The Theban Epics

  Davies, Malcolm. 2015. The Theban Epics. Hellenic Studies Series 69. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies.

Chapter 2. Thebais

If it were possible to choose a lost work of Greek literature for recovery, the epic Thebais would come high on a preference list. It would answer more questions about Homer than all the deciphering of Mycenaean tablets and excavating of tholos tombs.

Willcock 1964:144 = 440

Dass es der Dichter der Thebais war, d. h. der Epiker, welcher den Zug der Sieben für alle Zeiten in den Grundzügen feststellte, ist selbst-verständlich.

Wilamowitz 1891:224–225 = 1971:59

Ein Epos hatte … eine ganz bestimmte, künstliche, hochgezüchtete Heroenwelt als Objekt seiner Darstellung; in dieses epische Alterwelts-milieu wurden alle bestehenden Sagen umgeformt und erweitert; so auch der Zug der Sieben. Das bekam ihm nicht gut; seine Herkunft stand einem freien Wachstum in Wege; zu viele störende Elemente trug er in sich. Trotzdem sich ihm bedeutende Talente widmeten, wiewohl er durch die Vereinigung mit der Ödipussage neuen Aufschwung bekam und dichterische Steigerungsmöglichkeiten von grösster Eindrück-lichkeit in sich barg, so erwiesen sich doch manche andere Sagenkreise als zukunftsreicher und durchschlagender als der Zug der Sieben; vor allem die trojanischer Sagen. So trat das Epos, das ihn darstellte, in den Hintergrund.

Howald 1939:17–18 {27|28}


T1 (see page 135 for text)

These remarks of Pausanias constitute one of the most important documents for the history of early Greek literature. Their implications for the authorship and date of our epic are very considerable, and several other weighty inferences have been built upon them (see, for instance, Grote’s History of Greece [twelve-volume edition (London 1884)] 2.129). [1] Of course one cannot divorce the problem entirely from the more general question of those passages which have seemed to many to imply that Ὅμηρος was often used as a “collective name” for early epic. However, I must discuss these elsewhere. In the present place I shall endeavor to analyze the passage on its own merits.

Since the original words to which Pausanias alludes here are no longer extant, we must obviously proceed with the greatest caution. Nevertheless, I think that the evidence at our disposal is enough to enable us to rule out the most extreme example to date of skepticism as to this testimonium’s worth. I refer to J. A. Scott’s unfortunate conglomeration (“Homer as the Poet of the Thebais,” Classical Philology 16 [1921]: 20–26 = The Unity of Homer [California 1921] 15–22) of mistranslation and misinterpretation. [2] Mistranslation, for who will accept Scott’s statement (p. 16) that Pausanias tells us how the man whose name begins with Καλ- “regarded the author as Homer” (my italics), or “regarded the author as an Homer” (my emphasis again)? Misinterpretation, for the purpose of the tendentious paraphrase just cited is to ease our transition to the following conclusion (p. 16): “all this passage is intended to show is the high estimate in which the Thebais was held and that even here the author of that poem is regarded as an equal with the great Homer.” Our journey to this deduction is further facilitated by the doubt which Scott casts upon Sylburg’s emendation of the manuscripts’ Kαλαιν- (an emendation accepted by practically every scholar who has considered the passage, even those most hostile to its worth) and by his stubborn refusal to equate the Καλλῖνος thus emended with the elegist of that name. The information that the emperor Hadrian preferred Antimachus’ Thebais to Homer (Dio Cassius LXIX 4 = T32 Matthews) is next dragooned into service and we are presently being assured (p. 17) that “there is nothing in Pausanias to show that he is not referring to Antimachus.” From Pausanias, then, we are to infer that the mysterious Calaenus, unlocatable in time or place, set Antimachus on a level equal with Homer. {28|29}

ἓν δὲ τὸ κάλλιστον Xῖoς ἔειπεν ἀνήρ
«οἵη περ φύλλων γενεή, τοίη δὲ καὶ ἀνδρῶν.»

Hiller seems to think that alternative (ii) offers less scope for confusion and error on the part of the later writer, though even here we must bear in mind the carefully formulated warning of  J. A. Davison (“Quotations and Allusions in Early Greek Literature,” Eranos 53 [1955]: 137 = From Archilochus to Pindar [London 1968] 81–82): “All that we can feel sure of is that Pausanias (or his authority) found in Callinus a phrase or phrases ascribed to Homer which resembled some words in the Thebais closely enough to lead him to infer that Callinus was actually quoting the Thebais and ascribing it to Homer.” How much more uncertainty would be uncaged if (i) were the truth! Hiller does well to stress (p. 326) the large number of admittedly brief and passing references to the Theban saga in the Iliad and {29|30} the Odyssey. If an allusion to one of these from Callinus was misinterpreted we should be in a sorry way. Enough said, then, to put us well on our guard against any smooth and unpremeditated deduction from this notorious passage. Wilamowitz’s cautious summing up (1916:364n1) can hardly be bettered: “Ob die bis in das dritte Jahrhundert gelesene Thebais mit der, welche Kallinos vor sich gehabt hatte, ausser dem Stoffe noch irgend etwas gemein hatte, wusste niemand.”

We may therefore conclude that, though the Argives, Argos, and Adrastus would be mentioned far more often in the Thebais and the Epigoni than in the Iliad and the Odyssey, nevertheless they are mentioned enough in the latter pair of poems (evidence marshaled by Hiller [327–328] and Scott [22–24 = 18–20]) for the story to work perfectly well if τῶν Ὁμηρείων ἐπέων as a phrase bears the meaning that a present-day reader would naturally place upon it. And (pace e.g. How and Wells or Cingano) it would surely be a little odd if Herodotus, who at IV 32 = Epigoni Τ1/F2 expresses doubt concerning the Homeric authorship of the Epigoni, were here calmly to couple it with the Thebais and label the combination τὰ Ὁμήρεια ἔπεα.

Two other passages have wrongly been thought to contain traces of this tradition of Homer as the Thebais’s author: (i) Antigonus of Carystus 25 (Rerum naturalium scriptores graeci minores p. 9 Keller) attributes to ὁ ποιητής a line and a half of gnomic advice which some have assigned to the Ἀμφιάρεω Ἐξελασία, {30|31} a work most plausibly interpreted as part of the Thebais (as we shall see pages 99–102 below). But though we may accept that ὁ ποιητής is here equivalent to Homer, the rest of the hypothesis does not follow at all (see pages 101–102 below). Nor should (ii) Horace’s Ars Poetica 146 (nec reditum Diomedis ab interitu Meleagri [orditur]) be taken even as necessarily referring to the Thebais, and still less as implying the Roman poet’s attribution of that epic to Homer: see Brink, Horace on Poetry: The Ars Poetica (Cambridge 1963–1982) 442.

By contrast, the fragment of Dionysius of Samos (ὁ κυκλογράφος) cited as Τ4 (see page 136), which claims Homer as a contemporary of the Theban as well as the Trojan War, does seem to reflect the tradition. So, for instance, among earlier scholars, Grote (History of Greece 2.129n2), and Felix Jacoby, among the more recent (in his commentary ad loc. [1A.492]), have inferred.

We must now face another, scarcely less important, issue. When Pausanias introduces his remarks on the Thebais and its authorship with the statement ἐποιήθη δὲ ἐς τὸν πόλεμον τοῦτον καὶ ἔπη Θηβαίς, he has just been describing the siege of Thebes as the climax of the Epigoni’s campaign against that city. One might, then, expect “this war” to refer most immediately to this second, successful enterprise as well as the earlier failure. The fact has not escaped the attention of those scholars who believe the epic known as the Epigoni was part of a larger Thebais (so especially Bethe [1891:36–37 and 122]) and they triumphantly cite our passage as an evidence of this theory (see page 107 below). Even the cautious Rzach, who rejects the more extreme forms of this dogma, deduces from Pausanias’ words (1922:2374.42): “er wählt also eine Gesamtbezeichnung.” One can see why they came to this conclusion. But a closer examination of the structure of Pausanias’ whole argument here will also show the needlessness of such an inference.

Pausanias’ summary of the wars successively waged by the Seven and then the Epigoni against Thebes is very effectively framed within an introductory and a concluding passage. In the first, imitating the grand historical manner, [7] he tells us that he regards this war as the most noteworthy fought in the heroic age by Greek against Greek. The “this” is given reference by the previous sentence’s mention of Capaneus’ death (IX 8.7) in the midst of his attempt to scale the Theban battlements. In the second, concluding, passage, the initial emphasis is recapitulated in the statement that the Thebais was about this war and that Pausanias agrees with those who rank that epic third only to the Iliad and the Odyssey. Suppose the latter mention of “this war” is to be limited to that waged by the Seven: how could Pausanias have made this clearer? τὸν δὲ {31|32} πόλεμον τοῦτον (IX 9.1) in the introductory paragraph and τὸν πόλεμον τοῦτον (IX 9.5) at the conclusion will both refer to the same event, the war of the Seven against Thebes. If Pausanias had endeavored to make clarity doubly clear by placing the allusion to the Thebais immediately after the initial statement of the war’s importance, he would have incurred several disadvantages: the present smooth continuity between this initial statement about the war and the narrative concerning that self-same war would have been disrupted, and Pausanias would have deprived himself of the impressive coda which IX 9.5 supplies in the text as it actually stands. This latter disadvantage would have arisen if Pausanias had placed the mention of the Thebais in the only other available position, at the start of IX 9.4, in between the narratives of the Seven and the Epigoni. And such a placement would again have ruptured a desirable continuity with the interposition of a piece of literary criticism that functions far better in its present place.

Homer and the Thebais

The relationship between the Iliad and the Thebais has long been a matter of debate and dispute. Four older treatments of the topic still repay attention: Welcker 1865:2.320–332, Bethe 1891:174–147, Robert 1915:1.185–199, and Friedländer 1914:317–329 = 1969:34–42. Of these, the last two, which originally appeared at about the same time and do not, therefore, show awareness of each other’s conclusions, are the most rewarding. Robert’s analysis is the fuller and more detailed, but labors under the disadvantage of approaching the topic via the not particularly fruitful conviction (needlessly stressed at every turn of the argument) that the author of the relevant Iliadic passages cannot be the author of the Thebais. {32|33} Friedländer’s more concise study shows a greater awareness of the principles that underlie the whole issue. A Spanish monograph by José B. Torres-Guerra, La Tebaida Homérica como fuente de Iliade y Odisea (Madrid 1995), with English summary pp. 78–82, fails to take into account the monograph of Ø. Andersen (1978), the best treatment of the issue to date.

Von einer sorgsamen Prüfung der Homerstellen auszugehen ist aller-dings die eine Pflicht der Untersuchung. Man darf sich wohl auch gestatten, diese fragmentarischen Bilder mit aller Vorsicht aus der Gemein-sage zu ergänzen, wo sich solche Ergänzung aufdrängt. Aber man wird nicht glauben, damit den besonderen Stoff der Thebais wiedergefunden zu haben. Es könnte sehr wohl sein, dass dieses Epos jünger oder überhaupt anders ist als die Form der Sage vom Thebanischen Krieg, die sich aus der Ilias als “vorhomerisch” ergibt. Selbst diese Sagenform wird man nicht mit Gewissheit als einheitlich in Anspruch nehmen dürfen, da die verschiedenen “Iliasdichter” verschiedene Fassungen oder Entwicklungsstadien der thebanischen Sage voraussetzen können.

Friedländer 1914:318 = 1969:34


(i) Iliad IV 365–400

Here Tydeus’ activities are described by Agamemnon in order to supply an exhortatory paradigm for Tydeus’ son Diomedes, whom the leader of the Greeks mistakenly supposes to be skulking away from the battle, quite unlike his father. Diomedes’ alleged cowardice is in especially striking contrast to Tydeus’ behavior about the time he accompanied Polyneices on a peaceful embassy to Mycenae in the hope of gathering forces for the expedition against Troy. Mycenae would willingly have supplied such troops but παραίσια σήματα from Zeus deterred her (line 381). At a somewhat later stage, when the expedition was already under way, Tydeus was sent on another mission, this time to the enemy capital. At Thebes he went to the palace of Eteocles (line 386), challenged the {33|34} Thebans to an athletic contest, and beat them all easily, with Athena’s help. The angry Thebans set an ambush for him as he returned to the expedition, but here too Tydeus emerged victorious and killed all his assailants except for Maeon, whom he spared and sent back to Thebes, θεῶν τεράεσσι πιθήσας (line398).

(ii) Iliad V 793–813

Here again Diomedes is the recipient of a paradigmatic exhortation whose main theme is his inferiority to his father. This time the speaker is Athena, who recalls with authoritative knowledge an occasion when Tydeus went alone as a messenger to Thebes (lines 803–804) and was invited by its inhabitants to a feast. Instead, he challenged them to a contest and vanquished them all easily, thanks to Athena’s help.

Less detailed but still important are the two following passages:

(iii) Iliad X 284–289

This time Diomedes himself reminds Athena (in a prayer designed to win her support by appeal to the principle “help now, as in the past”):

σπεῖό μοι ὡς ὅτε πατρὶ ἅμ’ ἕσπεο Tυδέϊ δίωι
ἐς Θήβας, ὅτε τε πρὸ Ἀχαιῶν ἄγγελος ἤιει.
τοὺς δ’ ἄρ’ ἐπ’ Ἀσωπῶι λίπε χαλκοχίτωνας Ἀχαιούς,
αὐτὰρ ὁ μειλίχιον μῦθον φέρε Καδμείοισι
κεῖσ’. ἀτὰρ ἂψ’ ἀπιὼν μάλα μέρμερα μήσατο ἔργα
σὺν σoί κτλ.

(iv) Iliad V 115–120

In a very similar context (a prayer introduced by exactly the same formula of address to Athena) Diomedes requests aid εἴ ποτέ μοι καὶ πατρὶ φίλα φρονέουσα παρέστης | δηΐωι ἐν πολέμωι. Diomedes also makes general reference to his father’s career in the Theban War at Iliad VI 222–223 and XIV 110–132.

Welcker (1865:2.328–329) suo modo took (i) to be derived from the Thebais; B. Niese (Die Entwicklung der Homerischen Poesie [Berlin 1882] 129) thought it free invention. Bethe was unimpressed by the first two passages, dismissing them as “Prahlereien” (1891:175). More reasonably, Friedländer (1914:320–321 = 1969:36) notes how consistent are the premises of their story of Tydeus with the more general context of the Theban War both as revealed in the other Iliadic references and as more explicitly set out by later sources: Athena’s support is common to both accounts, for instance, and to the third version recounted in Iliad X (cf. Iliad V 115–116). Tydeus’ transference from Aetolia to Argos (Iliad XIV 119) explains his presence on the Argive side in the war against Thebes (see further page 121 below) and Iliad IV’s παραίσια σήματα recur in Pindar {34|35} Nemean IX 19–20 and Euripides Suppliant Women 155–160, for example. Andersen (1976:36) also observes that the very phrase παραίσια σήματα is a ἅπαξ in Homer, which may perhaps imply an epic source. Friedländer concludes that “ein altes Epos genau so erzählt hat,” without, of course, necessarily equating that epic with the Thebais (see page 33 above). An epic source is also presupposed by, for instance, Aly (RE 7A [1948]: 1706.2–3) and Leaf (on Iliad IV 384).

Such a conclusion still allows considerable scope and freedom for Homer’s own innovating hand. Take, for instance, the names of the two leaders of the Theban ambush: Μαίων Aἱμονίδης … | υἱός τ’ Aὐτοφόνοιο, μενεπτόλεμος Πολυ-φόντης (Iliad IV 394–395). Robert (1915:1.192) and Willcock (145 = “Mythological Paradigms in the Iliad,” in Oxford Readings in Homer’s Iliad [Oxford 2002] 441) think (to quote the latter) that “Maeon son of Haemon has a Theban-sounding father” (Haemon is the son of Creon in F1 of the Oedipodeia: see page 18 above) “and may be authentic; noticeably he is the only survivor.” The suspiciously murderous-sounding Polyphontes and his father Autophonus have, on the contrary, often passed as Homeric inventions (for invented names in Homer cf. Willcock 144–145 = “Mythological Paradigms,” 440; L. P. Rank, Etymologiseering en verwante verschijn-selen bij Homerus [Assen 1951] 130–135; cf. E. Risch, Eumusia [Howald Festschrift (Zurich 1947)] 72–91 = Kleine Schriften 294–313; H. von Kamptz, Homerische Personennamen [Göttingen 1982] 25–28, on “redende Namen” in early epic). But if Homer {35|36} could invent appropriate names in this manner, so perhaps could other, earlier, epic poets. They could conceivably be the source for the present passage. Tydeus’ sparing of Maeon is explained by the bafflingly elliptical phrase θεῶν τεράεσσι πιθήσας (line 398), the type of abbreviated reference which is often taken to represent compression of a preexisting narrative (cf. Iliad VI 183 for precisely the same phrase, and G. S. Kirk, The Songs of Homer [Cambridge 1962] 165). Andersen, too, is prepared to take seriously the idea that Maeon’s sparing represents an earlier tradition (1978:44n11). Here also, of course, there is room for dispute, since Niese (Die Entwicklung der Homerischen Poesie [Berlin 1882] 128), who believes the whole scene to be based on Bellerophon’s adventures in Iliad VI 187–211, takes the phrase in Iliad IV to be derived from that in Iliad VI. And the later details as to Maeon which we find in other authors may be spun out of Homer rather than stretching back to the Thebais (Andersen 1978:38).

