What is the Necklace of Harmonia?
In a wedding ceremony that was attended by all the major deities in the Greek pantheon, the bride Harmonia was presented a magical necklace that brought misfortune and misery to anyone who held it.
Harmonia, the Greek goddess of harmony and concord, and her husband, the hero Cadmus, would end up suffering unimaginable horrors as a result of the necklace.
Below, World History Edu provides a brief overview of Harmonia and the cursed gift she received on her wedding night.
The necklace was given to Harmonia as a wedding gift during her marriage to Cadmus, the founder of Thebes. The marriage was a significant event with many gods and goddesses in attendance. Hephaestus, the god of blacksmiths and craftsmen, crafted this necklace.
Despite its beautiful appearance and divine craftsmanship, the necklace was cursed, bringing misfortune to its wearers. The nature of its curse is debated. Some myths suggest that it was cursed by Hephaestus because of his wife Aphrodite’s infidelity with Ares, Harmonia’s father. Others believe the misfortunes associated with it are related to the ill deeds of Cadmus and Harmonia’s lineage.
Impact on Wearers
Throughout Greek myths, the necklace passed through various hands and was typically associated with tragic or unfortunate events:
- Jocasta: The necklace came into the possession of Jocasta, the queen of Thebes. She became both the wife and mother of Oedipus, leading to the tragic events of the Oedipus tale.
- Eriphyle: Jocasta’s granddaughter, Eriphyle, received the necklace from her mother. Driven by greed for the necklace, Eriphyle persuaded her husband, Amphiaraus, to take part in the ill-fated expedition of the Seven Against Thebes, which led to his death. Her son, Alcmaeon, avenged his father by killing her.
- Alcmaeon and Arsinoe: Alcmaeon then gave the necklace to his wife, Arsinoe. Later, he was purified of his mother’s murder and, as part of a deal, promised another woman, Callirrhoe, that he would give her the necklace. When he took it from Arsinoe to give to Callirrhoe, Arsinoe’s brothers killed him.
- Further Misfortunes: The necklace continued to bring calamities to its subsequent possessors, cementing its reputation as a cursed object.
The Necklace of Harmonia is symbolic in many ways. It represents the dichotomy of beauty and danger. Though crafted by divine hands and stunning in appearance, it brings about disaster and tragedy. It’s a testament to the Greek belief in the inescapability of fate and the unintended consequences that can arise from the actions of gods and mortals. It also serves as a warning about the perils of greed and desire.
Questions and Answers
Who made the necklace?
The necklace was a bewitching and beautiful piece of jewelry, but its origins are rooted in strife. Hephaestus, the god of blacksmiths and craft, created the necklace. He gave it to Harmonia, the daughter of Ares (god of war) and Aphrodite (goddess of love), as a wedding gift when she married Cadmus, the founder of Thebes.
Why was the necklace cursed?
Some scholars have stated that Hephaestus created the necklace as a symbol of his resentment and pain because his wife, Aphrodite, was unfaithful to him with Ares. As such, the necklace carried with it a curse, which would bring misfortune to its bearers.
Hephaestus, the god of blacksmiths and craft, created the necklace. He gave it to Harmonia, the daughter of Ares (god of war) and Aphrodite (goddess of love), as a wedding gift when she married Cadmus, the founder of Thebes.
READ MORE: The Birth of Aphrodite
Why was Harmonia’s consort turned into a serpent?
In his old age, filled with sorrow and despair due to the various misfortunes that had befallen his family, Cadmus expressed a wish to be turned into a serpent (the creature he had slain). His wish was granted, and he was transformed into a snake.
Seeing the fate of her husband, Harmonia, out of love and loyalty, begged the gods to let her share his fate, and she too was transformed into a snake. Some versions of the story say it was the gods who turned them both into serpents as a final punishment, while others depict it as a form of release or escape from their miseries.
The transformation of Cadmus and Harmonia can be seen as a tale of love, penance, and the inescapability of divine retribution. In their serpent forms, the couple eventually left Thebes and were said to live in peace in the Elysian fields, a paradise for heroes.