LF310 -- Greek Mythology -- Summer 2005
From: Morford and Lendardon, Classical Mythology,
7th edition (Oxford: OUP, 2003) Chapter 17.
- Thebes is the major city of the region of Boeotia in central
Greece. Be able to locate them on the map of Greece.
- Citadel named Cadmeia, after Cadmus, its founder.
- Cadmus was the son of Agenor, king of Tyre.
- Searching for his sister Europa, whom Zeus, disguised as
a bull, had carried to Crete, Cadmus came to Delphi to ask Apollo for advice.
- Apollo told him to follow a divinely sent cow until she lay down.
- Cadmus followed the cow to Boeotia, sacrificed her, and in the process
killed a serpent, child of Ares. Cadmus is told that he too will become a
- Athena told Cadmus to sow the serpent's teeth. The men
sprung from the teeth fought one another until only 5 remained. The noble
families of Thebes were descended from these 5 "Spartoi," or "sown men."
- After serving as slave to Ares for one year, Cadmus married Harmonia,
daughter of Ares and Aphrodite.
- The wedding gift of Hephaistos, a necklace, will play a part in later
- Cadmus and Harmonia introduce writing. This is logical,
since he is from Tyre and since the Greeks adopted their writing from the
- Eventually Cadmus and Harmonia were turned into serpents
Daughters of Cadmus and Harmonia:
- Ino: Married Athamas, plotted against Phrixus, eventually leapt into
the sea and became the goddess Leucothea. She saved Odysseus in Book
V when, sailing from Calypso's island, his raft was wrecked by Poseidon.
- Semele: beloved of Zeus, mother of Dionysus. Persuaded
by Hera to ask Zeus to appear to Semele in all his glory; he did; she fried.
The unborn Dionysus was sown into Zeus's thigh until his birth.
- AutonoŽ: mother of Actaeon, turned into a stag by Artemis
- Agave: mother of Pentheus. For denying his divinity, Dionysus
drove Agave to tear Pentheus limb from limb.
Other kings of Thebes
- Labdacus founded a new dynasty: His son, Laius, was the
father of Oedipus.
- Lycus, descended from a Spartoi, reigned before Laius.
Lycus' brother, Nycteus, had a daughter, Antiope.
- Antiope was beloved of Zeus and fled her father Nycteus, who killed
himself. Antiope was recovered by Lycus.
- Antiope bore twins: Amphion and Zethus, who ruled Thebes
after they killed Lycus and his wife Dirce.
- Amphion married Niobe (of the 7 sons and 7 daughters) and
built the walls of Thebes. The music from his lyre moved
the stones to their places in the wall.
- Zethus married Thebe, who gave her name to the newly walled
The Oedipus Myth
- Although it is an ancient story, mentioned by Homer, its most well known
version is Sophocles' play, Oedipus Tyrannus.
- After the deaths of Zethus and Thebe, Laius returned from exile
in Elis. He had been the guest of Pelops, but by abducting Pelops'
son Chrysippus, Laius brought a curse on himself.
- Laius learned from the Delphic oracle that he would be killed by
- Laius had the child exposed on Mt. Cithaeron with his ankles
pierced and tied together.
- The Corinthian shepherd entrusted with the task pitied the baby and gave
him to the Corinthian king Polybus and his queen Merope.
- They named the child Oedipus ("swellfoot") and brought
him up as their own.
- When his parentage was questioned, Oedipus went to the Delphic oracle and
was told that he would murder his father and marry his mother. He decided
not to go back to Corinth.
- At a crossroads, Oedipus killed Laius, whom he did not know.
- Oedipus then went to Thebes, where he solved the riddle of the Sphinx,
married the queen Iocaste (Jocasta), his
own mother, and had several children.
- To rid the city of a plague, Oedipus was told to find the murderer
- Forced into a recognition of his crimes by the prophet Teiresias, Oedipus
blinded himself. Iocaste committed suicide.
- According to Sophocles' Oedipus at Colonus, Oedipus went into exile
and eventually took refuge in Athens, where he was received by Theseus. At
Colonus, a deme of Athens, Oedipus appears to have been translated to the
The children of Oedipus
- Oedipus cursed his sons, Eteocles and Polyneices, to fight
over ruling Thebes.
- They arranged an annual exchange of rule.
- While Eteocles ruled first, Polyneices went to Argos and married king Adrastus'
- After his year was over, Eteocles refused to step down.
- Polyneices gathered an army of Argive heroes:
- Adrastus, king of Argos
- Tydeus, friend of Polyneices
- Capaneus, killed by a thunderbolt from Zeus. Capaneus
was married to Evadne, who threw herself on his flaming funeral pyre
- Hippomedon, fell in battle
- Parthenopaeus, fell in battle
- AmphiaraŁs, married to Eriphyle. Polyneices
bribed her with the necklace of Harmonia to convince her husband to take
part in the expedition. She did, but he was a seer and knew noone but
Adrastus would return
- The battle is dramatized in Aeschylus' Seven Against Thebes.
Polyneices and Eteocles killed one another, and all the Argive leaders were
killed in battle except Adrastus, who escaped on his horse Arion, and AmphiaraŁs,
whom the earth swallowed up in his flight.
- In Sophocles' play Antigone, Creon, brother of
Iocaste, ruled Thebes after the death of Eteocles.
- Creon decreed that the body of Polyneices could not be
buried or given any funeral rites.
- His sister Antigone claimed that this was a sin against the gods and defied
- Creon locked her in a tomb.
- Teiresias warned Creon to release her, but it was too
late; she had hanged herself. His son Haemon, who had been engaged to Antigone,
killed himself, as did Haemon's mother, when she learned of his death.
- This may be Sophocles' most powerful play; it has certainly been rewritten
by several modern dramatists.
The Suppliant Women
The Epigoni, sons of the Seven against Thebes
- In his play The Suppliant Women, Euripides has
the mothers of the Seven against Thebes beg Theseus for help in retrieving
and burying the bodies of their sons.
- Eventually Theseus agreed, and Theseus returned from Thebes with the bodies
- Alcmaeon. AmphiaraŁs ordered his sons to punish Eriphyle,
their mother, and to reattack Thebes. They were successful and sacked the
city. Alcmaeon also killed his mother.
- Tydeus was the father of the Trojan war hero Diomedes
- Stories of his gift of prophecy and his blindness
- Speaks with Odysseus in the Land of the Dead, where he retains his ability