The striking detail of a Mycenae ready to act as ally in the war against Thebes but deterred by signs from Zeus (see pages 33–35 above) is often interpreted as having been introduced to explain why that great city and its Pelopid rulers were conspicuous by their absence from the roll call of cities participating in the Theban War. If this is so, who first perceived the need of such an explanation? The composer of the Iliad, or the author of the epic which some suppose to underlie this and similar passages? Robert (1915:1.191: cf. Heldensage 3.1.932) followed by Andersen (1978:35) says the Pelopids can have played no part in the Thebais. We know too little of the poem to make such a generalization with utter confidence. But the surviving traces of the tradition, as Andersen stresses, do bequeath a picture of Adrastus and Amphiaraus as the leaders of all Argos and Achaea: the Pelopids need not have featured at all. Andersen again backs up Robert, who noted (1915:1.35) how the very fruitlessness of the visit to Mycenae (together with the superfluity of Polyneices in the Homeric context) might be thought to create a “Präjudiz für Erfindung.” The motive for such an invention is well conveyed by Andersen: it is once more paradigmatic. As Agamemnon’s forebears were willing to help Tydeus, so that hero’s son should now help Agamemnon.

Like Andersen (1978:44n9; cf. 45n20), I cannot accept Robert’s view of Iliad IV 365–400 as a “stümperhaftes Autoschediasma” (1915:1.191) deriving from Iliad V 793–813. For instance, modifying his earlier remarks in Studien zur Ilias (Berlin 1901) 185, he rather perversely tries to discover minor inconsistencies between the two sections that will confirm such a relationship (1915:1.188–189). But set these two passages side by side:

πολέας δὲ κιχήσατο Καδμεΐωνας
δαινυμένους κατὰ δῶμα βίης Ἐτεοκληείης … {36|37}
… ὅ γ’ ἀεθλεύειν προκαλίζετο, πάντα δ’ ἐνίκα
ῥηϊδίως …

Iliad IV 385–390


δαίνυσθαί μιν ἄνωγον [scil. Καδμείωνες] ἐνὶ μεγάροισιν ἕκηλον
αὐτὰρ ὁ …
κούρους Καδμείων προκαλίζετο, πάντα δ’ ἐνίκα
ῥηϊδίως …

Iliad V 805–808

Is it really natural to take the former as a misunderstanding of the latter, the second passage picturing a Tydeus invited to a feast and proudly challenging his hosts to a contest, and the first transforming this into a chance stumbling upon the feasting Thebans and a blatant provocation? Against Robert’s view see further Andersen 1978:44n9 (who rightly concludes that Robert “hierlegt viel zu viel in den Text hinein”) and 79–82.

The Doloneia, of course, occupies a special position, though even if it did not I doubt whether I should be impressed by Robert’s claims (1915:1.194) that X 289’s μάλα μέρμερα μήσατο ἔργα rings odd of Tydeus’ self-defense against an ambush, or that we must be disturbed by the specifying of Tydeus’ ἀγγελία as a μειλίχιος μῦθος (implying a special negotiation?) and the absence of any reference to Tydeus’ challenge. Andersen (1978:130) very sensitively explains the reason for these and other apparent divergences. We here find a concentration upon the μέρμερα ἔργα perpetrated by Tydeus on his way back from the embassy to Thebes because these and these alone are relevant to the situation in the Doloneia (where Diomedes is hardly likely to penetrate the capital of the enemy forces!). The same explanation applies to the new detail of Athena as helper to Tydeus in this encounter too (an ad hoc invention, thinks Andersen, designed to bring the situations of father and son into the closest possible similarity).

Other discrepancies between what the Thebais and what the Iliad have to say about the career of Tydeus allow of an easy explanation along lines that are by now very familiar (see page 14 above): the wish to avoid grim and grisly stories and (a point particularly stressed by Andersen [1978:17 and 141]), the need to preserve Tydeus as a suitable paradigm for his son. Both considerations will make clear at once why the cannibalistic propensities revealed in Thebais F5 (see page 140 for text) get no mention in the Iliad. Likewise this poem says nothing of the tradition that Tydeus killed one of his uncles or the son of one {37|38} of his uncles (on which see page 121 below), a tale we know to have appeared in the Alcmaeonis and may guess to have featured in the Thebais. The Iliad does indeed name the uncles (XIV 115–118) and Σ AB Iliad XIV 120 notes that the verb πλαγχθείς may be a covert allusion to the exile that resulted from this killing. Again, the Iliad has nothing to say of the role of the Delphic oracle and its prophecy about the boar and the lion (see page 63 below). But even if we were not aware that Homer generally shies away from excessive dependence on the oracular and the prophetic (see Griffin 1977:48 = 2001:383) we might observe (with Robert himself 1915:1.196) that Tydeus’ story is after all told allusively, and that the Delphic origin of this oracle is by no means guaranteed (see page 64 below).

The basic presuppositions of the Iliad and the Thebais, then, are similar. As to their relationship, our initial antithesis between Welcker’s derivation of Iliadic details from Thebais and Niese’s free invention may not, after all, be so absolute. As Andersen puts it (1978:36–37), the picture of Tydeus’ single-handed expedition, if not a total invention, has at least been reshaped to give that hero the prominence required by the paradigmatic context.


Eὐρύαλος δὲ οἱ οἶος ἀνίστατο, ἰσόθεος φώς,
Mηκιστῆος υἱὸς Tαλαϊονίδαo ἄνακτος,
ὅς ποτε Θήβασδ’ ἦλθε δεδουπότος Οἰδιπόδαo
ἐς τάφον. ἔνθα δὲ πάντας ἐνίκα Καδμείωνας.

Iliad XXIII 677–680

Friedländer rightly observes (1914:318–320 = 1969:34–37) that here, as with the Iliadic references to Tydeus, a few lines imply and conjure up a rich hinterland of mythical presuppositions which are fully consistent with the traditions of the Theban War as we recover them from later writers. As one of the seven Argive chieftains and a hero who fell before Thebes (see page 70 below), Mecisteus can only have participated in the funeral games of Oedipus if they were celebrated prior to the outbreak of hostilities. In other words, Oedipus’ death is here conceived as occurring in Thebes and before the expedition of the Seven against that city, precisely the same conception that is entertained in Sophocles’ Antigone and several other later works of literature. And there seems to be at least one further parallel for the friendly relations envisaged as existing between Thebans and Argives at this stage: Σ Iliad XXIII 679 (5.472 Erbse) saw the relevance of the version whereby Ἡσίοδός (fr. 192 MW) φησιν ἐν Θήβαις αὐτοῦ [scil. Οἰδίποδος] ἀποθανόντος Ἀργείαν τὴν Ἀδράστου σὺν ἄλλοις ἐλθεῖν ἐπὶ τὴν κηδείαν τοῦ Οἰδίποδος. One would naturally suppose that {38|39} the marriage between Argeia and Polyneices (on which see page 63 below) is to be connected in some way with this visit, though precisely how one need not venture to speculate. Mimnermus fr. 21 W may also belong here: Μ. δέ φησι τὴν μὲν Ἰσμήνην προσομιλοῦσαν Περικλυμένωι (see page 96 below) ὑπὸ Tυδέως κατὰ Ἀθηνᾶς ἐγκέλευσιν τελευτῆσαι. As Friedländer observes (1914:319 = 1969:35n48), these events seem unlikely in wartime, and if the exiled Tydeus had proceeded first to Thebes and only afterwards to Argos, he could have parti-cipated in Oedipus’ funeral games, and killed Ismene before encountering Polyneices at the gates of Adrastus’ palace.


Die Ilias kennt offenbar wenn nicht eine Thebais, so doch Gedichte, aus denen eine Thebais auf demselben Wege enstehen konnte wie die Ilias enstanden ist.

Wilamowitz 1914:104

Homer’s numerous references to the Theban War do indeed presuppose a tradition very similar to what we would independently guess to have stood in the Thebais. The Theban and Trojan wars “dominated epic tradition” (West on Hesiod Works and Days 162), and it is almost unthinkable that the composer of the Iliadic passages considered above was ignorant of some poetic work on the earlier war. The relationship of this work to the cyclic Thebais must remain obscure, but it cannot have been very different in content. On the other hand, Homer’s tendency to invent mythical details for his own purposes must not be underestimated, and several features which earlier scholars derived from the Thebais may rather be explained, with Andersen, as ad hoc creations, or at the very least careful adaptations to fit the new context.

The relationship between the Iliad and the Thebais is very much a special one. Other works, of course, have been thought to reflect the now-lost epic. It will be convenient to examine below under the relevant headings such writers as mention the Seven against Thebes, the striking of Capaneus by Zeus’ thunderbolt, and so on. In what follows I merely list, with a few appropriate comments, some studies not covered on pages 2–3 above in connection with the Oedipodeia, involving those authors that are most frequently supposed to have drawn upon the Thebais. On the origins of the story as a whole see Ernst Howald 1939—hard to get hold of, but stimulating. Also Dirlmeier 1954:151–158 = 1970:48–54, which, by accumulating potentially relevant material from the ancient Near East, interestingly anticipates the thesis of Burkert (1981:29–48 = 2001:150–165) on the eastern origins of the story. On Pindar’s indebtedness to the Thebais there is a useful article by Stoneman (1981:44–63), whose main fault is an occasional {39|40} uncritical acceptance of some of the reconstructions produced by Bethe, Friedländer, and the rest. For further bibliography see Kühr 2006. Finally, we should bear in mind that Statius, the one poet to have composed an epic Thebaid that is still extant, “die Thebais notorisch nicht gelesen hat” (Robert 1915:1.228–229; cf. 1.172, 202, etc.). See also R. Helm, RE 18.3 (1949): 996.49–55; D. Vessey, Statius and the Thebaid (Cambridge 1973) 60, etc.

The Evidence of Art

Robert (1915:1.181–182) claimed that the artistic evidence afforded little help in reconstructing our lost epic, and that continues to be true, by and large, in spite of the accretions to our knowledge since he wrote. Artifacts will be mentioned as and when they seem likely to be relevant.


On the correct quantity of the middle vowel (Θηβᾰις) see Housman, “Notes on the Thebais of Statius (Continued),” Classical Quarterly 27 (1933): 72–73 = Classical Papers 3.1221–1222. The adjective κυκλικός is appended to the title, presumably to distinguish it from Antimachus’ epic, by the quoters of F2, F3, and F7 (see ad locc. for the ultimate sources of these passages).

T3 (see page 136 for text)

The Thebais, like the Epigoni, is said to have contained seven thousand lines, a fact which excited Roscher (Die Sieben- und Neunzahl im Kultus und Mythos der Griechen [Leipzig 1904) 47–48) to the conclusion that each epic was divided into seven books of a thousand lines each, “ein deutlicher Beweis, wie weit in diesem Falle die Zahlensymbolik gegangen ist.” The allusion is to the seven gates of Thebes, but even if we are as impressed by the coincidence as Roscher himself was, we will only have obtained a small insight into the perverse mentality of some anonymous scholar. On book-division in general see S. West, The Ptolemaic Papyri of Homer (Cologne 1967) 18–24; S. West and M. L. West, “Comment,” Symbolae Osloenses 74 (1999): 68–73 = M. L. West, Hellenica 1.182–187.

In fact we have no evidence at all as to the number of books into which the Thebais was divided.


Scholars once assumed that the legend of the Seven against Thebes originated in the Mycenaean age of Greece (discussion and bibliography in Dirlmeier 1954:154 = 1970:53; cf. J. T. Hooker, Studies in Honour of T. B. L. Webster [Bristol 1988] 2.61 = Scripta Minora p. 279). More recently, Burkert has ingeniously and persuasively argued that “the tale of the ‘Seven against Thebes’ is the epic transposition of a purification ritual of ultimately Babylonian origin” (1981:42 = 2001:160). He notes several potential parallels between the Greek story and an Assyrian magical text involving “Seven Demons with formidable wings,” or rather figurines thereof, which are opposed by figurines of seven protective deities, and also “twins fighting each other in the gate” (1981:41–42 = 2001:159). But examination of the question as to when such Oriental influence can have made its influence felt in Greece leads Burkert to a conclusion he himself finds disturbing: “If any connection between the Babylonian and the Theban ‘Seven’ is accepted, the tale cannot have been created in Greece before 750 B.C.” (1981:44–45 = 2001:161).

Both sets of findings are at odds with the stress on “late” linguistic features in those fragments initiated by Wilamowitz and Wackernagel, and taken over by scholars like Bethe and Rzach or (more recently) Kirk and Griffin (“Die erhaltenen Verse sehen nicht danach aus, als hätte sie Kallinos gelesen” [Wilamowitz 1914:104]). They also raise important questions of principle, especially regarding the relationship between formulaic style and oral composition. Notopoulos’ simplistic assumption that the former is in itself sufficient guarantee of the latter receives specific refutation in Kirk’s important study of “Formular Language and Oral Quality” (Yale Classical Studies 20 [1966]: 153–174, esp. 169–174 = Homer and the Oral Tradition [Cambridge 1976] 183–200, esp. 195–200). Several studies have called into doubt the once-popular assumption that formulaic composition automatically entails orality: for a useful summary of their conclusions see Lloyd-Jones, “Remarks on the Homeric Question” (in History and Imagination [Trevor-Roper Festschrift (1981)] 7–10 = Academic Papers [I] 18–21; to whose bibliography add M. L. West’s “Is the ‘Works and Days’ an Oral Poem?” [in I poemi epici rapsodici non omerici e la tradizione orale (Padua 1981) 53–67 = Hellenica 1.146–158]), with its stress on the possibility that oral and literary modes of composition need not represent absolute alternatives. See also R. Janko, Homer, Hesiod, and the Hymns (Cambridge 1982) general index s.v. “formula, definition of ’’ and “orality, criteria for”; West, in Der Übergang von die Mündlichkeit zur Literatur (Tübingen 1990) 33–50 = Hellenica 1.159–175. {42|43}

Doubtless Burkert is right to draw the distinction he does (37 = 156) between the formulaic character of the Thebais’s fragments and, on the one hand, the allusive and playful adaptations of Homeric phraseology practiced by Panyassis and, on the other hand, the Meropis’s totally un-Homeric style. But no one has ever suggested that the Thebais was as late a composition as Panyassis’ Heracleia. It does not follow that it was contemporary with the Iliad or the Odyssey. On the question of the relationship between the Iliad and the Thebais (or an earlier form thereof) see pages 32–40 above. On the more general issue of relative dating of early Greek epic see Relative Chronology in Early Greek Epic Poetry, ed. Andersen and Haug (Cambridge 2012), esp. the final chapter by West (pp. 224–241).


F1 (see page 136 for text)

Ἄργος: for “the very first word” of a poem as indicating “the singer’s subject” see West on Hesiod Theogony 1. Within the sphere of epic as narrowly defined we think at once of μῆνιν ἄειδε θεά (Iliad I 1), ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε Mοῦσα (Odyssey i 1), Ἴλιον ἄειδω (Ilias Parva fr. 1.1). See further B. A. van Groningen, The Proems of the Iliad and the Odyssey (Mededeelingen der Koninklijke Nederlandsche Akademie van Wettenschappen, afdeeling Letterkunde 9 [1946]) 6–7, W. H. Race, “How Greek Poems Begin,” Yale Classical Studies 29 (1992): 20. Willcock on Iliad I 1 observes “the first word … shows that the plot of the Iliad is to be primarily psychological, and that at any rate we do not have here a simple chronicle of the fighting at Troy,” and compares the first word of Odyssey i 1. By contrast, the cyclic epics, as Aristotle and Horace saw (cf. Brink on Horace Ars Poetica 143–144) give what Griffin (Homer on Life and Death [Oxford 1980] 1; cf. “Critical Appreciations VI: Homer, Iliad 1.1–52,” Greece and Rome 29 [1982]: 129 = Homer [Oxford 1998] 69) calls the “straightforward narrative of an obviously significant event—the war of the gods and the Titans, the whole Theban War, the capture of Troy.” But given this, it is odd that an epic called the Thebais should begin with a reference to Argos: see pages 45–46 below. ἄειδε: in early epic the verb is equally applicable to the activity of the Muse and that of the poet inspired by the Muse: see W. Kranz, “Sphragis: Ichform und Namensiegel als Eingangs- und Schlussmotiv antiker Dichtung,” Rheinisches Museum 104 (1961): 6 = Studien zur antike Literatur und ihrem Fortwirken (Heidelberg 1967) 29n5.

