Barker, Elton T. E., and Joel P. Christensen. 2019. Homer's Thebes: Epic Rivalries and the Appropriation of Mythical Pasts. Hellenic Studies Series 84. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_BarkerE_ChristensenJ.Homers_Thebes.2019.
1. Troy, The Next Generation: Politics 
The Battle for Thebes
When it comes to thinking about the story of the Seven against Thebes in epic, it is difficult to avoid being drawn in to a discussion of an epic “Seven Against Thebes.” While we made it clear in the introduction that we neither consider it fruitful to try to reconstruct the lost or fragmentary epic(s) that told this story nor are interested in examining whether or not our Iliad draws on specific passages in an analytic fashion,  in order to appreciate the Homeric representation of this material we must first give a brief preliminary sketch on what a notional Theban epic on the siege of the city may have included.
The Seven Sons
In contrast with the Thebais, the story of the second Seven against Thebes is not well attested during the Archaic and Classical periods. At an early period the failed Theban sack had accrued more than one “sequel,” the first being Theseus’ siege of the city to force the burial of the war dead (see Apollodorus III 7). Even later mythographers leave little space for the deeds of the sons. In Apollodorus’ breezy account, for example, the sons barely warrant a mention: he concentrates instead on the many tales surrounding the death of Teiresias and the follow-up story involving Alcmaeon. As such the story that is strongly fronted by the Iliad appears to have enjoyed a rather tenuous existence.
On Not Being Alone
τί πτώσσεις, τί δʼ ὀπιπεύεις πολέμοιο γεφύρας;
οὐ μὲν Τυδέϊ γʼ ὧδε φίλον πτωσκαζέμεν ἦεν,
ἀλλὰ πολὺ πρὸ φίλων ἑτάρων δηΐοισι μάχεσθαι,
ὡς φάσαν οἵ μιν ἴδοντο πονεύμενον· οὐ γὰρ ἔγωγε
ἤντησʼ οὐδὲ ἴδον· περὶ δʼ ἄλλων φασὶ γενέσθαι.
ἤτοι μὲν γὰρ ἄτερ πολέμου εἰσῆλθε Μυκήνας
ξεῖνος ἅμʼ ἀντιθέῳ Πολυνείκεϊ λαὸν ἀγείρων·
οἳ δὲ τότʼ ἐστρατόωνθʼ ἱερὰ πρὸς τείχεα Θήβης,
καί ῥα μάλα λίσσοντο δόμεν κλειτοὺς ἐπικούρους·
οἳ δʼ ἔθελον δόμεναι καὶ ἐπῄνεον ὡς ἐκέλευον·
ἀλλὰ Ζεὺς ἔτρεψε παραίσια σήματα φαίνων.
οἳ δʼ ἐπεὶ οὖν ᾤχοντο ἰδὲ πρὸ ὁδοῦ ἐγένοντο,
Ἀσωπὸν δʼ ἵκοντο βαθύσχοινον λεχεποίην,
ἔνθʼ αὖτʼ ἀγγελίην ἐπὶ Τυδῆ στεῖλαν Ἀχαιοί.
αὐτὰρ ὃ βῆ, πολέας δὲ κιχήσατο Καδμεΐωνας
δαινυμένους κατὰ δῶμα βίης Ἐτεοκληείης.
ἔνθʼ οὐδὲ ξεῖνός περ ἐὼν ἱππηλάτα Τυδεὺς
τάρβει, μοῦνος ἐὼν πολέσιν μετὰ Καδμείοισιν,
ἀλλʼ ὅ γʼ ἀεθλεύειν προκαλίζετο, πάντα δʼ ἐνίκα
ῥηϊδίως· τοίη οἱ ἐπίρροθος ἦεν Ἀθήνη.
οἳ δὲ χολωσάμενοι Καδμεῖοι κέντορες ἵππων
ἂψ ἄρʼ ἀνερχομένῳ πυκινὸν λόχον εἷσαν ἄγοντες
κούρους πεντήκοντα· δύω δʼ ἡγήτορες ἦσαν,
Μαίων Αἱμονίδης ἐπιείκελος ἀθανάτοισιν,
υἱός τʼ Αὐτοφόνοιο μενεπτόλεμος Πολυφόντης.
Τυδεὺς μὲν καὶ τοῖσιν ἀεικέα πότμον ἐφῆκε·
πάντας ἔπεφνʼ, ἕνα δʼ οἶον ἵει οἶκον δὲ νέεσθαι·
Μαίονʼ ἄρα προέηκε θεῶν τεράεσσι πιθήσας.
τοῖος ἔην Τυδεὺς Αἰτώλιος· ἀλλὰ τὸν υἱὸν
γείνατο εἷο χέρεια μάχῃ, ἀγορῇ δέ τʼ ἀμείνω.”
“Oh my, son of wise-minded Tydeus the horse-tamer,
Why are you lurking, why are you peeping over the bridges of war?
