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University of Calgary
Greek and Roman Studies
GRST 209
James Hume

Feb 25/14 The Theban Saga - Theban myths as opposed to the myths of gods - Spending rest of term with heroes and their interactions with gods - Heroes are demi gods- normal definition is someone who has a mother or father that is divine- or (as in case of Oedipus) a family member who is a god - Descent from godsAres andAphrodite - Hibius (hubris)- Greek word for arrogance - Sexual indiscretion- incest, etc. common in Theban saga - Thebes stands for something beyond the city itself - In the middle of the ocean plain - Near Thebes: o Mt. Cithaeron- looms over city of Thebes- very much associated with the Theban saga o Crossroads- on way to Delphi- place where three roads meet o Delphi: o Corinth- where Oedipus grew up- where things always go wrong, where humans run afoul o Athens- lots of exiles from Thebes go toAthens-Athens will offer them refuge and asylum - “The historical Thebes was the leading city of Boeotia, the plainland area of central Greece, ringed by mountain ranges.” From textbook - “The citadel was called the Cadmeia, preserving the name of Cadmus… son of Agenor, king of Tyre..” -from textbook - Phonecian culture- relations with cannanites and Hebrews - “The Phoenicians who came with Cadmus… introduced into Greece… writing, an art til then, I think, unknown to the Greeks.” – Herodotus o not quite correct, the Greeks used to have their own alphabet, and then lost th the art of writing- then 8 century BC - Cadmus as mythical founder of Thebes- father of Semele, grandfather to Dionysus - “The Phoenicians began the quarrel… They seized and carried off someArgive women, including Io…At a later period, certain Greeks… made a landing at Tyre… and bore off the kings daughter, Europa.” – Herodotus o Tyre is in Phoenicia, which is inAfrica- across from Greece o Io river god, Zeus’s lover- Hera got jealous and changed Io into a cow- she wandered all over the east until she ended up in Egypt o Europa was kidnapped and taken back to Crete, it was a simple case of historical tit for tat- she was taken because the Greeks took other women- lynch pins of historical event o East and West hate each other because of these acts of hubris against each other - animosity between Greeks and the Persian empire (Phoenicians?) - blurred line btw myth and history from the ancient point of view - “Agenor’s daughter wondered at the bull’s beauty, amazed that he did not threaten to attack.” Ovid (roman poet) o Europa was daughter of kingAgenor o Beautiful white bull, Europa sat on its back - “The young princess even dare to sit upon the bull’s back. Then the god little by little began to take his deceptive steps further from the dry land into the sea…” – Ovid o she was taken to be raped o billowing cape over Europa’s head on the bull, her trying to maintain her chastity and modesty although to no avail o many paintings depicting her and the bull throughout time/culture o even on the Euro coin- 2002 - Europe is called Europe b/c of Europa - “Tyrian Cadmus came to this land where the cow fell down on all fours…” – Euripides o she made a new life for herself on the island of Crete, tho her brothers still go looking for her - Cadmus has a sacrificial urn to pour libations in one hand and a stone - “Cadmus came for sacrificial water and destroyed the serpent, wielding a stone by the might of his arm and showering deadly blows upon the monster’s head.” – Euripides o Cadmus battles the serpent ofAres o Stones the serpent, thus his carrying of the stone o Went to fetch water from the spring to perform a ritual, and the serpent would not let him, this him stoning him o Serpent is said to have belonged toAres, the god of war - Ares daughter is Harmonia- she marries Cadmus and has Semele and other children (see pic I took) o Oedipus is the son of Iocasta and her cousin Laius, but he is also one of her husbands! Fulfilled prophecy that he would kill his father and marry his mother- not on purpose- they had four children (who are also his brothers and sisters!):  Eteocles  Polynices  Antigone  Ismene  Daughters are faithful to their father until his end  Sons go to war with each other and die - “Call no man happy before he goes to the end without suffering” -Herodotus - “Arecurring figure in the Theban saga is the blind prophet Tiresias” – Textbook o shows up again and again in Theban stories o must have lived 4/5 generations o his blindness is important- vital to his being a good prophet- he is not mislead by what he sees, or by apparent