ἄειδε θεά: of course the same pair of words occurs in the same metrical sedes in the first line of the Iliad. L. E. Rossi (“Estensione e valori del colon nell’esametro omerico,” Studi urbinati di storia, filosofia e letteratura 39 [1965]: 250n33 and “La fine alessandrina dell’Odissea e lo ζῆλος Ὁμηρικός di Apollonio Rodio,” Rivista di filologia e di istruzione classica 96 [1968]: 160) has interpreted this as a direct allusion to that poem by the composer of the Thebais. Kranz (6–7 = 29–30) had already expressed a more cautious attitude, preferring to think in terms of a general stylistic feature of ancient epic as opposed to the obvious imitation of Homer with which we are presented by Orphic fr. 48 Kern: μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Δημήτερος ἀγλαοκάρπου. See further J. Redfield, “The Proem of the Iliad: Homer’s Art,” Classical Philology 74 (1979): 98–99 = Oxford Readings in Homer’s Iliad 460. {43|44}

θεά: for this way of referring to the Muse at the start of a poem see Davies and Fin-glass on Stesichorus fr. 90.9.

πολυδίψιον: the attachment of such an epithet to the indicated subject of the poem immediately before a relative clause is a further regular feature of early epic: Iliad I 1 μῆνιν … οὐλομένην, Odyssey i 1 ἄνδρα … πολύτροπον (taken by Rossi as the direct model for our present passage; but for the feature as a regular device cf. Ilias Parva fr. 1.1: Δαρδανίην εὔπωλον); van Groningen, however, observes a significant discrepancy between the Homeric and the “cyclic” poems: “neither εὔπωλον in the Little Iliad nor πολυδίψιον in the Thebais are [sic] in any way connected with the following idea. They are merely adorning epithets.” Contrast the highly pertinent nature and effect of the Homeric instances. [13] πολυδίψιον is again applied to Argos in Iliad IV 171 and Quintus Smyrnaeus III 570. Compare (with Bethe 1891:38n15) εὔπωλον at the start of Ilias Parva. Since the Argive plain is notoriously well watered by the river Inachus (see e.g. Euripides E1.1 with M. W. Haslam, “ ‘O Ancient Argos of the Land’: Euripides, Electra 1,” Classical Quarterly 26 [1976]: 1), Welcker (1865:2.546), following the lead of several ancient commentators (see Erbse on Σ Iliad IV 171 [1.482]), rejected the epithet’s obvious meaning (“very thirsty”) in favor of a ludicrous equation with πολυίψιος (“much-destroyed”: cf. Sophocles TrGF 4 F296 with Radt’s note ad loc.). Others (like Aristarchus ap. Hesychius δ2032 [1.466 Latte] δίψιον Ἄργος) took it as equivalent to πολυπόθητος (“much thirsted after”): cf. Strabo VIII 6.7, Athenaeus X 433E. The simplest answer is to suppose that the word possesses the signification we should normally assign to it and refers to the tradition alluded to by Hesiod fr. 128 MW Ἄργος ἄνυδρον ἐὸν Δανααὶ θέσαν Ἄργος ἔνυδρον. See further Cook, Zeus (Cambridge 1925) 3.894; R. Drews, “Argos and Argives in the Iliad,” Classical Philology 74 (1979): 134–135 = Oxford Readings in Homer’s Iliad 441 (arguing that “Peloponnesian Argos [was], not always without difficulty, attached to many of the legends … in Pelasgic Argos,” a large area in Greece which could be contrasted with the greener and lusher Ionia).

ἔνθεν: for “the expansion by means of a relative clause of the subject of song initially named” as “a regular feature of epic proems” see West on Hesiod Theogony 2. Compare in particular Iliad I 2 (μῆνιν) … | … ἣ μυρί’ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε’ ἔθηκε; Odyssey i 1 (ἄνδρα) … ὃς μάλα πολλά κτλ.; Ilias Parva fr. 1.2 (Δαρδανίην) … | ἧς περί. For Latin examples see Coleman on Statius Silvae 4.22.

ἔνθεν ἄνακτες: the absense of initial ϝ at the start of ἄνακτες here was claimed by Wilamowitz (1884:366n45) [14] as a sign of “lateness,” a claim implicitly rejected by Wackernagel (1916:181 and n2). The failure of ϝ here to “make position” is no particular evidence of a late date for the Thebais, as LfrgE s.v. ἄναξ (M4 [col. 782] with literature) confirms by listing seventeen other epic examples of a like failure. Slightly more reliable evidence for the dating of our poem may conceivably be afforded by the difficulty we encounter in attaching a satisfactory meaning to ἄνακτες here. The word obviously refers to the Seven against Thebes (a conclusion we may safely draw even when taking into account the lack of context), but precisely how is a mystery. LfgrE as cited, C4 (col. 790) is divided between (i) a signification it recognizes as subcategory 1b, {44|45} where ἄναξ occurs with the name of the relevant hero—we must then assume that the names of the Seven were given in the following lines, though even so the plural ἄνακτες in this sense seems anomalous, with only Odyssey xii 290 (θεῶν ἀέκητι ἀνάκτων) providing anything like a parallel; (ii) the possibility of a development from the Lexikon’s category 3aδ, where ἄναξ is used of slaves speaking of masters. It compares Euripides Suppliant Women 636 (θανόντων ἑπτὰ δεσποτῶν), which is indeed to be explained by noting that the speaker is Καπανέως … λάτρις (see Collard ad loc.).

1 2. ἄνακτες ‖: even in the absence of the next line we can see that there was enjambement between it and the first verse of the poem, and this feature is the third of Rossi’s reasons (for the other two see above on ἄειδε θεά and πολυδίψιον) for supposing that the very opening of the Thebais specifically imitated the openings of the Iliad and the Odyssey. The latter’s initial verse and its sequel are indeed enjambed in an equally striking fashion: ὃς μάλα πολλά ‖ πλάγχθη. But even here I prefer to talk in terms of a general stylistic feature common in early epic rather than specific copying. A line from a later poem such as Apollonius of Rhodes IV 2–3 ἦ γὰρ ἔμοι γε ‖ yields more readily to an interpretation as allusive imitation of the feature. Our instance and the Odyssey’s provide a case of “necessary enjambement”: see Milman Parry, “The Distinctive Character of Enjambement in Homeric Verse,” Transactions of the American Philological Association 60 (1929): 200–220 = The Making of Homeric Verse (Oxford 1971) 251–265; G. S. Kirk, “Have We Homer’s Iliad?,” Yale Classical Studies 20 (1966): 105–152 = Homer and the Oral Tradition (Cambridge 1976) 146–182; G. P. Edwards, The Language of Hesiod in Its Traditional Context (Cambridge 1971) 85–100; Richardson, Homeric Hymn to Demeter pp. 331–338; Janko, Homer, Hesiod, and the Hymns (Cambridge 1982) general index s.v., etc. For Argos as the point of departure for another great expedition celebrated in epic cf. Euripides Electra 1–3 (ὦ γῆς παλαιὸν ἄρδμος [Herwerden, Haslam: ἄργος codd.] Ἰνάχου ῥοαί, | ὅθεν ποτ’ ἄρας ναυσὶ χιλίαις Ἄρη | ἐς γῆν ἔπλευσε Tρωιάδ’ Ἀγαμἑμνων ἄναξ. There, of course, the situation is slightly different, since the farmer is apostrophizing the locale in which the play is set.


Howald (1939:7) convincingly argues that the stories of Oedipus and of the Seven against Thebes were originally independent entities: each is too complex and elaborate to be prologue or sequel to the other, and each has a quite distinct character. The two have been artificially united by the device of Oedipus’ curse on his sons, and this expedient may well have been the invention of the Thebais. On curses in early Greek literature see Watson 1991, esp. 12–18. On ancestral curses in particular see West in Sophocles Revisited (Lloyd-Jones Festschrift 1999) 31–45 = Hellenica 2.287–301; R. Gagné, “The Sins of the Fathers … ,” Kernos 24 (2008): 109–124; and N. Sewell-Rutter, Guilt by Descent (Oxford 2008). On Oedipus’ curses in general W. Bühler, Zenobii Athoi Proverbia 5 (Göttingen 1999) 452–458.

In some respects the two fragments are very similar: in both, Oedipus becomes angry; in both the result of that anger is that he curses his two sons. But whereas in F3 the action that angers him is perpetrated by both sons so that {46|47} the joint curse is instantly explicable, in F2 only Polyneices seems responsible; nevertheless, Eteocles too falls under his father’s curse. Furthermore, the action that evokes the curse in F2 is on the face of it designed to honor Oedipus, so that Oedipus’ response seems at first paradoxical. And the contents of the curse are different, though closely connected: in F2, despite the abrupt termination of the extract, war between the two brothers is clearly prophesied; F3 more specifically mentions their deaths at each others’ hands. This climax in clarity and grimness (cf. my note on Sophocles Trachiniae [Oxford 1991] lines 43–48) suggests that in the original epic the two episodes did indeed stand in this order (cf. Welcker 1865:2.334–335). For the principle that a similar event’s happening twice constitutes decisive proof of an underlying tendency see C. W. Müller, “Der ‘zweite Beweis’ als Wahrheitskriterium,” Hermes 127 (1999): 493–495 = Kleine Schriften 182–185, esp. Erbse’s citation ap. n12 of the present two fragments. Both filial misdemeanors concern τροφή, which is the reason given for anger and curse at Aeschylus Seven Against Thebes 786 and Sophocles Oedipus at Colonus 1265–1266, 1362–1369.

F2 (see page 137 for text)

Let us now confine ourselves for the moment to F2. We shall try to obtain a clearer picture of events: first and foremost, why is Oedipus so angry? Polyneices sets before him a fine silver table that had belonged to Cadmus, and also (presumably on it) a fine golden goblet full of wine. The possessions are then described as the precious γέρα of Oedipus’ own father, Laius, so one presumes that the goblet too once belonged to Cadmus and that it and the table were handed down within the family from father to son. Athenaeus adds to this picture by claiming that Oedipus had previously forbidden the goblet to be brought before him. Whether {47|48} he derives this information from elsewhere in the epic or is merely making an obvious inference, one would suppose the ban to apply to the table also. The only conceivable motive for Oedipus’ extreme vexation at the presence before him of these family heirlooms and kingly symbols must be that devised by Welcker (1865:2.334) in the wake of Eustathius and accepted by Bethe (1914:102–103), Robert (1915:1.175), Rzach (1922:2364.21–22), and practically all scholars: Oedipus does not want to be reminded by these objects of the father he had unwittingly killed and supplanted. Perhaps, too, as Robert added, he does not wish to be reminded by these royal tokens of his former prosperity and happiness. Erika Simon objected (1981:10 and n13) that the tokens had earlier belonged to Labdacus and Cadmus, and advanced the novel hypothesis that Oedipus was vexed because in setting before him the utensils used in the hero-cult of Cadmus, his sons were treating him as if he were already dead. But our fragment says nothing of Cadmus’ hero-cult or the practice of “Totenmahl” (on which see page 119 below). It does, however, stress (lines 5–6) that the objects belonged to Laius. Perhaps this is another un-Homeric feature: the dining table is not the symbol of social harmony (see my remarks in “Feasting and Food in Homer: Realism and Stylisation,” Prometheus 23 [1997]: 97–107), but a source of discord.

Most scholars (especially Robert [1915:1.175]) have deduced from Polyneices’ role here that the Thebais already represented him as the wicked and impious brother familiar from later literature. The sinister etymology of his name would seem to bear this out (cf. Aeschylus Seven Against Thebes 577, 658, 829; Sophocles Antigone 110–111, etc.). For a bibliography of modern explanations of the name see Wolff, Roscher s.v. (3.2661.48–49); cf. Fraenkel (1957:44 = 1964:1.312–313), who even excogitates from Euripides Phoenician Women 1494 an epic hexameter beginning ὦ Πολύνεικες, ἔφυς νεῖκος πολύ. It is hard to accept Friedländer’s counterassertion (326n1 = 40n55) that such a view betokens lack of “Sprachgefühl” and that Πολυνεἱκης “ist kein Schimpfname.” On significant names in epic see page 35 above. On their frequent appearance within the legend of Oedipus see Dirlmeier 1954:157 = 1970:53. According to Robert, Polyneices’ present access to the inherited possessions of the Labdacids looks forward to his appropriation of a further item from the same treasure-store: the girdle of Harmonia. Bethe too (1891:99) thinks Polyneices bribed Eriphyle in our epic: most of our sources [19] give him this role. The prominence of Polyneices here and the apparent absence of Eteocles led Bethe (1891:107) further to suppose that the former was already considered the elder as in Sophocles Oedipus at Colonus 374–375, 1294–1295, 1422. For other views in antiquity and modern times as to which brother was elder see Wolff, Roscher 2662.41–60. {48|49}

Finally, here are a few minor comments on the context of the present quotation in Athenaeus. Kaibel wished to delete the words δι᾽ ἐκπώματα. The plurality need not disturb us (cf. A. C. Moorhouse, The Syntax of Sophocles [Mnemosyne suppl. 75 (1982)] 4–5 on plurals for instruments and tools) but the phrase is unnecessary and, worse, inadequate as a motivation for the curse, since (as we have seen [page 47 above]), the silver table plays its part too in angering Oedipus. However, as Robert pointed out (1915:2.66n28), Athenaeus is citing the whole passage for this one detail of the cup, and the double mention is appropriately emphatic. Athenaeus also seems to err in stating that both sons placed the cup before Oedipus (παρέθηκαν) but the mistake is venial, especially when it occurs in a sentence that began with the perfectly accurate statement that the incident led to the cursing of both sons. Eustathius has taken over from Athenaeus both of these small errors, and also the failure to refer to the silver table (irrelevant, as we have just seen, to the context in which Athenaeus cites the epic lines).

1. αὐτὰρ ὁ διογενὴς ἥρως: cf. Iliad XXI 17 αὐτὰρ ὁ διογενὴς δόρυ μὲν λίπεν κτλ.; Odyssey xxiii 306 αὐτὰρ ὁ διογενὴς Ὀδυσεύς κτλ.; Iliad V 308 αὐτὰρ ὅ γ’ ἥρως |, IV 489 | Aἴας διογενής. In a list of adjectives ending in -ης which can also operate as proper names, Σ A Iliad XVI 57 (4.173 Erbse) happens to juxtapose αὐτὰρ ὁ διογενής from the above passages with Πολυνείκης, but (pace e.g. Welcker; Schneidewin, “Zu den bruchstücken der homerischen dichter,” Philologus 4 [1849]: 747; Nauck, Mélanges gréco-romains, 374; Allen, Oxford Text of Homer vol. 5, p. 113) this is fortuitous and has nothing to do with our line. ξανθὸς Πολυνείκης | : cf. Iliad III 284 = XVII 18 ξανθὸς Μενέλαος |; Hesiod Theogony 947 ξανθὴν Ἀριάδνην |. For other instances of the epithet in this position within the hexameter see W. D. Meier, Die epische Formel im pseudohesiodeischen Frauenkatalog (diss. Zurich 1976) 157.

2. | πρῶτα µέν: cf. Odyssey xxii 448 | πρῶτα μὲν οὖν; xxiii 131 | πρῶτα μὲν ἄρ; Iliad VI 179 πρῶτον μὲν ῥα. Οἰδιπόδηι: for the various forms of this name in epic and tragedy see A. Sideras, Aeschylus Homericus (Hypomnemata 51 [1971]) 101. καλὴν παρέθηκε τράπεζαν: cf. Odyssey v 92 θεὰ παρέθηκε τράπεζαν |; i 138–139 ξεστὴν ἐτάνυσσε τράπεζαν | … ταμίη παρέθηκε φέρουσα.

2 3. παρέθηκε τράπεζαν | ἀργυρέην: for the enjambement cf. Odyssey i 441–442 θύρην δ’ ἐπέρυσσε κορώνηι | ἀργυρέηι; xv 103–104 υἱὸν δὲ κρητῆρα φέρειν Μεγαπένθε’ ἄνωγεν | ἀργυρέον. It is of the type that Milman Parry (as page 45 above) termed “unperiodic enjambement … the addition of an adjectival idea … describing a noun found in the foregoing verse” (“The Distinctive Character of Enjambement in Homeric Verse,” 206 = The Making of Homeric Verse 255), and Kirk (“Have We Homer’s Iliad?” [as on page 45 above] 107 = Homer and the Oral Tradition 149) “progressive enjambement.”

3. Kάδµοιο θεόφρονος: see Kirk, “Formular Language and Oral Quality” [as on page 42 above], 169 = Homer and the Oral Tradition 195 for the epithet (“a compound unique in the epic tradition”) as “a clear departure from the thrift of the oral epic. The standard laudatory epithet for this position in the verse is δαΐφρονος (28 times in Homer).” θεόφρων again only in Pindar Olympian VI 41. αὐτάρ ἔπειτα |: the notorious cyclic formula: cf. Pollianus Palatine Anthology XI 130.1–2 τοὺς κυκλί<κ>ους {49|50} τούτους, τοὺς ‘αὐτὰρ ἔπειτα’ λεγόντας | μισῶ, λωποδύτας ἀλλοτρίων ἐπέων (on which see Cameron, Callimachus and His Critics [Princeton 1995] 396–398; Griffin 1977:49; Campbell on Quintus Smyrnaeus XII 139). The phrase at line-end is not unknown to Homer (see Campbell) but in the present case one is reminded of the naϊve repetition of ἔπειτα in our earliest examples of Greek prose: cf. Ed. Fraenkel, “Additional Note on the Prose of Ennius,” Eranos 49 (1951): 50–56 = Kleine Beiträge zur klassischen Philologie 2.53–58, Dover in Classical Contributions (McGregor Festschrift 1981) 24–25 and n47 = Greek and the Greeks 29 and n46.

