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Chapter 18 - Oedipus and the Myth of Thebes

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Classical Studies
Vichi Ciocani

Chapter 18 - Oedipus and the Myth of Thebes Thebes is the principle city of the plain of Boeotia In Thebes mortal women were the mothers of gods (Dionysus and Heracles) The greatest war in Greek legend was fought there: the Seven against Thebes The Thebais, the Story of Thebes attributed to Homer The Founding of Thebes: Cadmus and the Dragon Two separate stories that tell about its foundation One of them begins with the story of Europa: o Disappeared over the sea on the back of a bull o Her father Agenor sent his sons Cadmus, Cilix and Phoenix to look for her and not return without her o Cilix and Phoenix gave up and set up permanent colonies (Cilicia and Phoenicia) o Cadmus continued the search but he too was unsuccessful o Went to Delphi where the Pythia told him to give up and follow a cow until the cow became exhausted and laid down and there he should build a city o He built the City of Thebes o He wanted to sacrifice the cow to Zeus and sent men to get water for the sacrifice o When they did not return he went to look for them and found them all dead, killed by a dragon o He battled the dragon and buried half of its teeth in the ground o From these teeth the Sparti, sown men, were born o Cadmus was forced to serve Ares for eight years in penance for the dragon he had killed o Married Harmonia, daughter of Ares and Aphrodite o Children: Ino, Semele, Agave and Actaeon o Grown old, they left Thebes to Illyria o Evidently changed into serpents and sent by Zeus to live forever in the Elysian Fields The Twins Amphion and Zethus After Cadmus abdicated his grandson Pentheus ruled briefly A separate tradition reports that an otherwise unknown son of Cadmus, Polydorus, came to the throne, married a woman named Nycteis and when he died he gave her father Nycteus the throne Nycteus kills himself after his daughter Antiope sleeps with Zeus and become pregnant, she leaves Thebes for Sicyon and marries the king Lycus, his brother, went to Sicyon and killed the King then brought Antiope back to Thebes Antiope gave birth to the twins on Mount Cithaeron and left them there, a shepherd found them and raised them Lycus gave Antiope to his wife Dirce who tortured her daily Evidently she fled and ended up in the hut of the twins who recognized her They took revenge on Dirce by tying her to a bull and she was dragged to death, they then dumped her body in a river, kill Lycus as well They brothers set out to build the walls for Thebes; Zethus struggled to lift the rocks while Amphion strummed his lyre and they magically floated into place Zethus married Thebe after who Thebes is named Amphion married Niobe, daughter of Tantalus whos children were killed by Artemis and Apollo Observations: The Two Foundings of Thebes Why would Thebes alone have two foundation stories? Cadmus story is an adaptation of the ancient Near Eastern myth of creation story of Marduks victory over Tiamat Cadmus sowing of the dragons teeth is a variation on another Near Eastern motif where men grow from the earth like plants 42 cylinder seals found in Thebes in 1963 Phoinikeia grammata = Phoenician Scratchings Kadmeia = Cadmeian things Oedipus the King Later mythographers tried to tie the story of Amphion and Zethus to the House of Cadmus by reporting that Polydorus and Nycteis had son named Labdacus whose son Laius fled from the confusion Thebes Took refuge in the court of Pelops He fell in love with the son of Pelops, Chrysippus and raped him He returned to Thebes and by this time Zethus and Amphion died and he took over the kingdom Married Jocasta, descendent of the Sparti He learned from an oracle that he would die by the hands of his own son so he tried not to have sex with his wife but one night he got drunk and did it anyway When she bore a son he ordered that the child be killed He gave the child to a shepherd and told him to live it on the mountain to die The shepherd took pity on the child and he ended up being given to Polybus the king of Corinth His childless wife Merope took the child as her own and named him Oedipus He visited the Pythia to find out the truth of where he came from and instead she told him that he was going to kill his father and marry his mother Thinking it was Polybus and Merope he fled to Thebes He successfully solved the riddle of the Sphinx and married the queen and became king They had two sons Ploynices and Eteocles and two daughters Antigone and Ismene When he finds out that Jocasta is his mother, he gauges his eyes out and she hangs herself Observations: Heroic Sufferer for Truth or Victim of Curiosity Called a hero although he does not have divine parents In Homer, Oedipus continues as king even after the truth is discovered In Sophocles play he becomes a homeless outcast The Seven against Thebes Oedipus sons agreed to share the power of the city equally, one would rule one year and the other the next However after his year was up Eteocles refused to give it up He drove his brother Polynices from the city and he fled to Argos with the necklace and rob the gods gave to Harmonia Adrastus was told by an oracle that he must yoke his daughters to a boar and lion, didnt know what this meant One night he saw Polynices and Tydeus fighting, one of their shields has a lion and the other a boar so he married them to his daughters promising to return their kingdoms to them, first they would attack Thebes then Calydon All the leaders would die except for Adrastus Seven heroes led the way: Adrastus, Amphiarus, Capaneus, Hippomedon all from Argos and Polynices from Thebes, and Tydeus from Calydon, and Parthenopeus from Arcadia Oedipus at Colonus Sophocles describes the last days of Oedipus Delphi declares whichever city possess the bones of Oedipus cannot be captured Creon who is representing Eteocle and Ploynices appear and try to abduct Oedipus but Theseus orders them to leave But Oedipus curses them both and predicts their fate Oedipus withdraws into the grove, blesses his daughters and disappears Becomes an invisible spirit protecting Athens from enemies The Battle Before Thebes The army arrived at the seven gates of Thebes Seven heroes on either side, an Argive to attack each gate,
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