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Lecture 21

CLAS 203 Lecture Notes - Lecture 21: Chthonius, Labdacus, Pentheus

Course Code
CLAS 203
Margaret Palczynski

of 4
21- Tragic Hero
Oedipus & Thebes (in Thebes also = story of Dionysus)
•Bosphorus (Cow crossing) + Hellespont (narrow body of water where Helle fell from rham)
• Tyre in Phonecia
• King of Tyre = Agenar (father of Europa)
• Thebes = in Boeotia
- Thebes- gets founded twice (which is weird)
- 1- Founding by man of the east – Cadmus (foreign)
- 2-local founding
• (Rome also has 2 separate foundings )
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Cadmus: (in story of pentheus)  sent out by Agenor when Europa went missing (goes on bull)
- He looks and cant find b/c went across sea
- Goes to Delphi – Oracle = ignores question and tells him to follow white cow and where it lies down and found
city there
- Cow walks from delphi to site which will be thebes = found city
- Sends men to get water and they don’t come back
- Find dragon guarding the spring that killed comapnions  Dragon combat
- Victorious but alone  instructed by Athena to pull dragons teeth
- Half of the Dragon’s teeth he gives to Athena (she gives ‘em to Aetees – Tale of Jason)
- The rest, he sows in ground  armed men spring from the ground  he throws a rock in the middle, they fight
each other BUT 7 SURVIVE
- == The Spartoi (“The sown men” – anscestors of best nobles houses from thebes)
- :. He has had dragon combat , won, new companions == accomplished task of founding city of Thebes
Local founding  Involves family of Chthonius (“Cthon” = ground) – Chthonius sprung from the earth of Thebes
- Nicteus  daughter Nicteis and Anitiope  sons = Zethus and Amphion
- 2 foundings are intertwined
Looking at 1st slide:
Line of Cadmus  Descendants are Creon and Jocasta and also Polydarus (there for the sole purpose for linking the
foreign family with the local one
- When Pentheus is torn to bits and there is no king in line of Cadmus  ~ Polydorus ~ takes the crown + marries
local daughter ~ Nicteis ~
- That’s how the two lines get joined
- Polydorus – not prominent figure in myth except his name  his son = Labdacus
- The house that Oedipus* belongs to is Labdacus
- :. Names kept
• King Labdacus deposed by the brother of Nicteus
• Zethus + Amphion = sons Antiope  become kings
• Labdacus’ son = Laius – he has to go into exile
----- Typical saga of king replacing a king ------
• Line of pentheus continues  descendants = Creon and Jicasta
• Local Founding  Zethus + Amphion = KINGS  they found the city again
- Cadmus found the inner fortified city (Citadel) and they found the outer city
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• = blend of local and foreign (Near Eastern and local folklore)
• Was Cadmus a historical king?
• The house of Labdacus
- Labdacus is depose and Laius == to exile { while Zethus and Amphion rule }
• Laius = exile  goes to Elis and king there = Pelops
- At some point Laius abducts and rapes son of Pelops – Chrysippus
- Laius is cursed by Pelops
{ Motif of curse is powerful one – occurs in many stories and is very potent – once imposed it keeps working
throughout the generations until theres no one left – unless interference from Gods }
• When Zethus + Amphion die  Goes back to Thebes – he takes back the kingship b/c they don’t have children
• Goes back and marries from original line (noble family ) – Jocasta  live happily but children
- Oracle tells Laius that his son will kill him
- Jocasta gets him drunk and lies with him  pregnant  Son is born  He has his son’s feet pierced by metal rod
and gives him to a shepherd to take to Mt. Cithaeron and leave him there
• Shephard doesn’t wanna leave baby  finds another shepherd from CORINTH  the king and Queen don’t have
children :. Takes him to them to raise
- Polybus + Merope raise Oedipus as their own
• metal pipe :. Swelling  Oedipus = “Swellfoot”
Everything seems fine – but Oracles must be fulfilled
• Thebes  There comes to Thebes a terrible monster – The Sphinx (mixture of animal and human = Woman’s head,
body of lion + wings == Descendant of Typhoeus )
• Stops Thebans and asks “What walks on 4 legs in the morning, 2 legs at noon and 3 legs in the evening”
- Can’t solve so killed
- Laius goes to Delphi for answer and leaves behind Jocasta’s brother – Creon as regent –
- He doesn’t come back
• Oedipus  in Corinth
- Finds out that he’s not real son  b/c he’s heroic and takes matters in own hand goes to DELPHI for answer
- Oracle at Delphi  didn’t tell him what his relation to parents is + Prophecy = *Kill father and marry mother
------ both = taboo (Paricide – killing father, Incest- Marrying mother = Ok for gods but not humans )
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