4. δέπας ἡδεὸς οἴνου |: the same phrase ends a line at Odyssey iii 51. The double absence of digamma (ϝηδεός ϝοίνου) is striking in both passages and a probable index of “lateness” (Wilamowitz 1884:366n45; Bethe 1891:40n20). On the line-end phrase μελιηδέος οἴνου see Chantraine, Gramm. hom. 1.123; on other Homeric instances of ἡδύς and οἶνος sans ϝ see 151 and 145 respectively. Most are easily removed. For the adjective’s application to wine see Arnott on Alexis fr. 46.9 KA.

5. αὐτὰρ ὅ γ’ ὡς: the same collocation of words at the start of a line in Iliad XII 40, XXI 550; cf. Iliad V 308, cited on line 1. On the stylistic implications of this third instance see Griffin 1977:49. φράσθη: the meaning is that given by LSJ s.v. II 4 (“perceive, observe”). Compare ἐνόησε in fr. 3.1 (Oedipus is again the subject). In other words, φράσατο would supply the same sense. For the form cf. (ἐπ)ἐφράσθης in Odyssey v 183, xix 485, xxiii 260. On its relatively recent development see Chantraine (as cited on line 4), 1.405–406 πατρὸς ἑοῖο|: same phrase, same position in Iliad XIV 11, XXIII 360; Hesiod Theogony 472.

6. τιµήεντα γέρα: cf. Odyssey i 312 (|τιμῆεν), xiii 129 (| τιμήεις). µέγα οἱ κακὸν ἕµπεσε θυµῶι: for a full and excellent analysis of the oddity of this phrase see Kirk, “Formular Language and Oral Quality” (as cited on page 42 above) 169–171 = Homer and the Oral Tradition 195–197. The poet seems to have conflated “two distinct formular applications of ἔμπεσε: an emotion ‘falls upon’ the spirit, an evil ‘falls upon’ a house.” But in the present case, muddle-headedly, “an evil” (κακόν rather than, e.g., ἄχος) falls upon Oedipus’ spirit. Did the poet mean κακόν to be equivalent to ἄτη? For ἔμπεσε θυμῶι | of emotion see Iliad IX 436, XIV 207, 306 (ἐπεὶ χόλος ἐ. θ.), XVI 206 (κακὸς χόλος ἐ. θ.), XVII 625 (δέος ἐ. θ.). For ⌣–κακὸν ἔμπεσεν οἴκωι | cf. Odyssey ii 45, xv 375. µέγα οἱ: ϝ is hardly ever neglected before third-person sing. oἱ: see West, Hesiod’s Theogony p. 100, his note on Hesiod Works and Days 526 (p. 291), Edwards, Language of Hesiod, 138n48.

7. |αἴψα δέ: these two words begin a line in Iliad II 664, Odyssey xvi 359. µεταµ-φoτέρoiσiν: It is difficult to know what to make of this. If we are supposed (i) to detect here an example of the verb μετ’ … ἠρᾶτο in tmesis, we will look in vain for an entry s.v. μεταράομαι in our lexica. And the search s.v. ἀράομαι for the construction ἀρὰς ἀ. μετὰ τινι in place of the normal ἀρὰς ἀ. τινι will be equally futile. But emendations do not convince: ἑοῖσιν ἐπ’ ἀμφοτέροισιν coni. H. van Herwerden, “Notulae ad Athenaeum,” Mnemos yne 4 (1876): 313, prob. Nauck, Mélanges grécoromains, 374–375, and seriously considered by Wackernagel (1916:181n2); κατ᾽ ἀμφοτέροισι coni. R. Peppmüller, “Zu den Fragmenten der griechischen Epiker,” Neue Jahrbücher für Philologie und Pädogogik 133 (1886): 465, comparing κατηράτο in Iliad IX 454. The two likeliest solutions for the problems raised by the paradosis are (ii) to associate it with the Homeric construction (Schwyzer, Gr. Gr. 2.483) whereby we find a verb with μετά + dative plural as prepositional object rather than with the simple dative that later {50|51} suffices. Especially enlightening are instances where tmesis would be ruled out by the resultant form (e.g. μεταπολεμίζω) or by other considerations (Iliad I 525–526 τοῦτο γὰρ ἐξ ἐμέθεν γε μετ’ ἀθανάτοισι μέγιστον| τέκμωρ). Alternatively, if not repelled by its remarkable equation of σύν with μετά, one may suppose that we have here (iii) the form μεταμφοτέροισι as an alternative to συναμφοτέροισι, though it must be admitted that (iii) is no less a stranger to LSJ than (i) and (ii). This third interpretation is adopted by scholars of the calibre of Wilamowitz (1884:366n45) and Wackernagel (1916:181n2), who take it as a further index of the relative recentness of the poem, the latter observing that (a) the equivalence between μετά and σύν thus implied is unknown to early epic, where the former means “amid” (see further Schwyzer, Gr. Gr. 2.481–482); (b) the word to which our form is an alternative, συναμφοτέροι, is itself not found until the fifth century (though cf. Theognis 820 συναμφοτέρους, which there seems no reason to date so late). M. Leumann, Homerischer Wörter (Basel 1950) 94n56 takes this explanation a stage further: starting with the tmesis in Homeric phrases like μετὰ Tρωιῆισιν ἔειπεν (Iliad XXII 476), μετὰ δ’ Ἀργείοισιν ἔειπεν (XXIII 781), Tρώεσσι μεθ’ ἱπποδάμοις ἀγορεύσω (VIII 525), ταῦτα μετ’ Ἀργείοις ἀγορεύεις (X 250), he suggests that, in a manner constantly presupposed by his book, such extensions of the tmesis as μετ’ ἀμφοτέροισιν ἔειπεν (Iliad III 85 = VII 66; cf. too the similar examples ἄριστα / ἔρισμα μετ’ ἀμφοτέροισι γένηται at Iliad III 110, IV 38, ἔργα μ. α. ἔθηκε at Iliad III 321, φιλότητα μ. α. βάλωμεν /τίθησι at Iliad IV 16/83, ἔριν Ἀτρεΐδηισι μ. α. ἔθηκε at Odyssey iii 136) have been misunderstood and μεταμφότεροι created by misinterpretation. ἐπαράς: Iliad IX 456.

7 8. ἐπαράς | ἀργαλέας ἦρατο: comparable enjambement in Odyssey xi 291 (289: βόας) …|… ἀργαλέας (cf. Hesiod fr. 37.2 MW), Iliad XI 3–4 ἔριδα … | ἀργαλέην. With ἐπαράς … ἦρατο cf. Iliad II 788 ἀγορὰς ἀγόρευον and in general Fehling, Die Wiederholungsfiguren und ihr Gebrauch bei den Griechen vor Gorgias (Berlin 1969) 156–157. For the adjective ἐπάρατος in real-life curses see Watson 1991:37.

8. θεῶν δ’ οὐ λάνθαν’ ἐρινύν: for a useful survey of references to Erinys or Erinyes in early Greek epic see A. Heubeck, “Ἐρινύς in der archaischen Epik,” Glotta 64 (1986): 143–165. He finds θεῶν here eccentric (“auffällend”: 152–153), without noting that it is Meineke’s conjecture for—or, rather, reinterpretation of—the manuscripts’ ΘEON (proposal made in Analecta Critica ad Athenaei Deipnosophistas [Leipzig 1867] 211). I accept it, and certainly find it preferable to Rohde’s θοήν (ap. C. F. H. Bruch-mann, Epitheta Deorum Quae apud Poetas Graecos Leguntur [Leipzig 1893] 100): cf. Quintus Smyrnaeus V 454 θοαὶ … ἐριννύες; Sophocles Electra 486–491 πολύπους … ἐρινύς (cf. Finglass ad loc.). The Erinyes are ὠκύδρομοι at Orphic Hymns 69.9, although they are tardy elsewhere (e.g. ὑστερόπoυς at Orphic Argonautica 1162–1163). For the genitive compare Sophocles Antigone 1075 Ἅιδου καὶ θεῶν ἐρινύες (against Dawe’s tampering [Studies on the Text of Sophocles [Leiden 1978] 3.114–115] see Lloyd-Jones and Wilson ad loc. [Sophoclea 143]): cf. Sophocles Electra 112 σεμναὶ … θεῶν παῖδες. As Robert observes (1915:2.67), this genitive is different in kind from those which occur in such familiar phrases as πατρός, μητρὸς ἐρινύες where they represent the directly injured party (see E. Rohde, “Paralipomena,” Rheinisches Museum 50 [1895]: 10–11 = Kl eine Schr iften 2.233–234). The manuscripts’ θεόν may not be impossible as an interpretation of the original ΘEON: cf. Odyssey xv 234 = Hesiod fr. 280.9 MW (θεὰ δασπλῆτις Ἐρινύς) and for the general idiom thus exemplified (θ. preceding the deity’s name) West on Hesiod Works and Days 73. For feminine θεός in epic see West on Hesiod Theogony 442–443, {51|52} Richardson on Homeric Hymn to Demeter 1. Compare in particular Aeschylus Seven Against Thebes 720–723 (in the context of Oedipus’ curse) τὰν …| θεὸν, οὐ θεοῖς ὁμοίαν, | … | … Ἐρινύν. [20] Or, with Robert 1915:2.67n2, we may simply emend to θεάν. But I prefer θεῶν because, as Deubner (1942:35 = 1982:669) observes, the shared responsibility of gods and Erinyes seems more in the epic manner. He compares Iliad IX 454–457 στυγερὰς δ’ ἐπεκέκλετ’ Ἐρινῦς, |…|… θεοὶ δ’ ἐτέλειον ἐπαράς,| Ζεύς τε καταχθόνιος καὶ ἐπαινὴ Περσεφόνεια. See too ibid. 569–572 Meleager’s mother curses her son: τῆς δ’ ἠεροφοῖτις Ἐρινὺς | ἔκλυεν ἐξ Ἐρέβεσφιν κτλ.) and Odyssey xi 274–280 (ἄφαρ δ’ ἀνάπυστα θεοὶ θέσαν ἀνθρώποισιν | … (Epicaste dies and bequeaths to Oedipus) ἄλγεα… | πολλὰ μάλ’, ὅσσα τε μητρὸς Ἐρινύες ἐκτελέουσι). On the interaction of gods and Erinyes in epic see further Dietrich, Death, Fate, and the Gods (London 1965) 233–234, Watson 1991: general index s.v. “Erinyes, execute curses,” esp. 30n133, and index of curse themes s.v. “gods’ anger in curses.” On Oedipus’ links with Erinyes see Edmunds 1981b:225–231. ἐρινύς or ἐρινῦς at line-end in Iliad IX 454, 571, and XIX 87.

9. οὔ ο†: μή is tentatively suggested by Hutchinson in his commentary on Aeschylus Seven Against Thebes (Oxford 1985) xxix, but for the digamma see above on line 6. For a list of early attempts to solve the crux see W. Ribbeck, “Zu den Fragmenten der griechischen Epiker,” Rh einisches Museum 33 (1878): 457. Best, perhaps, was Hermann’s πατρώϊ’ ἐνηείηι φιλότητος, which Ribbeck himself adapted to π. ἐνηέι <ἐν> φιλότητι (so too, independently, Peppmüller, “Zu den Fragmenten” [as in 7n above], 465, comparing for the hiatus in the bucolic caesura ἔγχεϊ ὀξυόεντι in Iliad V 50, etc.). Kaibel’s edition of Athenaeus placed Ribbeck’s conjecture in the actual text of the fragment. Robert, however (1915:2.67), argued that both lines of approach are vitiated by the fact that Homer only employs ἐνηής of an ἑταῖρος or person (contrast Hesiod Theogony 651 μνησάμενοι φιλότητος ἐνηέος, cited by Ribbeck). The same charge may be leveled against O. Rossbach’s ἐνηῆι φιλότητι (“Epica,” Neue Jahrbücher für Philologie und Pädogogik 143 [1891]: 82) and a similar one (as seen by Robert and Peppmüller) against Meineke’s ἐν ἠθείηι φιλότητι (Analecta Critica, 212), since Homer never bestows this (or any other) adjective upon this noun when it bears the nonsexual signification required here. However, Robert’s criteria so drastically exclude most corrections from consideration that a reminder is necessary of the numerous other un-Homeric features that this fragment and others of our epic contain. Perhaps Ribbeck’s suggestion is the least unsatisfactory after all. φιλότητι | in Odyssey viii 313, x 43 (in the last passage meaning “friendship”).

9 10. ( πατρώια …) | δάσσοντ : apart from πατρώιων χρημάτων δατήροι at Aeschylus Seven Against Thebes 711 (two lines after a reference to Οἰδίπου κατεύγματα), compare the terms of Oedipus’ curse at 788–789 of the same play: καί σφε σιδαρονόμωι | διὰ χερί ποτε λαχεῖν κτήματα (see too the references to κτέανα and κτήματα in 729 and 817 and cf. Lloyd-Jones, Classical Review 28 [1978]: 214), at Euripides Phoenician Women 67–68 (ἀράς) … | θηκτῶι σιδήρωι δῶμα διαλαχεῖν τόδε and at [Plato] Alcibiades. (2) 138c ὥσπερ τὸν Οἰδίπουν αὐτίκα φασὶν εὔξασθαι χαλκῶι διελέσθαι τὰ πατρῶια τοὺς υἱεῖς. Hermann’s conjecture δάσσαιντ’ (made in the note on Oedipus at Colonus 1377 in his 1827 revision of Erfurdt’s commentary [2.435]) held the stage until Wackernagel {52|53} (1916:254–255) objected that Homer only uses ὡς plus optative in indirectly quoted prayers (Odyssey xvii 243, xxi 201), and proposed δάσσοντ’ on the basis of Odyssey v 23–24 = xxiv 479–480 (ἐβουλεύσας| … ὡς … ἀποτείσεται). The comparison is apt; only (unlike Wackernagel) we must take ἀποτείσεται and δάσσοντ’ plus ὡς as exemplifying “the transition from modal to final use” (Schwyzer, Gr.Gr. 2.665 on Odyssey v 23–24, with which he compares Iliad VIII 36–37 βουλὴν … ὑποθησόμεθ’ … |ὡς μὴ πάντες ὄλωνται). W. Headlam (“Emendations and Explanations,” Journal of Phil ology 30 [1907]: 307), citing Sophocles Oedipus Rex 1270–1274 (Oedipus’ curse on his sons) αὐδῶν τοιαῦθ’ ὁθοῦνεκ᾽ οὐκ ὄψοιντό νιν, conjectured δάσσοιντ’, approved by Pearson (Euripides’ Phoenissae, p. xxn2), but for future indicative rather than imprecatory optative in curses see Watson 1991:23–24 (cf. 40) and on Horace Epode V 89.

10. ἀεί: cf. Iliad XII 211 Ἔκτορ, ἀεὶ μέν πώς μοι ἐπιπλήσσεις ἀγορῆισιν, XXIII 648 ὥς μευ ἀεὶ μέμνησαι ἐνηέος, οὐδέ σε λήθω, Odyssey xv 379 οἷά τε θυμὸν ἀεὶ δμώεσσιν ἰαίνει. The short α in these passages is regarded as an Atticism by Wackernagel (1916:146), who rejects the notion of an East Ionic origin. Chantraine demurs (Gramm. hom. 1.167). But as Shipp, restating Wackernagel’s case, observes (Studies in the Language of Homer 2 [Cambridge 1972] 49), “if Ionic it is late, as αἰεί persists into the inscriptions … and is usual in MSS of Herodotus.” Hermann’s ἔοι (suggested in the note on Oedipus at Colonus 1377 cited above on lines 9–10), resembles Schneidewin’s αἰεὶ δ’ ἀμφοτέροισιν ἔοι π. τ. μ. τ. ( “Zu den bruchstücken der homerischen dichter,” 747) and Köchly’s εἴη δ’ ἀμφοτέροισιν ἀεὶ π. τ. μ. τ. (Coniectaneorum Epicorum fasc. I [1851] p. 10 = Opusc ula Philol ogica 1.230) and other emendations in seeking to introduce an imprecatory optative that would be idiomatic in a curse: see e.g. the funerary inscription from Asia Minor cited by J. H. M.Strubbe in Faraone and Obbink, eds., Magika Hiera (Oxford 1991) 39: ἐξωλεία καὶ πανωλεία εἴη αὐτῶι πάντων. But a corresponding verb with πολεμοί τε μαχαί τε as its subject can well have stood in the verse that originally followed line 10 (since Athenaeus is usually a careful and conscientious quoter [cf. K. Zepernich, “Die Exzerpte des Athenaeus in den Dipnosophisten und ihre Glaubwürdigkeit,” Philologus 77 (1921): 324–363 (esp. 362–363)], the omission of the line will be a transmissional error). Without emending we still have an irrevocable prayer for hateful things which supplies a positive equivalent of e.g. μηδέποτε in curses (see Strubbe 56n106) used of benefits not to be enjoyed. For “always” in curses see, e.g., Tibullus I 5.51–52 hanc volitent animae circum sua fata querentes | semper, Propertius IV 5.39 semper habe morsus circa tua colla recentes, Genesis 3:14 and 17 (God’s curse on the serpent and Adam) “all the days of thy life.” πόλεµοί τε µάχαι τε |: same phrase at line-end in Iliad I 177, V 891, Hesiod Theogony 926. But there may be a special point to the phrase here. The curse from Asia Minor cited above provides a parallel for the idiomatic (and “strengthening”) juxtaposition of nearly synonymous evils prayed for in a curse.