truth - “He struck with his staff two large serpents copulating in the forest, and … passed seven seasons as a woman.” – Ovid o talking about Tiresias o Tiresias strikes these large copulating serpents copulating in the forest o He, as a consequence, was changed into a woman for 7 seasons o He has insight, because he knows what it is like to be both male and female o One day Zeus and Hera were arguing on Mt Olympus, as to who has greater pleasure in sex, so they go to Tiresias and he says that it is the woman. In Hera’s anger she blinds Tiresias, and Zeus who cannot undo this balances it out by giving him the gift of prophecy - “In the eight season, he saw the same serpents and… struck them, and his former body returned.” – Ovid o clearly this was before he was blinded by Hera - “He alone when he dies will walk among the dead having intelligence…” – Callimachus o Tiresias telling this to the great traveller Odysseus * Read: textbook 407-438, and Sophocles “Oediupus the King” Feb, 27/14 Sophocles- Oedipus Tyrannos - Tyrannos: not what we mean by tyrant, it is a person who has taken power, often from a king, and often for a very specific reason (the city has been in crisis) - Oedipus was a tyrant because he came along just as Thebes was in need of a ruler - Tragedy: genre, comes with conflict btw (not just good and evil) but btw good and good (or right and right which cannot go together) o Demands of fate vs demands of honor/kingship/virtue o Gods have different plans - Aristotle called this the greatest of all tragedies - He will ask us to comment on the whole story/myth of Oedipus (simple answers wont do) o How to interpret it o *** - over a course of three days - very competitive ancient race - picture of the sphinx: o perhaps it was inherited from the egyptians o gave their own description to it o “And Echidna was subject in love to Orthus and brought forth the deadly Phix which destroyed the Cadmeans, and the Nemean lion.” – Hesiod o phix- similar to greek word meaning to constrict, in other words she belongs to that class of dragons/monstrous serpents that gods and heroes naturally battle o part bird/lion/woman o was a myth in Delphi that Dionysus was buried there when he was torn apart by the titans and that the sphinx marked his tomb o sphinx is always connected with death - “Hera sent to Thebes the Sphinx, whose mother was Echidna and her father Typhon. She had the face of a woman, the brast and feet of a lion, and the wings of a bird.” Ps-Apollodoros o during Creons reign o plague besetting the city o why is Thebes being punished byApollo- this is basically the opening of the tragedy o Hera had sent the sphinx - Riddle of the sphinx o What is that which has one voice and yet becomes four footed and two footed and three footed? – Ps.Apollodoros o Answer is man o - the three stories in our book were not presented together - on Oedipus’s journey to Thebes he kills his unknown father, Laius - “I saw beautiful Epikaste, Oidipodes mother, who in her ignorance did a monstrous thing by marrying her own son.” – Homer, Odyssey o even older account than Hesiod o Epikaste is another name for Jokasta o In the underworld o “but he continued to rule as lord of the Cadmeans in lovely Thebes…”- Homer - Where does Sophocles depart from other stories: o He puts Oedipus into exile – didn’t stick around Thebes, unlike what Homer just said above o Not mention of him blinding himself in Homer (or in any author before Sophocles) – perhaps he invented this because it fits the themes of this play - “The tragic poet must not destroy the framework of the received myths… but he ought to display invention, and skillfully handle the traditional material.” – Aristotle o from his great work the Poetics o basic structure and if you violate too much of it you don’t have the same myth - “Laius married Eurykleia (different than Jocasta and her other names) and who bore to him Oedpius” – Epimenides of Crete o perhaps there was a variant story suggesting that when Oedipus married Jokasta he wasn’t marrying strictly his mother, but perhaps his step mother- perhaps the outright incest was too much for the audience to handle until Sophocles decided to take that route - “No, the mother of Oedipus’children was Euryganeia…” –Pausanias o fated Oedipus to kill his father and marry his mother, BUT Pausanias does not think that he had children by her- his witness is Homer himself o Jocasta still kills herself but the kids were not her sons - Sphinx’s riddle tells us that we are many different things througho
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