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Lecture 9

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Classical Studies
Vichi Ciocani

Lecture 9 (Content after second term test) Oedipous and the Myths of Thebes • Thebes, in Boeotia, north west of Attica • Two foundation stories for Thebes: 1. Cadmus and the dragon 2. Amphion and Zethus Thebes - a city associated with oracles and riddles. Riddles in particular mean that there is a meaning that exists that just needs to be deciphered. - all the myths related to Thebes have violent family problems and pollution - Thebes has been traditionally associated with the invention of writing. - Very close to Athens and is a rival to Athens as well. It is capital of Boeotia (associated with a cow) as Athens is capital of Attica. - Thebes is the city under siege, one that must be protected and defended. 1 Foundation Story -Cadmus and the Dragon • Phoenician king Agenor asks his sons (Cilix, Phoenix, Cadmus) to go and search for their lost daughter Europa (the princess abducted by Zeus in the shape of a bull and taken to Crete.) Europa disappeared over the sea on the back of a bull. • Agenor asks his sons to find Europa, none of them can find them because none can trick Zeus. All 3 sons are associated with regions that surround the Mediterranean sea. Their father told them not to return without her. When Cilic and Phoenix gave up, they settled in permanent colonies (named after themselves) • Cadmus at Delphi – Pythia at Deplphi tells him that he will never find Europa but he should follow a cow with special markings and where the cow stops, that will be his new city. • The cow gets tired and lies on the ground. Cadmus and his companions choose that space to build a city. Founds Thebes on a hill in southern Boeotia • The first step to building a prosperous city is to make a sacrifice. The comrades go to a spring nearby to get water. The spring is protected by a dragon. *(THEME- dragon that protects ). Killing the dragon is associated with building a foundation in Greek myth. Cadmus realizes his comrades haven’t returned and he goes and slays the man-killing dragon. Athena instructs that he knocks out the dragon’s teeth, plows the ground and sow half the teeth. The other half she would later give to Aeetes in the story of Jason. The teeth rise up as warriors. Cadmus threw stones among them, Thinking they were being attacked, they fight against each other until only 5 remain. They are the Sparti(not related to spartans) “sown men” - in greek means armed men, they are the ancestors of Thebes • *** pg 477-479 passage by Ovid- Metamorphoses • *** Picture on page 476 of Cadmus and serpent • Cadmus and the Dragon, red-figure crater, 4 c. BC Cadmus killing the dragon with a stone. He is carrying a pitcher of water. Athena is next to him, as always protecting heroes The plate she is holding has teeth in it. • Cadmus slays a man-killing serpent at a spring sacred to Ares and is punished by Ares to serve for him for eight years • Once purified, after he paid his penance, Cadmus marries Harmonia, daughter of Ares with Aphrodite. The wedding is a very important event (just like that of Thetis and Peleus), symbolizing the connection between Phoenicians and Greeks. She received wedding gifts from Aphrodite (necklace made by Hephaestus, a peploi- robe that gave its owner royal dignity). These gifts although wonderful, will bring unhappiness to the following generations, to all children who wear them. Their daughters: Ino, Semele, Agave, Autonoe (mother of Acteon who looked at Artemis bathing and was killed) and son Polydorus . (ex Ino killed her own children then jumped off a cliff, Semele was burned to a crisp by a thunderbolt, Agave ripped her son Pentheus to bits.) • It seems that Cadmus was comdemned through his life for the murder of the dragon. He would have to pay for his sin. • At death Cadmus and Harmonia leave Thebes (to escape his sin or killing the dragon) and he goes to Illyria. He is still punished by the gods. He said something along the lines of “If serpants are so important, than I wish I would be a serpant” and him and Hermonia, who also wished so, turn into serpents, then are sent by Zeus to the Elysian fields • It is thought that Cadmus brought the alphabet to Greece. Greek word for letters are Cadmiun letters. The greeks were very enthusiatic and shocked by the civiliazational aspects of the letters. • Also theory that Egyptians invented alphbet and writing and brought it over to Greece. • Greeks used venetian alphabet at the beginning, but used letter to rep a syllabus. Greeks used this writing in the beginning. Our alphabet today comes from Venetian alphabet. 2 foundation of Thebes- Amphion and Zethus • After Cadmus, his grandson Pentheus (from the story of Dionysus)became king in Thebes • After Pentheus dies, a separate tradition reports that another son of Cadmus, Polydorus, who marries Nycteis, daughter of Nycteus. • Antiope, the other daughter of Nycteus, is impregnated by Zeus with the twins Amphion and Zethus. Nycteus is upset because of the dishonor of his daughter and commits suicide after asking his brother Lycus to avenge the family honour Antope was driven out by Nycteus and went to Thebes.. The born twins are found by shepherds and are raised in the wilderness. • Antiope’s uncle and aunt, Lycus and Dirce, in Thebes persecute Antiope- she was locked and persecuted. Antiope later meets her twins by chance in a hut in the woods after she escapes from her tormenters. • The twins avenge their mother and kill Dirce and Lycus. • The twins are associated to a second foundation of Thebes; building the walls of the city. • Zethus is a cattle breeder. He is the one who starts carrying the large stones for building the wall and is prepared to do all the necessary work. He is practical, a man of action. • Amphion is a lyre-player and by singing about the foundation/walls of Thebes. The stones magically lifted themselves and created the seven walls of Thebes with their seven gates. This is showing the power of art. Here is the pattern associated with Thebes, there must be a message decoded. The first thing one does when founding a city is building protective walls. • Zethus marries Thebe • Amphion marries Niobe(commits hubris agains Leto and killed by Letos children), daughter of Tantalus. Parallel story of twins who get revenge against those who