Europa gingerly touched him as she stepped to his side. She leaned against him and pushed herself up until she was seated upon his broad back. She slid a leg over and sat astride the strong bull, leaning forward to stroke his powerful neck. The bull got up and walked slowly across the sand. Europa giggled with delight for she had never ridden a bull before. Her friends laughed, waved and threw flowers as they ran next to the bull parading across the beach with the girl upon his back.

"Look at me," Europa yelled to her friends, "other people can ride their horses. I'll just ride my bull!" But Europa didn't notice that the bull had stepped into the water and was no longer walking, but was slowly swimming out to sea. "Wait!" she yelled when she realized what had happened. But it was too late for she was far from shore, too far to swim to safety.

"Stop!" she cried, but Zeus sped through the water with the frightened girl upon his back. "Oh, what can I do," she sobbed. "If I fall off I'll drown." Choking on her tears, she leaned forward and grabbed his horns. She held on so hard that her hands turned white and she didn't let go until the bull walked out of the sea and onto the shore of the island of Crete.

As Europa jumped off his back and prepared to run, her bull dissolved like a mirage. His short white fur changed to long white hair with a full beard and a body clad in a long white robe. The big brown eyes grew small with laughing wrinkles and were topped by thick white brows, while the horns became an intricately carved ivory crown.

"Don't be afraid of me," Zeus said softly. "I haven't harmed you and I won't. I know that I'm old, but I'm a god, so time means nothing. Relax and sleep, and while you sleep, your dreams will tell you what a god can do."

Europa went to sleep and had many dreams, but the only one she remembered was the one where two continents fought over her.

"She is mine," said Asia. "She was born with me."

"No, you're wrong," said Europe. "She came to me. She is mine now, and I took my name from her. How can you own her more than I?"

Zeus watched as Europa shifted from side to side in her sleep. "Stop fighting," she cried with flailing arms. Zeus nudged her gently and she awoke.

Laying beside her, Zeus gently brushed the hair from her sweaty brow. She shook, startled at the touch. "Relax," Zeus said calmly stroking her hair. "They will do exactly what I tell them. You are safe with me now."

She stayed with him for many years, bearing him three sons named Minos, Sarpedon, and Rhadamanthus, and when Zeus finally left her, she stayed in Crete to raise the children and share what she knew with the people of the island. From that time on, Crete became an advanced civilization.


Back in her homeland in Asia, King Agenor was frantic from the loss of his beloved daughter. "Find your sister," he commanded his sons. "Do not return without her," he said. Phoenix, Cilix and Cadmus obeyed.

Prince Phoenix went to Africa. Though he searched throughout the continent, he could not find his sister and after ten years had passed he gave up his search, settling in an area which became known as Phoenicia. Like his sister before him, he shared what he knew and Phoenicia also became advanced. Prince Cilix spent ten years combing the islands near the Asian shore, but he too was unsuccessful. On one of the islands he founded a civilization which became known as Cilicia. Prince Cadmus was the only brother who did not blindly pick a place to search; instead, he went to Delphi to see the oracle.

"Oh Infinite Oracle, wisest of the wise, tell me where my sister can be found."

"Forget about your father's threat," the oracle began, "your sister is with Zeus and cannot be retrieved. Instead, your role in life is to establish a great city. When you leave this temple, look for an ox with a moon-shaped mark upon its side. Follow the ox until she lies down and at that spot you must build your city."

Cadmus left the temple and sat where it's trail joined the road. He sat there for days, but finally an ox passed before him who had a moon-shaped mark upon her side. Cadmus jumped to his feet, grabbing his bag, and followed a few paces behind. The ox walked for days without resting. Cadmus was tired, but he followed patiently. Finally the exhausted ox lay down to rest and Cadmus, marking the spot with a rock, built his city there. He called his city the Cadmea, but it soon was called "the citadel of Thebes," and many came to help Cadmus build it.

There was one major problem with the location of Thebes; there was no water. "There is a fountain at Castalia," said one of the workers. "It isn't far and would make a good water supply. Let's go to claim it for Thebes." Cadmus gathered his troops and eagerly set off for the fountain. But as they rode, they didn't know that the fountain was guarded by a hostile dragon who was a son of Ares.