It wasn’t dear to Tydeus, at least, to lurk like this,
But he fought with his enemies far in front of his dear companions—
That’s what those who saw him toiling say. I never met the man myself
Nor saw him. But they say he was better than the rest.
For, certainly, he went to Mycenae outside of war
As a guest when he was gathering an army with godly Polyneikes.
Then, they went on an expedition to the sacred walls of Thebes,
And they were begging these famous allies to join them.
And they were willing to go and consented to what these men asked
Until Zeus changed their minds by revealing fateful signs.
So then, after they left and were on the road,
They arrived at the Asopos, deep in reeds and grass
There, the Achaeans sent Tydeus forward on embassy.
And he went, and met the many Cadmeans.
Dining in the halls of mighty Eteocles.
There, stranger though he was, horse-driver Tydeus
was not frightened, alone among many Cadmeans.
But he challenged them to contests and won victory in all
easily. Such a guardian was Athena for your father!
But the Cadmeans, drivers of horses, were angered
and, as he departed from the city, they set up a close ambush
of fifty youths; there were two leaders,
Maion, son of Haimon, peer of the immortals,
and Autophonos’ son, Polyphontes, staunch in fight.
But Tydeus let loose on them a unseemly fate:
he slew them all and only one man he sent to return home:
he sent Maion, trusting in the signs of the gods.
Such a man was Aitolian Tydeus; but he fathered a son
weaker than he in battle, but better in the assembly.”
The story arc as presented by Agamemnon tells of a single, isolated hero, aided by a god, who successfully defeats an ambush and metes out punishment to his attackers. This type of discourse is neikos, blame speech, used here by Agamemnon to prick Diomedes’ pride.  His tale has a clear and simple aim: it functions to shame Diomedes for (allegedly) shirking battle even though he has the aid of his companions, when his father had successfully faced many men alone in an ambush. Yet Agamemnon’s intentions extend beyond merely shaming the hero, since he is trying to shape Diomedes into a singular hero to replace the one he has just contrived to lose, Achilles.
The Not-So-Magnificent Seven
ἡμεῖς τοι πατέρων μέγ’ ἀμείνονες εὐχόμεθ᾿ εἶναι·
ἡμεῖς καὶ Θήβης ἕδος εἵλομεν ἑπταπύλοιο
παυρότερον λαὸν ἀγαγόνθ’ ὑπὸ τεῖχος ἄρειον,
πειθόμενοι τεράεσσι θεῶν καὶ Ζηνὸς ἀρωγῇ·
κεῖνοι δὲ σφετέρῃσιν ἀτασθαλίῃσιν ὄλοντο·
τὼ μή μοι πατέρας ποθ’ ὁμοίῃ ἔνθεο τιμῇ.”
“Son of Atreus, don’t lie when you know how to speak clearly.
We claim to be better than our fathers:
we took the foundation of seven-gated Thebes
though we led a smaller army before better walls
because we were relying on the signs of the gods and Zeus’ help.
Those men perished because of their own recklessness.
Don’t put our fathers in the same honor.”
Sthenelos frames his riposte to Agamemnon’s Theban comparison by drawing a connection between speaking the truth and speaking clearly. To speak clearly (σάφα εἰπεῖν) on a subject is to speak knowledgeably about it, with the authority of a poet.  Knowledge is here connected to clarity of expression—an important consideration in the dynamics of oral performance, where the bard had to make sure that his audience was with him every step of the way in his recounting of events, even if the issues themselves were complex and would demand (and repay) further thought.  In the brief interlude as Odysseus pauses from recounting his post-Iliadic wanderings, the Phaiakian king, Alkinoos, reckons him like a bard on the basis that his words have a shape and beauty, and that he knows how to catalogue the events appropriately.  Sthenelos’ blunt rejoinder that Agamemnon has misspoken relates to this idea of providing a clear account: the king has failed either to provide a clear paradigm or to align his version of events at Thebes with the Iliad’s narrative of the Trojan tale. According to Sthenelos, Agamemnon’s Theban tale is off message.
On Not Remembering Tydeus
“τέττα, σιωπῇ ἧσο, ἐμῷ δ’ ἐπιπείθεο μύθῳ·
οὐ γὰρ ἐγὼ νεμεσῶ Ἀγαμέμνονι, ποιμένι λαῶν,
ὀτρύνοντι μάχεσθαι ἐϋκνήμιδας Ἀχαιούς·
τούτῳ μὲν γὰρ κῦδος ἅμ᾿ ἕψεται, εἴ κεν Ἀχαιοὶ
Τρῶας δῃώσωσιν ἕλωσί τε Ἴλιον ἱρήν,
τούτῳ δ’ αὖ μέγα πένθος Ἀχαιῶν δῃωθέντων.
ἀλλ’ ἄγε δὴ καὶ νῶϊ μεδώμεθα θούριδος ἀλκῆς.”
Then looking darkly at him mighty Diomedes replied:
“Sit in silence, obey my speech.
I will not criticize Agamemnon shepherd of the people,
since he is rallying the well-greaved Achaeans to fight.
