-- Necklace of Harmonia
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Necklace of Harmonia

Harmonia was the product of an adulterous affair between Ares and Aphrodite. Aphrodite's husband was Hephaestus, and when he found out about the affair he created this cursed necklace to cause misfortune to any who possessed it. It was made of gold and adorned with many jewels, in the shape of an amphisbaena, or serpent with a head on each end instead of a tail. Those who wore it were gifted with great beauty and eternal youth. He gave the necklace and a robe to Harmonia on the day she wed her husband Cadmus, the founder of Thebes.

Cadmus was forced to flee Thebes and eventually became king of Illyria. Both he and Harmonia were transformed into serpents by the gods. The necklace was passed down to their daughter Semele, who had an affair with Zeus. Hera discovered the affair when Semele became pregnant, and appeared to her in the guise of an old crone. Hera confided in Semele that her lover was actually the king of the gods and that she should ask him to prove it. Semele fell for the trap and demanded that Zeus appear before her in his divine form. Mortals cannot look upon the gods without dying and Zeus begged her to reconsider but she insisted, so he did so and she died as a result.

The necklace was eventually passed down to queen Jocasta. Her misfortune was to marry her son Oedipus after he killed his own father, King Laius. The next owner of the necklace was Oedipus' son Polynices. When Oedipus was expelled from Thebes for killing his father and marrying his mother, he left the city to his sons, Eteocles and Polynices. They were to either share rulership of the city or, one was to rule for a year and then surrender kingship to the other for the next year. Either way, Eteocles refused to share with his brother and expelled Polynices, who traveled to Greece to enlist support against his brother.

Polynices needed the help of Amphiaraus, the king of Argos and a renowned seer. However, Amphiaraus initially declined because through the power of prophecy he foretold that the expedition would fail and he would die in the attempt. In order to convince Amphiaraus to participate in the battle against Thebes, Polynices gave the necklace of Harmonia to his wife Eriphyle as a bribe. Eriphyle convinced Amphiaraus to participate even though he knew of her deceit. The necklace is sometimes referred to as the necklace of Eriphyle because that was the price paid for her to betray her husband.

Amphiaraus told his sons to kill his wife if he did not return. The attack failed (as was foretold by Amphiaraus) and the sons of the slain kings then mounted a second expedition to take Thebes. A similar story unfolds in which Eriphyle is bribed with the robe of Harmonia in order to convince her son Alcmaeon to attack Thebes. The second attack on Thebes was successful, but Alcmaeon returned to Greece and fulfilled his obligation to his father by killing Eriphyle and taking the necklace and robe.

Hounded by the Erinyes for killing his own mother, he was driven mad and eventually traveled to the land of king Phegeus, who gave Alcmaeon the hand of his daughter Arsinoe (in some accounts Alphesiborea) in marriage. Alcmaeon gave the necklace and robe to Arsinoe but due to his evil act, his presence caused the land to be barren so he traveled to the oracle at Delphi to seek purification. The oracle sent him to "a land which did not exist when he killed his mother."

Alcmaeon traveled to the river Achelous where sediment had created a newly formed delta that did not exist during Alcmaeon's murder of Eriphyle. There he married the nymph Callirhoe, who requested the necklace and robe of Harmonia as a gift. Alcmaeon lied to King Phegeus, saying that he needed the necklace and robe to be purified, but he discovered the truth and killed his son in law.

When she discovered what has happened to her husband, Callirhoe prayed to Zeus for her sons to grow up instantly so they could take revenge. He granted her favor and Alcmaeon's sons Amphoterus and Acarnan hunted down and killed the sons of King Phegeus, then the king himself along with his wife the queen.

To prevent any further misfortune, the brothers dedicated the necklace and robe to the temple of Athena Pronoea at Delphi. However, Phayllus stole it from the temple and gave it to his mistress as a gift. After wearing it for some time, her son was struck with madness and set fire to the house, killing her. The necklace was presumed destroyed in the fire as there are no further stories about it.

Greece, Hephaestus, Mythology, Neck

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