F3 (see page 138 for text)

A few introductory remarks on the text of the note that is our source for this fragment: the legion inadequacies of Papageorgiou’s edition of the Sophoclean scholia can from time to time be remedied by consulting V. de Marco’s work De Scholiis in Sophoclis Tragoedias Veteribus (Reale Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei 6 [Rome 1937]), which handily corrects and amplifies Papageorgiou’s information, {53|54} and nowhere to better effect than on p. 111, which deals with the scholion that is the source for our fragment. I have incorporated the Italian scholar’s findings in this fragment’s text and app. crit. They reappear in his full-scale edition of the scholia on the Oedipus at Colonus (Rome 1952). Nauck’s small but palmary corrections of the scholion’s comment on Oedipus’ anger were made in his review of Papageorgiou (Mélanges gréco-romains, 50).

οἱ περὶ Ἐτεοκλέα καὶ Πολυνείκην = Ἐτεοκλῆς καὶ Πολυνείκης: on the idiom see S. L. Radt, “Noch einmal Aischylos, Niobe Fr. 162N (278M),” Zeitschrift für Papyro-logie und Epigraphik 38 (1980): 47–56 and “οἱ (αἱ etc.) περὶ + acc. nominis proprii bei Strabon,” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 71 (1988): 35–40 = Kl eine Schriften 236–246 and 362–374. The criticism implied by the scholion’s use of the adverbs μικροψύχως and τελέως ἀγεννῶς was attributed to Didymus by Robert (1.170); cf. Pfeiffer, History of Classical Scholarship 1.276–277. As Griffin suggests (Homer on Life and Death 14), it may reflect the inability of a later Greek mentality to understand the importance attached to food as a symbol of honor in earlier literature. This brings us to the fragment itself.

Almost immediately after citing our present fragment, the Sophoclean scholion proceeds to quote a further fragment in the form of fifteen iambic trimeters (TrGF 2 F458) which appear to presuppose the same state of affairs. Controversy has long raged over the origin, authorship, and genre of this floscule of drama: see especially Robert 1915:2.67–69. Without becoming unnecessarily embroiled in this matter, we may safely make the following comments on this other fragment’s version of events. The speaker of the fifteen verses would seem to be either Eteocles or Polyneices, for he describes how he and at least one other had been accustomed to send to the blind Oedipus a portion of the sacrifice (lines 2–3 θυσίας {γὰρ} ἀπαρχὴν γέρας ἐπέμπομεν πατρί | περισσὸν ἀρνῶν ὦμον, ἔκκριτον γέρας [κρέας coni. Methner]). But on one occasion a lapse of memory led to their sending something else (lines 5–6: ἀντὶ τοῦ κεκομμένου | ἐπέμψαμεν βόειον) and the irate old man, interpreting the change as a deliberate insult intended to escape his attention, invokes a curse upon his sons that is remarkably similar to what we find at the close of the epic fragment (lines 14–15: χαλκῶι δὲ μαρμαίροντες ἀλλήλων χρόα | σφάζοιεν ἀμφὶ κτήμασι βασιλικοῖς).

Now even if this dramatic excerpt had suffered less corruption than it has and we felt far more confident as to its source and genre, there would still be danger in resorting to it automatically in order to supplement or clarify our own particular fragment. Let us start then by approaching the epic lines in isolation to see what they will yield us independently.

Our fragment’s mention of an ἰσχίον seems to imply (see ad loc.) a sacrifice as background to the insult (so e.g. Bethe 1891:102–103). Oedipus does not participate directly as a king normally would (cf. Aristotle Politics 1285B10), perhaps {54|55} because his hands are polluted by his crime. Clearly his sons have, in practice, taken over the duties of kingship (see Wolff in Roscher 3.2663.39–49). Teiresias in Euripides Phoenician Women 875–876 describes how Oedipus’ two sons ἄνδρα δυστυχῆ | ἐξηγρίωσαν. In the Thebais was the insult intentional or deliberate? The actual fragment represents Oedipus as exclaiming παῖδες μέγ’ ὀνείδειον τόδ’ ἔπεμψαν, but the words of a proud and angry old man are not perhaps the most reliable testimony or the most objective. The quoter of the epic ascribes the offense to forgetfulness (ἐκλαθόμενοί ποτε) and this corresponds with the explanation given in line 4 of the iambic trimeters treating of the same subject (οὐ μεμνημένοι). Here, certainly, Oedipus’ complaint about filial malice seems at odds with the reality. The same picture is implied by Plato’s remarks on the malicious nature of Oedipus’ curse (Alcibiades [2] 138C and 141A, Laws 931B). See too Aeschylus Seven Against Thebes 780–781 (ἐπ’ ἄλγει δυσφορῶν | μαινομέναι κραδίαι), Euripides Phoenician Women 66 and 877 (νοσῶν). The idea that an unintentional insult, one occasioned by oversight, is as deserving of punishment as a deliberate crime accords perfectly with archaic Greek morality: see Davies and Finglass on Stesichorus fr. 85.2.

1. ἰσχίον: Evelyn-White, in his Loeb text of Hesiod, the Homeric Hymns, and Homerica (London 1914) 485n1, explained Oedipus’ anger on the ground that the haunch was “regarded as a dishonourable portion.” A more accurate way to put this would be to say that Oedipus was expecting a more honorable portion. This is the inference most scholars have drawn, from Welcker (1865:2.336) down to Griffin (Homer on Life and Death 14: “the less honourable cut of meat”). It seems borne out by studies of the activities that accompanied sacrifice. So F. Puttkamer, Quo modo Graeci victimarum carnes distribuerint (diss. Königsberg 1912) 41: “privatos quoque homines si sacrificabant viris quibus honores debebant eximiam partem misisse verisimile est ex fabula Oedipodea”; Meuli, “Griechische Opferbräuche” (Phyllobolia [von der Mühll Festschr. (1945)] 219 = Gesammelte Schriften 2.943): Oedipus is vexed at not having received the particular γέρας of the shoulderblade, “der geziemende Anteil für einen Ehrengast.” This interpretation seems best to square with Aeschylus Seven Against Thebes 786 on τροϕή as the cause of Oedipus’ curse (presumably the passage referred to by our scholion as similar to this fragment), [21] and with Euripides Phoenician Women 874–875: οὔτε … γέρα πατρί |… διδόντες. For “the motif of food … to make effects of will and symbolism” in the epics of Homer and other European poets see Griffin as cited 14–15. For “the idea of more honourable cuts of meat” he quotes Iliad VII 321–322 (νώτοισιν δ’ Aἴαντα διηνεκέεσι γέραιρεν | ἥρως Ἀτρεΐδης), Odyssey viii 474–478 (δὴ τότε κήρυκα προσέϕη πολύμητις Ὀδυσσεύς, | νώτου ἀποπροταμών, ἐπὶ δὲ πλεῖον ἐλέλειπτο, | ἀγριόδοντος ὑός, θαλερὴ δ’ ἦν ἀμϕὶς ἀλoιϕή | ‘κῆρυξ, τῆ δή, τοῦτο πόρε κρέας, ὄϕρα ϕάγηισι, | Δημοδόκωι’ κτλ.), ix 159–160 and 550–551. Also (15n36) an interesting Irish parallel. See too Puttkamer as cited 39–41 (“distributiones honoris causa factae”) and {55|56} Burkert Homo Necans p. 47 = Engl. trans. 37n12. [22] Simon’s alternative interpretation (1981:10 and n13) that the ἰσχίον would normally have been burned for the gods, so that Oedipus is being treated as if he were dead, seems very far-fetched. Welcker and Robert (1915:1.185) thought the curse probably as fundamental for the Thebais as the μῆνις for the Iliad. Griffin thinks “the Homeric poets would have been reluctant to make such a point the fulcrum for a great movement of the plot.” Certainly, as Σ Iliad IV 343 (1.510 Erbse) says of a like scene, οὐ περὶ βρωμάτων, ἀλλὰ περὶ τιμῆς ὁ λόγος. ἐνόησε: at first this verb may seem incompatible with the hypothesis (see page 60 below) that the Thebais portrayed Oedipus as self-blinded in the manner familiar from Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex and elsewhere. After all, LSJ s.v. νοέω (I.1) gives “perceive by the eyes, observe” as the word’s primary meaning, and Snell echoes the view of many scholars when he claims (“Wie die Griechen lernten, was geistige Tätigkeit ist,” Journal of Hellenic Studies 93 [1973]: 183 = Der Weg zum Denken und zur Wahrheit [Hypomnemata 57 (1978)] 41) that the verb is “eng mit dem Sehen verbunden.” However, such an approach is misleading, for its present occurrence is perfectly consistent with the results of the painstaking researches of K. von Fritz in his article “Nοῦς and νοεῖν in the Homeric Poems,” Classical Philology 38 (1943): 79–93 = Um die Begriffswelt der Vorsokratiker (Wege der Forschung 9 [1968]) 246–276. Note in particular his conclusion (85 = 260) that “there are two basic meanings of the word νοεῖν: to realise a situation and to plan or to have an intention.” The first of these obviously fits the present instance of the verb, and von Fritz’s general interpretation of the word’s history and its application to our passage would become even more convincing if we could be sure that he is right (92–93 = 273) to approve the etymological derivation of νοεῖν from the root snu “to sniff or smell.” The verb would then have had no original association with sight at all. But in fact such a derivation is extremely controversial (for criticism and a list of other suggested etymologies see Fisk and Chantraine s.v. in their etymological dictionaries). On the basic meaning of νοεῖν see further T. Krischer, “Noos, noein, noēma,” Glotta 62 (1984): 141–149. Incidentally, one would like to know how the author of these lines visualized Oedipus’ perception of the insult (if visualize it he did). Our dramatic fragment tells us that he felt the difference (lines 6–7 ὁ δὲ λαβὼν χερί | ἔγνω ᾿παφήσας). Perhaps so specific and detailed an explanation is beneath epic dignity. Whatever the truth in that area, there is no doubt that the present epic instance fully fits another generalization formulated by von Fritz (84 = 257) in connection with Homer’s use of the word: “without exception, in all those cases in which the verb νοεῖν has a direct and concrete object, violent emotion is caused by the νοεῖν.”

| –⌣⌣ ὡς ἐνόησε: the same phrase in the same metrical position at Iliad XV 422, Odyssey x 375, etc. χαµαὶ βάλε εἶπέ τε µῦθον: cf. Iliad VII 190 (Ajax recognizes his κληρός and as a sign of his joy) [τὸν μὲν παρ πόδ’ ἑόν] χαμάδις βάλε φώνησέν τε. Similar phrasing, very dissimilar content. χαµαὶ βάλε: the same phrase in the same metrical position at Iliad XXI 51, Odyssey xvii 490, Homeric Hymn to Hermes 118 and 298; and (with βάλον for βάλε) Iliad V 588 and Odyssey xxii 188. But in these instances the phrase has a different meaning from the present occurrence. A closer parallel {56|57} for anger expressed by the flinging to ground of an object is Iliad I 245–246 ὣς φάτο Πηλεΐδης, ποτὶ δὲ σκῆπτρον βάλε γαίηι | χρυσείοις ἥλοισι πεπαρμένον, though that action has a symbolic dimension (see Griffin, Homer on Life and Death 11–12) lacking here. βάλε εἶπε: the evidence of so corrupt a fragment is hardly sufficient to allow us to decide whether the poet gave εἶπε a digamma or intended βάλεν. εἶπέ τε µῦθον: the same formula ends a hexameter at Iliad VII 277, XI 647, XVIII 391, XXIII 204, Odyssey viii 302, xiv 494, Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite 256, 286, Homeric Hymn to Hermes 154, 218, 306, HH 7.54 (cf. Odyssey v 338: εἶπέ τε μῦθον|: ἔειπε | U8 : πρὸς μῦθον ἔειπε | rell.). As here, it is directly followed by a speech in oratio recta in all these instances except Iliad VII 277 (where a line supplying the subject of the verb intervenes) and Odyssey viii 302 (where no speech follows). See further R Führer, Formproblem-Untersuchungen zu den Reden in der frühgr. Lyrik (Zetemata 44 [1967]) 17–19.

2 3: a large number of scholars have wished to posit a lacuna between these two verses (e.g. Ribbeck [“Zu den Fragmenten” (as in F2.9n), 457], who thoughtfully appends his version of the missing line). The reasons for agreeing with them may be grouped and listed as follows:

  • Aa) The eccentric μέν solitarium in line 2
  • b) The lack of any object for ἔπεμψαν in the same line
  • c) The extremely abrupt nature of the asyndeton at the start of line 3
  • Bd) The excessive brevity of Oedipus’ speech as transmitted
  • e) The presence of a marginal sign opposite line 2

As regards the oddities collected under heading A, they are all removable by simple emendations (see ad loc. for details), the majority of which also recommend themselves on grounds quite independent of the presence or absence of a lacuna. Three emendations within two lines: this is not excessive for a quotation fragment, given the extreme susceptibility to corruption of such texts. Of B we may observe that we have no right to demand a Homeric plenitude from the speeches in later epic; on the contrary, Griffin (1977:49–50), who accepts the notion of a lacuna, nevertheless refers to the “dry manner of indirect reporting” here exhibited and “the indirect and summary manner” in which the curse is reported. Certainly, the presence of the word μῦθος in the introduction to Oedipus’ direct speech implies nothing about its length: the self-same formula εἶπέ τε μῦθον heralds a one-line speech at Iliad XVIII 391–392.

2 . | ὤµοι ἐγώ: the phrase opens a line at Iliad XXII 99. For the form of the exclamation see R. Renehan, Greek Lexicographical Notes (Hypomnemata 45 [1975]) 148. παῖδες µέγ’: none of the examples of μέν without a following δέ assembled by Denniston, GP 2 377–380 is really parallel to the μέν offered by the paradosis (the passage is indeed absent from Denniston’s collection). The so-called μέν solitarium is supposed to convey an unexpressed and contrasting idea (see GP 2 380–384), but it is hard to see what that could be here. If resort to emendation were forbidden, we might acquiesce in the forced interpretation “My sons on the one hand have insulted me (I on the other hand will make them rue the day they ever conceived such a plan),” though this surely entails at the very least εὖκτο δέ at the start of the next line. How much more convincing is the sense produced by even Hermann’s παῖδές μοι (De Aeschyli Trilogiis Thebanis [Leipzig 1835] 11 = Opuscula 7.200 is where he justifies the emendation already printed in the note on Oedipus at Colonus 1377 in his 1827 revision of Erfurdt [2.435]). Simpler and {57|58} better, though, is Schneidewin’s παῖδες μέγ’ (published in Exercitationum Criticarum in Poetas Graecos Minores capita quinque [Braunschweig 1836] 29–30). Schneidewin resolutely declined to combine his emendation μέγ’ with the ὀνείδειον τόδ’ of P. C. Buttmann (see on line 3 below). I find the temptation to do so overwhelming. The paradosis is surely indefensible: in the first place, as we have already seen, ἔπεμψαν at the end of the line is desperately in need of an object, and this can hardly be squeezed in at any other part of the verse but here. Second, ὀνειδείοντες is a highly vulnerable ἅπαξ, a supposedly poetical alternative form for ὀνειδίζω, as LSJ claim. [23]

3. εὖκτο: cf. Aeschylus Seven Against Thebes 721 πατρὸς εὐκταίαν ἐρινύν. The verb here is an intriguing form which prima facie could be interpreted either as a genuine archaism or a late neologism. Each possibility could be paralleled from other forms in early epic, and each has its scholarly support. The majority of critics have preferred to take it as an archaism, the (unaugmented) athematic imperfect of εὔχεσθαι, what the Homeric epics represent thematically as εὔχετο: so, for instance, Wackernagel 1916: 173 (“ein altes Erbwort” belonging to the “Vorstufen unserer beiden homerischen Epen”); F. Specht, “Griechische Mizellen,” Zeitschrift für vergleichende Sprachforschung auf dem Gebiete der indogermanischen Sprachen 63 (1936): 212 (“altes sakrales idg. Sprachgut”); Schwyzer, Gr.Gr. 1.679 and n6; [24] Frisk, Griechisches etymologisches Worterbuch (Heidelberg 1960–1972) 1.586 (“alte Ausdruck … der religiöse Sprache”). For further bibliography [25] (and useful summary of evidence) see R. Schmitt, Dichtung and Dichter-sprache in indogermanischer Zeit (Wiesbaden 1967) 261–262. For another specimen of “alte Sprachgut” in cyclic epic see Ilias Parva F6.4 and my note ad loc. On the other hand, it might be alleged that the form is some sort of neologism, an artificial imperfect [26] or aorist (so, in particular, O. Szemerényi, Syncope in Greek and Indo-European and the Nature of Indo-European Accent [Naples 1964] 176 and n4, citing as anologies δέκτο as aorist of δέκομαι, λέκτο as that of λέκομαι). [27] This would be paralleled by the many “late” forms that our early epic fragments in general and the Thebais in particular display. Note, indeed, the following pair of nouns. It may be argued that the issue can be decided in favor of the oldness of our form by the analogy with Avestan cited by Wackernagel and those scholars who support his view. For Avestan displays two forms of the corresponding verb, [28] the third-person singular preterite aogәdā from *eugh+to {58|59} in the earlier texts (gathas) and achta in the later texts (jungawestisches). Since both Sanskrit and Avestan tend to thematize whenever possible, we would seem to have here evidence for an early athematic form of the verb exactly matched by εὖκτο. And this picture of Indo-European athematic forms, replaced by Greek thematic forms with one or two exceptions such as the present, [29] is undeniably simpler than the alternative view of Indo-European athematics replaced by Greek thematics, and then by one or two artificially contrived athematics. According to Dodds (The Greeks and the Irrational [Berkeley 1951] 158n10) the “oath-formulae of the Iliad preserve a belief which was older than Homer’s neutral Hades (for such formulae archaise, they do not innovate)” and a similar consideration might explain an archaic form of the verb of cursing in the present context. [30]