persecuted their mother. • *** picture on 482 of Death of Dirce and Lycus. Oedipus - Most important story of Thebes, he is a clever hero. • Polydorus and Nycteis had another son, Labdacus, who had a son Laius • Laius is confused with the political problems in Thebes and asks for asylum in Elis, Peloponnesus, and falls in love with and rapes Chrysippus, son of Pelops. Pelops curses Laius and exiles him away for this violation of xenia. • Laius returns to Thebes, marries Iocasta (Homer calls her Epicasta), descendent of the Sparti and became king An Oracle said that he would die by his own son so he avoided having intercourse with anyone. However, when he was drunk, he has intercourse with Iocasta and she becomes pregnant. • Iocasta gives birth to a son who is exposed to die on the mountain Cithaereon. If the father didn’t recognize the baby as his own, he would not lift the baby from the ground. Killing the baby was unacceptable, but not lifting it from the ground and leaving it on the ground for the forces of nature was more acceptable. • The child left in Mount Cithaereon (most wild place around Thebes) near Thebes is found by a shepherd who gives him to Polybus and his childless wife Merope, king and queen of Corinth. They raise him as their own child. • They call the baby Oedipus (swollen foot). He is always connected with foot. • As a young adult, he feels that something is wrong about his birth and so he goes to Delphi to find out the truth about his birth. Pythia tells him that he will kill his father and marry his mother. • Oedipus avoids going back to Corinth (thinking that his adoptive parents are the ones Pythia meant), goes to Thebes instead. Laius is on his chariot and they accidently hit Oedipus on his foot. Oedipus kills this unknown charioteer (Laius) and everyone in the chariot except for one who escapes. • The Sphinx kills travellers and passersby. The Sphinx asks people to answer a riddle. • Oedipus arrives to Thebes, and solves the riddle of the Sphinx (“What goes on four legs in the morning, two at midday, and three in the evening?”). Oedipus is represented as a clever hero. He said that the answer is a human being. • Another version of the riddle is who is the brother of one’s sons, or who is the husband of one’s mother? • Incestual relationships are overly complicated riddles. You should connect incestual relationships with the story of Thebes, violence in relationships. • Because he was able to answer the riddle and save the city, Oedipus marries the queen, Jocasta (incest) and becomes king and they have four children: Polynices, Eteocles, Antigone, Ismene (last two are daughters, the first two are sons) • Jocasta is called Epicaste in Homer’s Odyssey Oedipus and the Sphinx, interior of an Attic drinking cup, 490 BC Oedipus is answering the riddle of the sphinx The sphinx is a women with the lower half of her body as a lion and with wings Sophocles’ Oedipus the King (430 BC) - *** important passage from Homer’s Odyssey on page 485 - 486-488 – Sophocles Oedipus the King passage. • Plot main events: • After the people escaped the Sphinx, the people suffer from a plague in Thebes • Oracle at Delphi says that there is blood pollution (miasma- remember, like women are the only ones that can touch children because of miasma.) in the city; Laius’ murderer hasn’t been found because everyone was focusing on the plague. Oedipus starts searching for the murderer • The messenger (Tiresias) tells Oedipus that his adoptive father, Polypeus died. Oedipus was relieved because he thought he couldn’t fulfill the prophecy. However, the messenger tells Oedipus that he was the one that gave him as a baby to Polypeus and that he was only an adoptive father. • Iocasta hangs herself as a refusal to her new husband’s son (hanging- associated with virgin women, not Jocasta. Adult women who kill themselves use either swords to stab themselves or poison). She hangs herself as a sign of sexual rejection of Oedipus.. • A rule for tragedy- you can only have 3 characters on stage- max. The messenger from the chariot is Tiresias. • The shepherd, also the only survivor of the chariot driven by Laios, comes and confirms the truth, Oedipus blinds and exiles himself - Oedipus is usually called a hero, although he does not have divine parents. He does however have an unusual birth, a journey to save the world from monsters, encounters with the deadly dangers of a woman, all familiar elements. This story is an example of the ironic distinction between appearance and reality. Aeschylus, The Seven against Thebes (467 BC) • Eteocles “true glory” and Polynices”filled with contention” share the power in Thebes • Eteocles later decides he doesn’t want to share and he drove his brother Polynices out of the city. He finds refuge in Argos, in the court of Adrastus. Adrastus because of an oracle chooses them to be his sons in law. The oracle that Adrastus had heard said that he would yoke his daughters to a boar and a lion. When he saw Polynices and Tydeus (king of Calydon) fighting, on their shields was a lion and a boar.As a father in law he realizes he has to fight the two cities that they come from, Thebes and Calydon. • Then they proceed to Thebes to overthrow Eteocles. and Calydon to restore power to Polynices and Tydeus. The seven who lead were: from Argos Adrastus, Amphiaraus (seer married to Adrastus’ sister Eriphyle- has the necklace of Harmonia), Capaneus, Hippomedon; from Thebes Polynices; from Calydon Tydeus; from Arcadia Parthenopeus(related to word of Maidens) . --- (POlynices offered Eriphyle the necklace of Harmonia if she would dcide any disputes in the coming war in Adrastus’ (and his own) favor) *** picture on 492 • This shows the theme of companionship among males for a specific purpose. • Amphiarus is a seer and he predicts that Adrastus is the only one that will survive. He didn’t want to go but Adrastus convinced him by marrying him to Adrastus’ sister Eriphyle who had the necklace from Harmonia. Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus, 406 BC The army of seven marches to Thebes • Oedipus is a cast out at this point. There was an oracle that whichever city had the bones of Oedipus would never be defeated. The army of seven marches to Thebes • Oedipus and his daughter Antigone seek refuge in the Grove of the Furies at Colonus, near Athens • Ismene
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