The dragon sniffed the air as the strangers approached. They smelled of foreign spices unfamiliar to him. He crouched low while focusing his eyes on the horizon and he waited for them. His ear rested against the ground, listening for the rumble of their approach. A thunder of horses hoofs slowly grew louder. He watched the east and soon his eyes detected a cloud of dust in the distance. He started breathing heavily. "Stay away," he snorted in warning. "You are trespassing on my territory." But since these were only men, they could neither hear nor understand the dragon.

Cadmus had been following the mirage of a lake across the desert floor for a long time. He watched its blue waves pulsating with the blue heat of the afternoon. "Somewhere out there is reality," he mumbled to himself as he moved slowly through the heat waves headed toward the well. Ahead, a long, low figure of brown and green lay upon the flat sand and replaced the image of the water. It rested in the shade of the only trees for miles around. "That's not a mirage," Cadmus called in warning to his companions but his words were lost in the roar of their horses hoofs. They did not hear him and charged blindly toward the figure they thought was imaginary. The beast rose, shadowing the men and with a single swing of his huge tail, he split one rider into two.

Taken by surprise and blinded by the sun, the other riders were no match for the son of Ares and the desert as the dragon rose up again, this time resting on his stubby hind legs and mammoth tail. His thick long neck stretched out and circled the entire area. Quickly he saw two blinded riders and plucked them from their mounts. Then he dropped them upon the rocks and crushed them with the weight of his tail.

The frightened horses reared up nervously whinnying. Another man fell from his mount and was caught beneath the wildly stamping feet of his own horse. His screams were joined by those of the other men as the dragon batted them like human toys as its teeth severed their limbs from their bodies.

Safe outside the ring of destruction, Cadmus watched in helpless desperation as his companions were mutilated and killed. Then suddenly, near his feet, he saw a rock with many sharp little points. He picked it up as anger transformed his muscles into iron, and hurled the rock at the dragon's head. His aim was perfect. The dragon fell to the ground and it's split skull oozed blood and sticky gray jelly.

The screams of battle had died. Only an occasional gust of wind sweeping through the trees broke the silence. As Cadmus sat calming himself, a figure materialized from the bloodied battlefield. Like a rainbow apparition in a storm, Athena came as a perfect ray of light and said, "Pull the dragon's teeth, Cadmus!" She walked toward him as she continued, "Sow them outside the gates of Thebes."

Her long golden hair blew softly across her face. She brushed it aside, revealing high cheekbones and blue-gray eyes fringed with long curling lashes. Her bronzed skin was protected with golden armor and Cadmus reached out his hand to caress the beautiful goddess. But where he expected to touch her soft skin, instead he felt only warm air, moist with her breath, for her image faded as quickly as it had appeared. Alone again, Cadmus pulled the dragon's teeth and returned to Thebes, planting them outside it's gates.

By the light of a full moon, the teeth sprouted in the earth and grew into a hundred Spartan warriors. During the night those remains of Ares dragon rose fully armed from the rich soil. The warriors, thirsty for battle and with no leader to organize and direct their fury, struck out against each other. Throughout the night, the chaotic battle raged.

As Dawn lit the eastern sky with a scarlet haze, the ground could be seen irrigated with rivers of blood and the Spartan warriors lay piled like fallen leaves. But as the sun rose above the mountains in the east, it cast its light upon five survivors. From that day forward, those five Spartan warriors guarded the city of Thebes with their lives and made the city invincible.

Thebes grew in honor and prosperity. Cadmus was her wise ruler and he brought the alphabet to Greece. The gods rewarded him by arranging his marriage with Harmonia, the daughter of Ares and Aphrodite, and they gave her a magnificent wedding necklace crafted by Hephaestus.

Back in Crete, Europa married King Austerius and he raised her sons as his own. As her wedding gifts, Zeus gave Europa a man of bronze, named Talos, to guard the island and he gave her a hound which never missed its prey and a javelin that never missed its mark. These gifts were later given to Minos when he became king.

Civilizations rise to glory, grow, and then they fade as they pass their gifts to the next great land. Europa, mother of Crete, was worshipped as a goddess after she died. In her memory, Zeus placed the bull in the sky. With only the bull's head and forelegs visible, he swims across the sea of stars.

Myth Index

Tales of the Immortal Night ©2003, J.J. Kuhl


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