δὲ Δί: on the various cases of Zeus’ name see Schwyzer, Gr. Gr. 1.576–577. As W. Schulze observed (Quaestiones Epicae [Gütersloh 1892] 241n1), no adequate parallel for εὖκτο Διῖ βασιλῆι is provided by Iliad II 169 (Διὶ μμῆτιν), X 16 (Διὶ μμέγα), or II 781 (Διὶ ϝϝώς): see further P. Maas, Gr eek Metr e [Oxford 1962] §131. Schulze himself was reduced to considering the possibility of Διεῖ (cf. Quaestiones Epicae 239–241; Schwyzer as cited; Burkert 1981:36 = 2001:155, comparing the epithet διίφιλος) or attributing the oddity to the error of “imitatoris contra Homeri usum parum intellectum inviti peccantis.” De Marco’s discovery that εὖκτο δὲ Διί stands in R clinches the case for Buttmann’s palmary εὖκτο δὲ Δί (proposed in Gr. Gr. 21 [Berlin 1825] 405 = Gr. Gr. 12 [Berlin 1830] 225). The corruption of Δί to Διί can be paralleled time and again from Pindar’s manuscripts (e.g. Olympian XIII 106), and the omission of ΔE before ΔII in LM through haplography was practically inevitable. It is inconceivable that even the most incompetent of epic poets could ever have commenced a hexameter with εὖκτο Διί, thereby introducing at one and the same time an unbearably harsh asyndeton and an unprecedented lengthening of the final vowel. Δῑ: for the contracted form see (apart from the Pindaric examples indicated above) the two Etruscan helmets dedicated to Zeus by Hieron in commemoration of his victory over the Carthaginians at Cyme in 474 (cf. Meiggs–Lewis, A Selection of Greek Historical Inscriptions [Oxford 1969] p. 62). This is another un-Homeric feature. Δὶ βασιλῆι: the application of βασιλεύς to this or, indeed, any god is un-Homeric and another sign of lateness: see Fraenkel on Aeschylus Agamemnon 355, Richardson on Homeric Hymn to Demeter 358 for the history and frequency of this and similar designations. The earliest parallels are Hesiod Theogony 886 Ζεὺς δὲ θεῶν βασιλεύς (where, however, it possesses a strongly predicative sense, as West ad loc. observes), Works and Days 668 Zεὺς ἀθανάτων βασιλεύς, Theogony 923 μιχθεῖς’ ἐν φιλότητι θεῶν βασιλῆι καὶ ἀνδρῶν, fr. 308.1 MW αὐτὸς γὰρ πάντων βασιλεὺς καὶ κοίρανóς ἐστιν, Cypr ia F7.3 Ζηνὶ θεων βασιλῆι. {59|60} Compare Κρονίδαις βασιλεύς in Alcaeus (frr. 38A9, 387). καὶ ἄλλοις ἀθανάτοισι|: the same phrase at line-end in Iliad II 49. For its use as a comprehensive prayer formula see Davies and Finglass on Stesichorus fr. 85.2. On the role of the gods in fulfilling curses see on F2.8 above.

4 . χερσὶν ὑπ’ ἀλλήλων: the motif of fraternal ἀλληλοφονία recurs at Stesichorus fr. 97.21 ὑπ’ ἀλλάλοισι δαμέντας; Pindar Olympian II 41–42 ἰδοῖσα δ’ ὀξεῖ’ Ἐρινύς | ἐπεφνέ οἱ σὺν ἀλλαλοφονίαι γένος ἀρήϊον; TrGF 2 F458.14–15 χαλκῶι δὲ μαρμαίροντες ἀλλήλων χρόα | σφάζοιεν. Cf. Oedipus’ remarks to Polyneices at Sophocles Oedipus at Colonus 1373–1374 (αἵματι | πεσῆι μιανθεὶς χὠ ξύναιμος ἐξ ἴσoυ) and at 1387–1388 (συγγενεῖ χερί | θανεῖν κτανεῖν θ’ ὑφ’ οὗπερ ἐξελήλασαι). | χερσὶν ὑπ’ ἀλλήλων: cf. | χερσὶν ὑπ’ Ἀργείων (Iliad XIII 763, XXIV 168). καταβήµεναι –⌣⌣– — |: cf. Iliad XII 65, Odyssey x 432. Aἴδος εἴσω |: cf. Iliad III 322, Odyssey ix 524.

Let us now see what the two foregoing fragments tell us about the Oedipus of the Thebais. In the first place, had he blinded himself before he cursed his sons? In spite of 2.5’s φράσθη and 3.1’s ἐνόησε, Welcker supposed he had (1865:2.337, followed by, for example, Bethe [1891:104–106 and 165]). The self-blinding certainly seems basic to the story and occurs in every version (except, by implication, Homer’s, which characteristically tones down the story’s horrors [see pages 14–15 above]). Blinding and curse seem linked in the corrupt Aeschylus Seven Against Thebes 783–791.


In F2 and F3 of our epic Oedipus curses his sons—for slighting him—in Thebes. That he remained in the city after the grim revelations is the usual version, at least until Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus. In Odyssey xi 275–276, he continues to rule in Thebes: ἀλλ’ ὁ μὲν ἐν Θήβηι πολυηράτωι ἄλγεα πάσχων | Καδμείων ἤνασσε θεῶν ὀλoὰς διὰ βουλάς, and Thebes is certainly the place of his death according to the tradition that underlies Iliad XXIII 679–680 Θήβασδ’ ἦλθε δεδουπότος Οἰδιπόδαo | ἐς τάφον and Σ T ad loc. = Hesiod fr. 192 MW βασιλεύοντα ἐν Θήβαις φησίν ἀπολέσθαι, οὐχ ὡς οἱ νεώτεροι· καὶ Ἡσίοδος δέ φησιν ἐν Θήβαις αὐτοῦ ἀποθανόντος κτλ. And δεδουπότος is suggestive of death in battle. [31] At the end of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, Creon orders Oedipus to remain in the palace pending clarification of Apollo’s will. It seems likely that the second part of this situation is Sophocles’ own invention (cf. Davies, “The End of Sophocles’ OT,” Hermes 110 [1982]: 268–277) while the first, as, e.g., Robert (1915:1.172) saw, may well derive from the Thebais. [32] A similar state of affairs obtains in Euripides’ Phoe– {60|61} nician Women: cf. verse 66 ζῶν δ’ ἔστ’ ἐν οἴκοις (compare Oedipus Rex 1429 ὡς τάχιστ’ ἐς οἶκον ἐσκομίζετε).

The only author cited above who definitely portrays Oedipus as continuing to rule over the Thebans is Homer, and it seems safe to conclude that he was in fact the only author who ever presented this version of events. This is a feature of his normalization of the story (see pages 14–15 above) and follows inevitably upon his elimination of offspring and their father’s curse on them. In our two fragments, by contrast, he no longer participates in sacrifices, and even lacks control over the disposition of his family’s ancestral property. Still more suggestive is his use of a curse (the last resort of the weak and helpless: cf. Watson 1991: 38 and 95) to punish his sons. He presumably lacked more direct means.

That Oedipus survived long enough in Thebes to witness the fulfilment of his curse in the mutual slaughter of his sons is first explicitly suggested by Euripides Phoenician Women 66–76, etc. Bethe (1891:105, 165n7) assumed that this, like several other features of the play, derived from the Thebais. It is more plausibly attributed to the inventive mind of Euripides himself by Robert (1915:1.415), Stephanopoulos (1980:125), Mastronarde (ad loc.), etc. For artists’ depictions of Oedipus as present at his sons’ ἀλληλοφονία see Krauskopf LIMC 54ff. Whether such artists really conceived of Oedipus as literally present or merely a brooding symbol of his curse’s fulfilment is a moot point.

Let us examine the ipsissima verba of one testimony to this sequence of events:

Πολυνείκης δὲ περιόντος μὲν καὶ ἄρχοντος Οἰδίποδος ὑπεξῆλθεν ἐκ Θηβῶν δέει μὴ τελεσθεῖεν ἐπὶ σφίσιν αἱ κατᾶραι τοῦ πατρός … κατῆλθεν ἐς Θήβας μετάπεμπτος ὑπὸ Ἐτεοκλέους μετὰ τὴν τελευτὴν Οἰδίποδος. κατελθὼν δὲ ἐς διαφορὰν προήχθη τῶι Ἐτεοκλεῖ, καὶ οὕτω τὸ δεύτερον ἔφυγε· δεηθεὶς δὲ ’Aδράστου δοῦναί οἱ δύναμιν κτλ.

Pausanias IX 5.12

Scholars have been surprisingly slow to detect the major incoherence here. And yet if Polyneices quitted Thebes because he (and his brother) feared the fulfilment of their father’s curse, why on earth should he return (with his brother’s active encouragement) merely because Oedipus had died? Would that death make the father’s curse one jot the less likely of fulfilment? Would it not (if anything) bring it closer?

A further difficulty resides in the phrase καὶ οὕτω τὸ δεύτερον ἔφυγε, as if Polyneices’ initial departure had likewise been enforced! Jacoby, in his commentary on Hellanicus FGrHist 4 F98 (1A.460), notes that the words are due to contamination with the alternative tradition whereby Polyneices is extruded forcibly and once and for all. But surely the entire passage of Pausanias is a late and incoherent conflation of two originally separate and logical traditions, the forcible and permanent exclusion just mentioned, and the voluntary departure of Polyneices κατὰ συνθήκην, as we find it described by Hellanicus. For here and here alone do we find an uncontaminated explanation of how the brothers’ {62|63} peaceful attempt to avoid the curse ended in strife. According to this version, Polyneices chooses to leave the kingdom to Eteocles and departs, taking with him τὸ μέρος τῶν χρημάτων (including the tunic and necklace of Harmonia), to live in another city (Argos). In other words, Polyneices takes with him all the wherewithal for making trouble against his native land. The curse has already started to take effect by determining Polyneices’ choice.

This is not to say that Hellanicus preserves the Thebais’s version. But he seems likely to preserve Stesichorus’ version (see Davies and Finglass on fr. 97). Bethe (1891:106–107) was particularly anxious to know how Polyneices obtained the ὅρμος in the Thebais. The answer may lie here.

Tydeus and Polyneices at the Court of Adrastus

Howald (1939:10) convincingly argues that these two heroes originally stood outside the list of the Seven against Thebes, and belonged together as “ein altes Abenteurerpaar” (in the manner of, e.g., Theseus and Pirithous; see further his Der Mythos als Dichtung [Zurich 1937] 74–79): Tydeus a brutal bully (see page 71 below), and Polyneices a cunning rogue (see page 48 above). He further suggests (p. 12) that Polyneices originally had no father and belongs to the folktale type of individuals who are “Bastarde, aus niederem Milieu entstammend.”

Tydeus and Polyneices clash outside the palace of Adrastus, wearing skins of, or shields or clothing decorated with, a boar and a lion. Adrastus is put in mind of a prophecy he has received bidding him yoke his daughters in marriage to those very animals, and consequently marries Tydeus to Deipyle and Polyneices to Argeia and makes the fatal promise that he will restore each hero to his native land. For a list of the various ancient sources that tell this tale, see Parke–Wormell, The Delphic Oracle (Oxford 1956) 2.80 and 150–151 and Fontenrose, The Delphic Oracle: Its Responses and Operations (Berkeley 1978) 366. On the emblems see in particular Robert 1915:1.200–204. [35] As Bond remarks (Euripides’ Hypsipyle [Oxford 1963] 89n1), “the details differ; no doubt the early tradition was not precise.” The allusiveness of the reference to the story at Euripides Suppliant Women 131–155 certainly presupposes a more detailed earlier account with which the audience was familiar. This account cannot be Aeschylus’. Is it not likely to have occurred in the Thebais? Whatever their precise nature originally, such emblems seem, as Hampe(–Simon) 21 observe, particularly suited to the “Vorstellungswelt” of early epic. [36] A Pontic amphora in Basel has been {63|64} interpreted by R. Hampe as a unique depiction of this episode. [37] Two hoplite warriors duel with spears (the mantled female figure who stands dressed in a chiton behind the warrior on the right is taken to be Athena supporting her favorite, Tydeus [see page 81 below]), while the two daughters of Adrastus, their future wives, rush in from the left to stop them. By and large, scholars have not proved very enthusiastic about this identification, which can only be definitively judged in the context of the vase’s other scenes (see page 104 below). The alleged Athena’s unmartial garb [38] troubled G. Camporeale (“Saghe greche nell’arte etrusca arcaica,” Parola del Passato 19 [1964]: 439–440), as it does K. Schefold (Götter- und Heldensagen der Griechen in der spätarchaischen Kunst [Munich 1978] 184 = Gods and Heroes in Late Archaic Greek Art 202), who prefers to interpret the two warriors as Polyneices and Eteocles, the two female figures dashing in from the left as Antigone and Ismene, and the remaining female figure as symbolizing the city of Argos. But do we need to be so specific? Vase-paintings of the combats between Heracles and Geryon or Cycnus remind us (see Davies and Finglass’ commentary on Stesichorus pp. 231 and 461) that such scenes are often enriched by the presence of female onlookers to whom we should not try to attach a specific name or identity. And the possibility that the present scene is really a generic duel (see page 75 below) must not be underestimated.

Largely because his own interpretation of the above artifact was essentially incompatible with them, Robert was cautious (1915:1.204) as to the claims of Bethe and others that the more familiar version outlined above derived from epic: he thought it unlikely that the Delphic oracle would have played so significant a role in Ionian epic. But Fontenrose has pointed out (Delphic Oracle, p. 95) the general lack of evidence among the ancient sources for the Delphic origin of the oracle concerning Adrastus’ daughters. As he observes, Adrastus might have received it from a μάντις (so Apollodorus III 6.1) or, more directly, from Apollo.

We have seen (page 33 above) that the gods’ hostility to the expedition against Thebes is posited as early as the Iliad, and is a constant feature of tradition thereafter. μάντεις δ’ ἐπῆλθες ἐμπύρων τ’ εἶδες φλόγα;, Theseus asks Adrastus at Euripides Suppliant Women 155, and when this question elicits a groan, οὐκ ἦλθες, ὡς ἔοικεν, εὐνοίαι θεῶν, he rightly infers (line 157). Compare Aeschylus Seven Against Thebes 378–379, where Amphiaraus forbids Tydeus to cross the Ismenus (οὐ γὰρ σφάγια γίγνεται καλά).

Bethe (1891:26) saw a rationalized reworking of the Thebais’s catalogue of forces in Pausanias IX 9.2 (3.17 Rocha-Pereira):

ὁ δὲ Ἀργείων στρατὸς ἐς Bοιωτίαν τε μέσην ἀφίκετο ἐκ μέσης Πελοπον-νήσου καὶ ὁ Ἄδραστος ἐξ Ἀρκαδίας καὶ παρὰ Μεσσηνίων συμμαχικὰ ἤθροισεν, ὡσαύτως δὲ καὶ τοῖς Θηβαίοις μισθοφορικὰ ἦλθε παρὰ Φωκέων καὶ ἐκ τῆς Μινυάδος χώρας οἱ Φλεγύαι. {65|66}

and IX 9.4:

δῆλοι δέ εἰσι καὶ τούτοις οὐ τὸ Ἀργολικὸν μόνον οὐδὲ οἱ Μεσσήνιοι καὶ Ἀρκάδες ἠκολουθηκότες, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἔτι ἐκ Κορίνθου καὶ Μεγαρέων ἐπικληθέντες ἐς τὴν συμμαχίαν.

He could only identify the Arcadian force with that of Parthenopaeus (see page 72 below) and the Messenian with the Biantids.

