The story before the story starts
Becoming Hercules by Greg R. Fishbone focuses on lesser-known characters of Greek mythology and restores ancient stories that have been erased from the canon.
The Theban CycleHere’s what you need to know about events in the Theban Cycle that took place before the start of Becoming Hercules:
A Failed MissionThe story of Thebes begins in the faraway Coastlands Kingdoms of Tyre and Sidon, located on the far eastern edge of the Central Sea. Sidonian Prince Cadmus was assigned by his father to locate his missing sister, Princess Europa, who was last seen playing on the beach with a wild bull. But Cadmus failed and, as a result, could never again show his face around any of the Coastland settlements. He and his band of followers were effectively homeless.
The Founding of CadmeiaDuring a stop on the island of Samothrake, Cadmus met and married the lovely Harmonia. As wedding gifts from the bride’s parents, Harmonia received a necklace of enduring youthfulness, while Cadmus received a divine mandate to build a seven-gated city in the Hellenic wilderness of Boeotia. Upon sailing to Boeotia, the newlyweds discovered a magical cow across the countryside. They dutifully followed the cow until it was, suddenly and unexpectedly, snatched up by a dragon and carried to the top of a nearby hill. Cadmus climbed the hill and slew the dragon, but the cow did not survive. There, among the ruins of a Second Age citadel, Cadmus sacrificed the cow to the gods and declared himself the founder of a new settlement.
The SpartoiThe couple created a band of Spartoi warriors by plowing the dragon’s teeth into a sacred field. And to save costs, Cadmeia was built on some existing ruins using Cyclops labor.
Cadmeia becomes ThebesGenerations passed. A princess got blown up during a tryst with Zeus. A prince got turned into a deer after an encounter with Artemis. A king got torn apart by his own family members at the urging of Dionysus. And the people took to renaming their city Thebes, so they could pretend the previous royal scandals had all happened in some other, less lucky place.
The Curse of LaiusThe descendants of Cadmus and Harmonia reigned over a kingdom of spreading influence and growing ambitions, supported by five powerful tribes of noblemen descended from the five original dragon-blooded Spartoi. The Thebans also benefited from the guidance of the ancient gender-fluid seer, Tiresias. Until one day, Good King Laius received a prophecy from Tiresias that greatly disturbed him. As a result, a child was left to die on the slopes of Mount Kithairon, Tiresias was banished to a spire atop the Temple of Apollo, and everyone else was ordered to never speak of prophecy again. It was all very mysterious.
Riddle of the SphinxYears later, a sphinx appeared, bringing a miasma of famine, disease, and death. The monster-infested, plague-ridden kingdom was further thrown in chaos when Good King Laius was slain on the road while seeking aid, leaving behind a widowed queen and no heir. All seemed lost until the great hero Oedipus arrived, fleeing an unspeakable fate in his home kingdom of Corinth. Oeidpus defeated the sphinx, married Queen Jocasta, and took his place on the throne. With the wise counsel of Creon, a Spartoi-spawned magistrate from the Tribe of Echion, Oedipus brought peace and prosperity to Thebes for the next fourteen years… …until another plague arrived, with an even greater intensity than before.
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