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Lecture 8

CLA204 Lecture 8 Notes


Department
Classics
Course Code
CLA204H1
Professor
A Keith
Lecture
8

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CLA204 Lecture 8 Notes
Thebes
- central – events of Theban myth predate sack of Troy – first city to house two
generations of heroes
- antiquity – inescapability of ones originMetamorphoses 3-4, “Cadmeid”
tales of the house of Cadmus
- ktisis – “foundation
- themescity vs. country, man vs. beast, exile/wandering in the wild,
interventions of vengeful gods
- vengeful god to create structureHera, Dionysosspectacle, recognition,
reversalfrom originally Attic tragedies – 5th c. Athens
Theban Tragedy and Epics
- birthplace of Dionysos – patron god of drama
- myth of Oedipus
- epicsmartial themes – Seven against Thebes – Epigoni, “those born after”,
sons of the Seven against Thebes
- OvidMetamorphoses 3-4 – focus mostly on Dionysos, ignores more epic
material
- Europa – Theban stories
- founder of the line of Cadmus – Ares and Aphrodite – divine ancestors
Cadmus is the Phonecian historical founder
- Cadmus give his name to the population of Thebes – “Cadmeians”
- Homer – Io-Leucothea
- storysent by father Agenor to find sister Europa – cannot find her – ordered
by Delphic oracle of Apollo to follow a cow and to found a city where it sits
Thebes
- teeth sown into earth (from dragon) – warriors spring up (autochthon – from
the earth) – Spartoi – “sown men
- oracle – Boeotia – “cow land”
- after killing the dragondisembodied voice – foretells how he will become
snake – story is cyclic – begins and ends with snake
- Ovid – dragon killed by Cadmus – killed all his companions – he is the only
survivor
- Cadmeid/Thebaid – in killing the snake, everyone else dies – needs a new
population
- sows the dragon’s teeth in the ground – for population – settlement of a new
city
- dragon – offspring of Ares
- the autochthons sown from the dragons teeth – born fully armed – immediately
try to kill each other – fratricidal – only five survive – swear loyalty to Cadmus
and support Cadmus with Thebes – each has a spearhead birthmark
- all Spartoi have birthmark – war-like, identifies them
Theban Family Tree
- intermarriages between the Spartoi and Cadmeians
- Cadmus marries Harmonia, daughter of Ares and Aphrodite
- Cadmeians + Spartoi – complicated genealogy – intermarriage causes
problems later on
- Echion – Spartoi – father of Pentheus

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- Menoeceus – Spartoi – father of Creon and Jocasta
- Udaeus – Spartoi, ancestor of Tiresias
- Chthonius – father of Nycteus and Lycus – Spartoi
- Cadmus + Harmonia – four daughters – with sons who die young or have no
children
- Cadmus’ prosperity will not last – Ovid
- Actaeon – son of Autonoë (daughter of Cadmus) – turns into stag, torn apart by
his own hounds during the hunt
- hounds sated with master’s blood – Actaeon
- outcome is prophesized at the beginning of the story – preview of the ending
- the hunter becomes the hunted
- Semele – daughter of Cadmus, mother of Dionysos – never sees her son born
dies when Zeus appears to her as a thunderbolt
- Pentheus – son of Agave (daughter of Cadmus) – torn apart by Maenads, led
my mother Agave who thinks she is killing a lion – driven mad by Dionysos
- the death of Pentheus – mother and aunts rip him apart – act as maenads if
Bacchus because he spies upon them
- in myth – maenads always subject to Dionysos’ frenzy – go out into the wild
become wild themselves
- Athamas and Ino (daughter of Cadmus) – Ino is given Dionysos to raise –
eventually becomes a sea goddess
- all the tragedies in the family – Cadmus goes into exile – turns into snake
- other myths set in Thebes – famous – Tiresias – metamorphosed man – from
man to woman to man
- the Narcissus story, Echo
- myth of the Minyads – stay, weave, tell stories
Actaeon
- Ovid stresses the amount of hunting success – experiences reversal of fortune
- very shortly he will be the one who is hunted – hunter becoming the hunted
as with Callisto who is with Artemis – turned to bear
- blood call – Actaeon is sated on hunted – dogs are not – one more hunt –
Actaeon himself
- later on – Diana not sated until Actaeon’s blood is spilled
- Actaeon believes he has all his good fortune – luck has run out
- sees Diana and nymphs – naked
- Ovid trips up Actaeon – dawn’s appearance – words spoken by Actaeon
hunting starts up again the way he said it would – Diana blushes like the dawn
– figurative appearance – cruel irony
- stag – Actaeon transformed – his dogs kill him – Diana is finally satisfied
- recurrent pattern of Cadmus and offspring/grand-offspring – death of male heir
- all of Cadmus’ daughters have male heirs – all die – wiped out
- story of Semele – myth of her and son Dionysos – contrast to myth of her
sisters: sisters – live to see son die; Semele – dies before she can see her son
- son Dionysos – given to Ino (sister of Semele) as a child – to raise
- earlier in myth – Semele and Dionysos – normal birth (Homer, Hesiod)
- only later iconographic, art and literary tradition where he is sewn into leg of
Zeus
Tiesias
- resident see of Cadmeians of Thebes

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- same age as Cadmus – lives through the reigns of all of Cadmus’ line
- with Odysseus in Underworld – meet
- earliest reference in Odyssey
- pivotal in plays – mostly tragedies
- will of Jupiter
- linked to Theban aristocracy
- is of the autochthonous line
- blinded when he saw Athena and his mother Chariclo – a favourite of Athena –
bathing – Athena blinds him
- granted prophecy as compensation in some versions
- other version – Ovid – blinding and gift of prophecy from Juno ad Jupiter – he
was asked the question about who has more pleasure during sex
- supposedly turned into a woman when he saw a set of snakes, then turns back
into a man when he sees the snakes again – he has been both man and woman
- story told first by Pseudo-Hesiod in Melampodia – followed in Ovid
- story – Mt. Cyllene in Arcadia vs. Mt. Helicon in Boeotia
- dies in Boeotia – Callimachus, Hymn 5 – said to have died at Mt. Helicon
leading the Cadmeians from Thebes – spring of Tilphossa – tomb – cult statues
– recognized as a hero by historical Greeks – stories of oracle of Tiresias at
Orchomenos – old, longstanding – prophesizes Narcissus
Narcissus and Echo
- Echo – from nymph to stone
- precedes and postpones Narcissus – leads into his story
- mirroring – oral and visual
- two mythical explanations for Echo
nymph loved by Pan – shepherds go mad – tear her to pieces by earth
hid fragments of her dismembered body
version in Ovid – punished by Juno – aids her sister nymph in affair with
Zeus
- Narcissus – loved no one until he saw his face in pool – pines away, dies, and
turns into flower that is his namesake (Narcissus flower) – punishment for
rejecting Echo, who wastes away and disappears until only her voice is left
- story interrupts the story of Cadmeians
Pentheus
- spies on maenads
- most famous – tragedy – Euripides, Bacchae
- son of Agave and a Spartoi – inherits the throne of Thebes – no explanation
- returns to Thebes from conquest of East – discovers new cult has appeared
Dionysos as leader
- refuses to accept Dionysos as a god – refuses to allow him to be worshipped
- imprisons the god – Dionysos drives Pentheus mad – dresses him as a maenad
to spy on them – in their madness the women take him to be an animal and
tear him to pieces
- maenads led by Agave – carries his head home in triumph – believes she has
killed a lion in the hunt
Daughters of Minyas
- digression – unrelated to House of Cadmus
- Ovid insists on relevance of Theban context – precisely Pentheus
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