The Founding of the Nemean Games

This detail was attributed to the Thebais by Welcker (1865:2.375). Wilamowitz too, was of the opinion “dass die Stiftung der panhellenischen Nemeen auf das damals allbekannte Epos [viz. the Thebais] zurückgriff” (Glaube der Hellenen 1.392). Stoneman (1981:52–54) reassessed the grounds for this supposition and pronounced them generally good. That the victor list in Apollodorus III 6.4 coincides with the identities of the Seven against Thebes as inferred for the Thebais (pages 68–69 below) strengthens the hypothesis, as does the overall similarity between the events mentioned by Apollodorus and those in Iliad XXIII’s ἆθλα ἐπὶ Πατρόκλωι. Stoneman’s further suggestion (1981:53–54) that the death of Opheltes also fell within the Thebais gains some color from its position within a general framework of gloomy omens: Apollodorus III 6.4 has Amphiaraus rename the child Archemoros as a token of impending doom. So too Bacchylides IX 14, where the dead infant is a σᾶμα μέλλοντος φόνου. We have already seen (pages 33–35 above) that the gods are likely to have expressed their disapproval of the expedition in the Thebais by some such παραίσια σήματα.

Seven-Gated Thebes and the Seven against Thebes

ἑπτάπυλος Θήβη: were there seven leaders against Thebes because the city had seven gates, or did the tradition as to the number of leaders determine the tradition as to the number of gates? Wilamowitz’s pungently framed question is best answered by his own fundamental investigation 1891:191–241 = 1971:26–76 (cf. H. W. Singor, “The Achaean Wall and the Seven Gates of Thebes,” Hermes 120 [1992]: 401–411, associating the number with the seven gates in the Achaean wall of Iliad VII 336–359; Kühr 2006:211n63). Thebes was traditionally pictured {66|67} as seven-gated from earliest literature onwards: she is thus in epic (see Hesiod Works and Days 162 with West ad loc.; W. D. Meier, Die Epische Formel im pseudohesiodeischen Frauenkatalog [diss. Zurich 1976) 176] and in poets influenced by epic, even Pindar (see Slater’s Lexicon . s.v.), whose own experience of his native city could have given the epithet the lie. For, as Wilamowitz observed (1891:224–225 = 1971:59), seven gates constitute a paradoxically large number of points of attack for the aspiring enemy, and the historical Thebes at the relevant time can never have possessed more than three or four (cf. Wilamowitz 1891:193–196 = 1971:28–30; Howald 1939:3n2; Burkert 1981:39–40 = 2001:157 on the unhistorical nature of “seven-gated Thebes”). Robert (1915:1.120–121) assumed an Ionian author ignorant of the real city.

Wilamowitz’s solution (1891:228–229 = 1971:62–64) was that the author of the Thebais made Thebes seven-gated because of the Seven against Thebes. The difficulty an epic poet would find in relating the numerous simultaneous events thrown up by the attack on the city would be minimized if the leaders and their troops could each be assigned to one gate. An effective climax would also be provided with the combat of the two brothers at the last remaining gate. A more than convenient structural device, in other words. For such allotting of warriors in battle see West, Indo-European Poetry and Myth (Oxford 2007) 472. To this the real construction of the contemporary city would be an irrelevance even if the Thebais’ author had any knowledge of it. On the basis of this hypothetical device alone, Wilamowitz was prepared to accord our poet the proud title of a “wirkliche Dichter” (1891:229 = 1971:63) and rank him with Dante and the composers of the Iliad and the Odyssey. This is going a bit foo far, though Wilamowitz’s solution is surely more convincing than Friedländer’s tentative restatement of the alternative (1914:323–324 = 1969:38–39), or his idea that the seven gates do not particularly represent a specific number, but rather symbolize in a general way the power of the city (cf. LSJ s.v. ἑπτά 1; Roscher, “Sieben- und Neunzahl im Kultus und Mythus der Griechen” [Abhandlungen der Philologisch-Historische Klasse der Königlich Sächsischen Gesellschaft der Wiss enschaften 24.1 (1904)] esp. 115–118; Stith Thompson, Motif-Index 6 D 1273.1.3 [“Seven as magic number”], etc.). [45]

Seven operates as “eine alte Märchenzahl” on other levels as well (Seven Thieves, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers; see, in general, Stith Thompson’s Motif-Index 6 s.v. “Seven” [pp. 658–659]; Dirlmeier 1954:154–156 = 1970:51–54; Burkert 1981:44 = 2001:161; Kühr 2006:211–212; M. Davies, “From Rags to Riches: {67|68} Democedes of Croton and the Credibility of Herodotus,” Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies 53.2 [2010]: 35n55, etc.). It was this realization that inspired Ernst Howald’s ingenious hypothesis that the Seven under the leadership of Adrastus were originally conceived as seven demons of the Netherworld commanded by their king, the ruler of the Dead (1939:16–17). In a sort of reversal of the motif of the hero’s κατάβασις, or descent to the Underworld, these seven demons broke loose and assaulted a city in the upper world of the living, before being despatched, together with their lord, back to their usual abode. Such a theory would explain the unusual brutality that characterizes most of the Seven (see page 70 below) as well as the story’s radical transformation of other familiar motifs (see Howald 1939:14), which substitutes villains defeated in an enterprise involving a real city in the midst of the known world for the more orthodox picture of heroes victorious in some remote and otherworldly locale (be it Troy, Colchis, or the like). Howald’s case is strengthened by Burkert (1981:40–41 = 2001:158–159), who cites the parallel Babylonian epic of Erra (ninth–seventh century), wherein the god of war and pestilence and seven “matchless warriors” set out to destroy mankind.

Authors variously name the seven gates of Thebes (see Wilamowitz’s list and discussion: 1891:210–218 = 45–53; cf. Kühr 2006:212). We have no evidence as to which, if any, of the nomenclature derives from the Thebais, though, as Wilamowitz (1891:224 = 59n2) saw, the tragedians’ repeated use of Ὁ̆μŏλω̄ῐδε̆ς, in spite of the metrical difficulties it posed them, is suggestive.

Jetzt erst fühlt man, dass die Siebenzahl wichtiger ist als die einzelnen Helden, dass sie sozusagen vor den Einzelnen da war.

Howald 1939:12

Dass die Sieben gegen Theben ein geschlossener Kreis von Helden, ein Eigenname geworden sind, ist das Verdienst … des Dichters der Thebais.

Wilamowitz 1891:227 = 1971:62

See in particular Robert 1915:1.237–244, Fraenkel 1957 = 1964:273–324, for some pertinent remarks on the fluctuations of identity within the number seven which Howald found so significant. Wilamowitz [50] (1891:228–230 = 1971:62–64, cf. 1914:97–103) assumed that Aeschylus derived the number and names of the Seven from the Thebais, [51] an assumption which he supposed to entail the dismissal of Pausanias’ claim (II 20.5) that τούτους τοὺς ἄνδρας ἐς μόνων ἑπτὰ ἀριθμὸν κατήγαγεν Aἰσχύλος. Robert (1915:1.237) was perfectly prepared to countenance this dismissal, but supposed the relationship between epic and dramatist to be a little more complex. He attributed to the Thebais’s list the Mecisteus mentioned by Apollodorus III 6.3 as one of two variants to the Aeschylean roll call: τινές δὲ Tυδέα μὲν καὶ Πολυνείκην οὐ καταριθμοῦσι, συγ- {69|70} καταλέγουσι δὲ τοῖς ἑπτὰ Ἐτέοκλον Ἴφιος καὶ Μηκιστέα. This context as a whole cannot reproduce the Thebais’s version—which could never have omitted two such crucial figures as Polyneices and Tydeus—but Mecisteus plays an important part in early presentations of the Theban saga: cf. Iliad XXIII 678, considered page 38 above and Herodotus V 67. Furthermore, it is very striking that Mecisteus and, together with him, Adrastus feature as two of the Seven by implication in the list of the Epigoni and their fathers at Apollodorus III 7.2: Aἰγιαλεὺς Ἀδράστου … Eὐρύαλος Μηκιστέως. An identical list (though without the fathers) is cited from the Argive dedication at Delphi by Pausanias (X 10.2). By similar implication, Aeschylus’ Hippomedon and Eteoclus (or, rather, their sons) are absent from these lists, which Robert (1915:1.243) would have ultimately to descend from the Thebais, especially since what they imply about the identity of the Seven is inconsistent with the lists of Aeschylus and the other tragedians as outlined page 68 above.

Robert concludes that the Thebais’s Adrastus and Mecisteus were replaced in the Aeschylean catalogue by the colorless Eteoclus (cf. Fraenkel 1957:25 = 1964:294) and Hippomedon. The reason for the elimination of Adrastus is obvious (sec. Robert): since Aeschylus’ seven champions are each listed to be killed by a corresponding Theban hero, and since Adrastus survives the battle, he cannot be fitted into the schema. Why Mecisteus should have been ousted is less obvious, and even Eteoclus may have been pre-Aeschylean (see page 69n49 above).

What is meant by “the numerous traces which the Thebais has left in” Attic tragedy may be seen by glancing at Bethe’s list (1891:83–84) of details about the Seven which are common to Aeschylus Seven Against Thebes, Sophocles Oedipus at Colonus, and Euripides Suppliant Women and Phoenician Women. Their consistency in characterization and other respects is such that influence by the Thebais becomes the only satisfactory explanation. In the case of Amphiaraus we may regard the hypothesis as proved, since the stress on his double rôles of seer and warrior which we find in Seven Against Thebes 569 and Oedipus at Colonus 1314–1315 certainly did occur in the Thebais (F7: see page 92 below). Elsewhere we lack this kind of confirmation. But when all three tragedians agree in as many as eight places on the nature of Capaneus’ death (see page 72 below), it is hard not to divine an epic, and specifically the Thebais, as their common source.


On this hero in general see Robert, Heldensage 3.1.924–926; Nilsson, The Mycenaean Origin of Greek Mythology (Berkeley 1932) 116–117 (“his character shows traces of a high and crude antiquity which was detested by the Homeric age”: for the most extreme instance see page 81 below); and Dirlmeier 1954:157 = 1970:53 on this and other names of the Seven ending in –eus. Aeschylus Seven Against Thebes 424–425 hints at the tradition as to Tydeus’ small stature which we find in the Iliad (V 801 μικρὸς μὲν ἔην δέμας, ἀλλὰ μαχητής), and Fraenkel (1957:16 = 1964:285) suggests this may have occured in the Thebais. The Seven Against Thebes also reveals a state of hostility between this hero and Amphiaraus: Tydeus upbraids the seer for cowardice (lines 382–383); Amphiaraus denounces the blood-lust and bad counsel of Tydeus (lines 570–575). Bethe (1891:82–83) supposed this enmity to derive from the Thebais, a suggestion approved by Wecklein (1901:663–664). For ἔρις as an important motif in epic see e.g. D. L. Cairns, “Affronts and Quarrels in the Iliad,” Papers of the Leeds International Latin Seminar 7 (1983): 155–167 = Oxford Readings in Homer’s Iliad (2001) 203–219, and “Ethics, Ethnicity, Terminology: Iliadic Anger and the Cross-Cultural Study of Emotion,” Yale Classical Studies 31 (2003): 11–49.


Robert (Heldensage 3.1.937–940) gives a general survey of traditions on this hero; cf. Hutchinson’s note on Aeschylus Seven Against Thebes 422–456. “Schon der Dichter der alten Thebais muss ihn in grossartiger Kühnheit mit den Zügen {71|72} ausgestattet haben, die ihn für alle Zeiten zum gewaltigsten contemptor divum machen sollten”: Fraenkel (1957:15 = 1964:285) is surely right, and the deduction is all the more interesting when we realize (see Griffin 1977:46–47 = 2001:380) how totally un-Iliadic is the conception of this arrogant blasphemer, whose very name is derived from σκάπτειν (see Wilamowitz 1891:226n2 = 61n1; cf. Dirlmeier 1954:157 =1970:53). The strikingly un-Homeric figure of Mezentius in Vergil’s Aeneid may have owed something to the Thebais’s Capaneus, and Statius’ Capaneus is often described as indebted to Mezentius: see e.g. Helm, RE 18.3 (1949): 994.62–65. Capaneus’ blasting by Zeus’ thunderbolt as he tries to scale the walls of Thebes is so constant a feature of tradition likewise [54] that scholars are doubtless right to attribute it to the Thebais; this, then, is another un-Iliadic feature. [55] (“Kein Held der Ilias wird vom Blitz getroffen … denn das ginge, könnte man sagen, gegen den Geschmack” [Reinhardt, “Tradition und Geist im home-rischen Epos,” 339 = Tradition und Geist 15]). [56] For the Iliadic restriction of Zeus’ thunderbolt to a warning sign see Nilsson, “Der Flammentod des Herakles auf dem Oite,” Archiv fur Religionswissenschaft 22 (1923): 366 = Opuscula Sel ecta 1.359; Griffin 1977:47 = 2001:380. Even in the description of Ajax the Locrian’s death at Odyssey iv 499–511, nothing is said of a thunderbolt (contrast later accounts as cited by Tarrant on Seneca Agamemnon [Cambridge 2004] 528–529). Idas is blasted by a thunderbolt in Pindar Nemean X 71 (probably from the Cypria: see e.g. West 2013:94–97).


On this figure see in general Hutchinson on Aeschylus Seven Against Thebes 526–567 and Fowler 2013:411. “P’s Arcadian birth and early metoecism to Argos is a constant detail, whether original to Seven Against Thebes 547–548 or not” (Collard on Euripides Suppliant Women 888–891 [2.331]). See Fraenkel 1957:37–38 = 1964:306. The hero’s status as Arcadian and a son of Atalanta was confidently attributed to the Thebais by Bethe (1891:86n11). More cautious are Jacoby on Hellanicus FGrHist 1 F32 (p. 328) and Fraenkel as cited. Howald (1939:12–13) sees the association of this hero (and, indeed, the Seven at large) with Argos as the product of a late tendency to locate saga in specific contexts (cf. Kühr {72|73} 2006:138n26), and attributes it to epic. On the likely original form of the name see Beazley, “Some Inscriptions on Vases: V” (as in 69n49), 313–314.


Wilamowitz (1914:99n1) and Fraenkel (1957:32 = 1964:301) suppose he featured in epic, while Bethe (1891:87n13) specifically assigned him to the Thebais’s list of the Seven. Against this latter supposition see page 70 above.

In Aeschylus, of course, each of the Seven Argive commanders is allotted a Theban warrior as opponent. Prima facie we would expect this to be Aeschylus’ own invention, one demanded, as Robert (1915:1.246) puts it, by the play’s dramatic framework. Besides, as Wilamowitz (1891:225 = 60) and Robert saw, the Thebais seems to have made Periclymenus the opponent of both Amphiaraus and Parthenopaeus (see pages 78–79 and 90 below). Aeschylus fails to mention him at all. Polyneices must have been matched with Eteocles, of course, from the very first; and Aeschylus’ ranking of Melanippus against Tydeus also probably derives from the Thebais, where the enmity of the two reached a grisly climax (see pages 80–81 below), though in fact it was Amphiaraus who finally despatched Melanippus. On Melanippus’ presumed importance in the Thebais see Fraenkel 1957:14 and n1 = 1964:283 and n4.

More specifically, the Basel amphora perhaps depicting the setting out of Amphiaraus [59] also shows a number of warriors with variously emblazoned shields, including one that displays a crescent moon and stars. This unusual device has reminded several scholars of Tydeus’ similar emblem in Seven Against Thebes 387–390 ἔχει δὲ ὑπέρφρον σῆμ’ ἐπ’ ἀσπίδος τόδε, | φλέγονθ’ ὑπ’ ἄστροις οὐρανὸν τετυγμένον | λαμπρὰ δὲ πανσέληνος ἐν μέσωι σάκει, | πρέσβιστον ἄστρων, νυκτὸς ὀφθαλμός, πρέπει. The discrepancy between full and crescent moon is easily explained, since an artist would soonest choose the latter as a less ambiguous sign for a shield (Hampe[–Simon] 27; Krauskopf 68n74, etc.). However, the number of warriors depicted easily exceeds seven (the famous Seven each with a companion, Hampe[–Simon] would assure us), and “if the … painter knew that Tydeus’ blazon was the moon and stars and intended Tydeus for one of the combatants in the larger and more important scene on the shoulder [see above page 64], why did he not put the correct blazon there?” (R. M. Cook, “Greek Rhapsodes in Etruria?,” Classical Review 15 [1965]: 98). Hampe and Simon’s retort in “Gefälschte etruskische Vasenbilder?,” Jahrbuch des Römisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseums Mainz 14 (1967): 85 (two different blazons for two different stages of the story—at Argos and before Thebes) does not convince, and I concur with Brommer’s Vasenlisten 3: “Deutung nicht sicher.”

For handy surveys of vases that possibly depict the Seven commanders see Small, pp. 135–138 and M. Tiverios, “Sieben gegen Theben,” Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, Athenische Abteilung 96 (1981): 145–161. The likeliest candidates (LIMC VII.1 s.v. “Sieben” 730ff.) are the cup by Macron (Louvre G271: ARV 2 461.33), ca. 490/80; a hydria in Basel (the Borowski Collection), ca. 470/60; a lekythos by the Terpaulus Painter (Agrigentum Mus. Civ. 23: ARV 2 308.5, Paralip. 357), first decade of the fifth century; and the cup by the Kleophrades Painter (Aths. Nat. Mus. Acrop. 336 [B 87]: ARV 2 192.105), ca. 480 (for illustrations see Tiverios, plates 43–45). Each vase presents a similar scene. {74|75}

Thanks to the relative inexplicitness of this type of representation, we could not be sure, even if we knew for certain that the figures involved were the Seven, how precisely to interpret their activities. Tiverios supposes they are preparing for battle by arming themselves; but other scholars (see Small as cited on page 40 above) have taken them to be leaving home for the war.