Glory will attend to him if ever the Achaeans
Overcome the Trojans and take holy Ilion;
on the other hand, he’ll have great grief should the Achaeans perish.
But come, let the two of us think about rushing valor.”
The general referentiality of the introductory formula “looking darkly” (ὑπόδρα ἰδὼν) has already been established in the Iliad. Indicating the annoyance of the speaker with the previous speech, it characterizes Achilles’ angry confrontation at the beginning of the Iliad with Agamemnon.  Given this association, it is all the more striking that this young hero pointedly does not confront the commander-in-chief face-to-face, but instead directs his verbal volley at his friend, Sthenelos. In contrast to Sthenelos, Diomedes remained silent in the face of Agamemnon’s abuse, even though he himself had been the primary target of it. Now he clarifies the reasoning behind that silence: in criticizing him, Diomedes reasons, Agamemnon intends to rally the troops. This strategy, he recognizes, is appropriate behavior for the shepherd of the people. The king ought to be doing this kind of thing.
A Hero Not of Our Time
πείθεσθαι, καὶ μή τι κότῳ ἀγάσησθε ἕκαστος
οὕνεκα δὴ γενεῆφι νεώτατός εἰμι μεθʼ ὑμῖν·
πατρὸς δʼ ἐξ ἀγαθοῦ καὶ ἐγὼ γένος εὔχομαι εἶναι
Τυδέος, ὃν Θήβῃσι χυτὴ κατὰ γαῖα καλύπτε
πορθεῖ γὰρ τρεῖς παῖδες ἀμύμονες ἐξεγένοντο,
οἴκεον δʼ ἐν Πλευρῶνι καὶ αἰπεινῇ Καλυδῶνι
Ἄγριος ἠδὲ Μέλας, τρίτατος δʼ ἦν ἱππότα Οἰνεὺς
πατρὸς ἐμοῖο πατήρ· ἀρετῇ δʼ ἦν ἔξοχος αὐτῶν.
ἀλλʼ ὃ μὲν αὐτόθι μεῖνε, πατὴρ δʼ ἐμὸς Ἄργεϊ νάσθη
πλαγχθείς· ὡς γάρ που Ζεὺς ἤθελε καὶ θεοὶ ἄλλοι.
Ἀδρήστοιο δʼ ἔγημε θυγατρῶν, ναῖε δὲ δῶμα
ἀφνειὸν βιότοιο, ἅλις δέ οἱ ἦσαν ἄρουραι
πυροφόροι, πολλοὶ δὲ φυτῶν ἔσαν ὄρχατοι ἀμφίς,
πολλὰ δέ οἱ πρόβατʼ ἔσκε· κέκαστο δὲ πάντας Ἀχαιοὺς
ἐγχείῃ· τὰ δὲ μέλλετʼ ἀκουέμεν, εἰ ἐτεόν περ.
τὼ οὐκ ἄν με γένος γε κακὸν καὶ ἀνάλκιδα φάντες
μῦθον ἀτιμήσαιτε πεφασμένον ὅν κʼ ἐῢ εἴπω.
δεῦτʼ ἴομεν πόλεμον δὲ καὶ οὐτάμενοί περ ἀνάγκῃ.
ἔνθα δʼ ἔπειτʼ αὐτοὶ μὲν ἐχώμεθα δηϊοτῆτος
ἐκ βελέων, μή πού τις ἐφʼ ἕλκεϊ ἕλκος ἄρηται·
ἄλλους δʼ ὀτρύνοντες ἐνήσομεν, οἳ τὸ πάρος περ
θυμῷ ἦρα φέροντες ἀφεστᾶσʼ οὐδὲ μάχονται.
“The man is nearby—we will not look long for him. If you are willing
To consent and each of you does not get troubled by anger
Because I am the youngest among you by birth.
I also claim to be from a noble father by birth,
Tydeus, whom a heap of earth covers in Thebes.
Three blameless children were born to Portheus
And they used to live in Pleuron and steep Kalydon:
Agrios, Melas, and the third was the horseman Oeneus,
The father of my father. He was exceptional for his excellence.
But while he remained there, my father left for Argos,
Driven out. This was, I guess, how Zeus and the other gods wanted it.
He married one of the daughters of Adrastos and lived in a home
Wealthy for life: he had enough wheat-bearing fields,
And there were many orchards on all sides;
And he had many flocks. He also surpassed all the Achaeans
With a spear. You all have heard these things, if they are true.
Thus, you cannot claim that I come from low birth or I am a coward
And disregard the speech I set forth if I speak it well.
Now, let us go to war by necessity, even though we are wounded.
There, let us keep ourselves out of the strife of the missiles,
Lest someone add a wound to a wound.
But we shall send forth and encourage others, even those who before
Stood apart and did not fight, pleasing their hearts.”
In order to underline his capacity to speak authoritatively on matters of public concern in spite of his youth (“youngest by birth,” γενεῆφι νεώτατος, 112), Diomedes claims his inheritance as the son of a noble father, Tydeus (113–114).