Tiverios’ hypothesis of a literary source (our Thebais) is perfectly arbitrary and leads him into unconvincing stratagems like his attempt (p. 147) to produce a single unitary figure from the warrior holding a helmet in his hand (Terpaulus Painter and Kleophrades Painter), the warrior holding a greave (Macron), and the warrior holding a sword (Basel hydria). Parthenopaeus and Adrastus seem safely identified on these vases. As for the rest of the figures, one may more safely generalize Small’s conclusion vis-à-vis the Basel hydria (p. 176): “the other warriors take genre poses and must remain nameless.”

Those who are reluctant to accept that Onasias’ painting derives (see page 24 above) from the Oedipodeia have sometimes wondered whether the Thebais may not in fact be the inspiration behind this artifact (cf. Robert 1915:1.180). The obstacle to this is roughly the same as before: why does Pausanias fail to add the Thebais’s name? Why, indeed, does he mention Onasias at all?

For a useful survey of the numerous artifacts that have been thought to display the duel of the brothers see Small (104–108), who stresses the frequency with which the cautious scholar must abandon the combatants as unidentifiable or anonymous participators in a generic duel, and shows that numerous Etruscan urns are likelier interpreted as revealing the duel of Aeneas and Turnus, or Arruns and Brutus, or Romulus and Remus. {75|76}

Further depictions of Capaneus striving to storm Thebes are not very informative from our point of view. As with Tydeus, the few novel details we encounter are productive of complication rather than enlightenment. Thus, on an urn relief now in the Museo Civico at Chiusi, [64] we see Capaneus climbing his regular ladder and grasping his regular shield with his left hand. But over his left shoulder slumps an inert (and presumably dead) body. What are we to make of this? A literal interpretation would be too absurd: it is difficult enough to climb a ladder while burdening one hand with a shield. Not even Capaneus would have wished to render the task near impossible by draping himself with a cadaver besides! The urn dates from the second half of the second century BC. Scholars (e.g. Robert and Krauskopf) usually cite the scene in Statius’ Thebaid (VIII 745–750) where Capaneus lifts the dying Melanippus and bears him on his left shoulder to Tydeus (see page 81 below). Brunn and Körte (Rilievi delle {76|77} Urne etrusche 2.1.68–71) go further in suggesting that the common source for the Roman poet and the Etruscan artifact was the epic Thebais. Such a theory presupposes that the urn presents us with a typical artistic combination of two separate scenes, a possibility that is accepted by Krauskopf. Robert (1915:1.229) objects that the urn’s corpse is still trailing its shield, inconsistently with the situation outlined by Statius. This is a trivial complaint. More significant for the hypothesis of our epic as a common source is his observation (1915:1.228–229) that Statius “die Thebais notorisch nicht gelesen hat”: see page 40 above.

Since other reliefs represent Capaneus’ ascent of his ladder without the troublesome corpse, [65] and since the relief which does include the corpse is unlikely to derive that detail from the work which is usually taken to be the original of these and similar reliefs, [66] there is much to be said for Robert’s conclusion (1915:1.233) that the modification in question may be the artist’s own idea and need not reflect anything in the Thebais (cf. Krauskopf p. 57: “[man sollte] die Zeugnis der Chiusiner Urnen nicht zu hoch bewerten”). Small’s analysis (152–154) arrives at much the same verdict. Note in particular the assertion that “it is extraordinary how much the figure of Capaneus with the dead man resembles Ajax carrying Achilles. … The Etruscan artisan knew that Capaneus climbed a ladder to take Thebes single-handedly, but, since he had no readily available type for this figure, he took another figure and plugged him into Capaneus’ position. That this particular figure, who could fit so easily on a ladder, happened also to be carrying the body of a dead warrior did not concern the artisan. He just inserted the group intact. Consequently, there is no specific name for the figure carried by Capaneus. That the ladder climber is indeed Capaneus is probable because of his association with the ladder. But the identification should not be pressed further” (153–154). Other Etruscan urns, [67] which show a warrior plunging from a ladder, need not be depictions of Capaneus in particular: see Small 155–164 (esp. 155: “The figure could just as well represent some Etruscan hero in an attack on an Etruscan town as well as any other Greek myth”).

I am sympathetic to the idea that this latter version of events stems from the Thebais (Bethe 1891:123–126; cf. Wilamowitz 1891:225 = 1971:60; Stoneman 1981:49 etc.), not so much for the reasons alleged by Bethe as because it is hard to conceive of any other source for an account that survives into such late authors and yet is at odds with the tragic vulgate. The motif of the victorious battle followed by the unsuccessful assault on the walls is certainly both Homeric and epic, as Bethe observed. Likewise, the striking down of the triumphant hero from the walls he seems set to scale and the routing of his side, with the sallying forth of the besieged in consequence, also have numerous analogies in epic, the Aethiopis’ Achilles in particular (cf. West 2013:149).

F4 (see page 139 for text)

For the mode of reference to this episode (τὰ ἐν Θηβαΐδι ἔπη τὰ ἐς τὴν Παρθενo-παίον τελευτὴν) Rzach (1922:2361.52–57) compares ἐν Διομήδεος ἀριστείηι (Herodotus II 116) or Plato’s Λιταί (Cratylus 428C) [71] and infers (2369.26–27) “eine ausführliche Behandlung.” Periclymenus, son of Poseidon, also features as {78|79} Parthenopaeus’ slayer in the messenger speech at Euripides Phoenician Women 1153–1162:

ὁ δ’ Ἀρκάς, οὑκ Ἀργεῖος, Ἀταλάντης γόνος,
τυφὼς πύλαισιν ὥς τις ἐμπεσὼν βοᾶι
πῦρ καὶ δικέλλας, ὡς κατασκάψων πόλιν.
ἀλλ’ ἔσχε μαργῶντ’ αὐτὸν ἐναλίου θεοῦ
Περικλύμενος παῖς, λᾶαν ἐμβαλὼν κάραι
ἁμαξοπληθῆ, γεῖσ’ ἐπάλξεων ἄπο
ξανθὸν δὲ κρᾶτα διεπάλυνε καὶ ῥαφάς
ἔρρηξεν ὀστέων, ἄρτι δ’ οἰνωπὸν γένυν
καθηιμάτωσεν οὐδ’ ἀποίσεται βίον
τῆι καλλιτόξωι μητρὶ Μαινάλου κόρηι.

See too Apollodorus III 6.8: Ἀσφόδικος (Wilamowitz: Ἀμφίδικος codd.) [
72] δὲ Παρθενοπαῖον (scil. ἀπέκτεινεν). ὡς δὲ Eὐριπίδης φησί, Παρθενοπαῖον ὁ Ποσει-δῶνος παῖς Περικλύμενος ἀπέκτεινε. Euripides’ lines here replace the Thebais, as the later and more familiar author so often ousts the earlier and less read in the texts of mythographers and scholia: see page 80 below.

In Euripides’ account, Parthenopaeus is thrown from the wall like Capaneus. In Apollodorus, by implication, he is killed in the hand-to-hand fighting that accompanies the Argive retreat caused by Capaneus’ death. Bethe (1891:125) thinks this latter context more appropriate both for the kind of battle we expect in an epic and for the mighty son of Poseidon. The Thebais certainly seems to have had Periclymenus attack Amphiaraus at this stage of the conflict: see page 90 below.

Why Aeschylus should have chosen to omit Periclymenus is, as Bethe says (1891:88), a mystery: see page 68 above.

F5 (see page 140 for text)

On “Die Genfer Iliasscholien,” our source for this fragment, see Erbse, “Die Genfer Iliasscholien,” Rheinisches Mus eum 95 (1952): 170–191. [73] The passage in Σ Gen., with its reference to ἡ ἱστορία παρὰ τοῖς Κυκλικοῖς, was first published by J. Nicole, Les scolies genévoises de l’Iliade 2 (Geneva 1891) 63–64. The same tale occurs, without the attribution to the cyclic poets, in Σ Ab T Iliad V 126 (2.22 Erbse): {79|80}

φασίν ἐν τῶι Θηβαϊκῶι πολέμωι Tυδέα τρωθέντα ὑπὸ Μελανίππου τοῦ Ἀστακοῦ σφόδρα ἀγανακτῆσαι. Ἀμφιάρεων δὲ κτείναντα τὸν Μελά-νιππον δοῦναι τὴν κεφαλὴν Tυδεῖ. τὸν δὲ δίκην θηρὸς ἀναπτύξαντα ῥοφᾶν τὸν ἐγκέφαλον ἀπὸ θυμοῦ. κατ’ ἐκεῖνο δὲ καιροῦ παρεῖναι Ἀθηνᾶν ἀθανασίαν αὐτῶι φέρουσαν ἐξ οὐρανοῦ καὶ διὰ τὸ μύσος ἀπεστράφθαι. τὸν δὲ θεασάμενον παρακαλέσαι κἂν τῶι παιδὶ αὐτοῦ χαρίσασθαι τὴν ἀθανασίαν. ἱστορεῖ Φερεκύδης.

FGrHist 3 F97

That in our fragment οἱ κυκλικοί = ἡ Θηβαΐς was first seen by Robert. [
74] Compare the phrase ἡ κυκλικὴ Θηβαΐς in F2 and F3. The identification of our fragment’s resting place with the Thebais has been accepted by most scholars. [75] The only serious dissent comes from Van der Valk, [76] who argues that Σ Gen.’s reference to the Cycle may be a mere elaboration built upon Pherecydes’ name, a plausible guess based on the assumption that Tydeus’ death must have been mentioned in the Thebais (compare the similar deductions of the more recent scholars listed above) and one calculated to give a pleasingly (and misleadingly) learned impression. That Pausanias indulged in this kind of pretense to wide reading is itself by no means certain (see West 2013:49). In the present case, when we do not even know the identity of the individual responsible for the statement, the explanation is bound to strike us as arbitrary. The process of substituting a more familiar and later name for an earlier, less read author is very familiar (cf. Severyns 1928:75–79, esp. 77–78). And since Van der Valk himself allows (334n220) that Pherecydes may have followed the Thebais’s version of events, his argument has little to commend it.

In saying that Amphiaraus slew Melanippus and cut off his head and brought it to Tydeus, Σ Gen. is in agreement with all our sources save Apollodorus III 6.3 (see Davies and Finglass on Stesichorus fr. 92); Statius (Thebaid VIII 739–750), who, having already despatched Amphiaraus to subterranean gloom, appropriately transfers the action to the hateful Capaneus (see page 76 above); and Libanius (Progymnasmata R 4.1100 [8.40 Förster]), who assigns the task to a nameless companion of Tydeus. On Melanippus’ function in the Thebais see further {81|82} page 78 above. The fight between him and Tydeus is traced back to the widespread motif of the Combat Myth (the Champion against the dark Antagonist) by Fontenrose as cited, 124–126 and n42.

We have here, then, a nice example of the different approaches of art and literature. For I agree with Beazley (p. 7) when he suggests that “the complete personification of Athanasia may be due to a painter, who from the nature of his {82|83} art, had to choose, and could not sit on the fence between person and thing.” He is clearly right to observe that none of the literary allusions to the incident need imply personification, not even Σ Pindar Nemean X 12, cited above, which tells how ἡ Ἀθηνᾶ τὴν ἀθανασίαν παρήγαγε but proceeds to describe immortality as a “gift” (δωρεά, δῶρον).

An analogous telescoping of events has been thought by some to underlie several Etruscan urns, especially two in Volterra and one in Florence, [87] which have been popularly taken to depict Tydeus and other Argive warriors seeking to storm the walls of Thebes. In his right hand the alleged Tydeus is holding a severed head which he seems ready to hurl up at the wall’s defenders as if it were a stone. If this had to be interpreted as Melanippus’ head, the likeliest explanation would be that the detail was meant to identify the head’s holder as Tydeus without making a literal statement about the weapons Tydeus actually brandished against Thebes, or about the precise point in the battle at which Melanippus was slain. Robert (1915:1.235) believed that this “extraordinarily effective artistic motif” could still be compatible with a fairly strict representation of the Thebais’s contents. Rzach (1922:2368.61–62) referred to “eine freie künstlerische Verwendung.” Small (157–160), however, is right to be skeptical about this identification and prefers to regard the urns in question as depicting an attack upon an unidentified city whose name could be left to the viewer {83|84} to supply. Since the figure holding the head is not “on the point of imminent collapse … but is not even wounded. He is, in fact, the robust leader of the attackers,” Small (p. 159) concludes that “there is no particular reason for a severed head to be connected immutably with Tydeus,” particularly when we bear in mind the number of Greek and Roman legends of battle (e.g. Nisus and Euryalus in Aeneid IX) that exploit severed heads in a way that will have excited Etruscan taste.

We may close with a few points of detail. The word Ἀθανασία cannot have occurred in the Thebais, since, as Beazley reminds us (7; cf. R. Renehan, “A New Lexicon of Classical Greek,” Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 24 [1983]: 13), it will not fit into a hexameter and is not securely attested until the fourth century. Apollodorus’ picture of Athena παρὰ Δίoς αἰτησαμένη … φάρμακον … δι’ οὗ ποιεῖν ἔμελλεν ἀθάνατον αὐτόν [scil. Tύδεα] is strongly reminiscent of a scene in the Aethiopis as summarized by Proclus where we have Ἠὼς παρὰ Διός αἰτησαμένη ἀθανασίαν and presenting it to her son Memnon (cf. West 2013:148–149).

It is striking that Σ Gen.’s ἀνοίξας αὐτὴν [scil. τὴν κεφαλήν] ὁ Tυδεὺς τὸν ἐγκέφαλον ἐρρόφει ἀπὸ θυμοῦ has a much more colorful and poetic counterpart in the other Iliadic scholia: τὸν δὲ δίκην θηρὸς ἀναπτύξαντα κτλ. One cannot be surprised that Robert (1915:2.49) suggested the relevant phrase “wohl auf das Epos zurückgehen könnte.” Finally, the tale of Tydeus’ frustrated immortality is obviously connected with the story of his son’s successful attainment of that state (Ibycus 294 PMGF, Pindar Nemean X 7, carmen conviv iale 894.4 PMG, etc.) at the hands of the same goddess. But how connected: which inspired which? Wilamowitz (1891:239 = 1971:74) thought it inconceivable that the poet who described Tydeus’ death at Thebes could have had any knowledge of a tradition whereby that death was avenged by a son who helped sack the city his father had failed to destroy. In taking up what was a diametrically opposed position, Friedländer (1914:328 = 1969:42) went so far as to assert that the successful immortalization must be primary, the unsuccessful attempt secondary and derivative (a schema he proceeded to adapt to the larger question as to the priority between the Seven and their offspring [see page 109 below]). A similar principle has been applied to the parallel stories of Tithonus and Memnon, and Eos’ bungled attempt at winning immortality for her paramour, and her successful attainment of life everlasting for their son. [88] Of course, even if this principle fits the present case (which most scholars have doubted), Friedländer will not have proved that Diomedes was immortalized because of his exploits at Thebes rather than at Troy. Besides, as we saw (page 81 above), narrow failure {84|85} to gain proffered immortality exists as an independent motif in its own right. In view of this important consideration, I prefer to follow Andersen (1978:30n6; cf. Fontenrose as cited, 126) in seeing transference of the immortality motif from father to son.

That Tydeus died and was buried at Thebes is implied by Iliad XIV 114 (Tυδέος, ὃν Θήβηισι χυτὴ κατὰ γαῖα κάλυψεν): cf. Σ Gen. ad loc. (2.135 Nicole): ὃς ἐν Θήβαις ἐτελεύτησεν, ἐν Θηβαικῶι πολέμωι. Zenodotus athetized and Aristophanes deleted the line (see Σ A ad loc. [3.583 Erbse] and Erbse’s note ad loc. for a bibliography of attempts to understand this odd attitude). Σ T ad loc. (3.584 Erbse) explains the Homeric verse ὅτι οὐ κατὰ τοὺς τραγικοὺς ἐν Ἐλευσῖνι μετηνέχθησαν οἱ περὶ τὸν Καπανέα, which looks, as Severyns saw (1928:224), to be a relic of the usual Aristarchean contrast between Homer’s version and that of οἱ νεώτεροι. On the Thebais ’s version of the fates of the defeated Argive corpses see further page 93 below.

F6 (see page 140 for text)


Severyns (1928:222) thought (a) an important document for Pausanias’ ignorance of the Epic Cycle: “visiblement, il n’a pas connu, par une lecture personelle, le passage … auquel il fait allusion,” for he automatically reproduces a verse which is not very explicit on Poseidon’s alleged parentage. In fact the alleged oral tradition of the priests is very dubious (Severyns takes it too seriously) and may be a supposititiously circumstantial and “historical” way of conveying (more Herodoteo) an Alexandrian dispute over the significance of κυανοχαίτης. At any rate, Severyns’ skepticism will neatly dispose of Van der Valk’s: the latter says that if the Thebais had really related Arion’s filial relationship to Poseidon, Pausanias would have adduced it. But if Pausanias’ knowledge was indirect this line of argument must fall.

Van der Valk’s attempts to discredit the testimony of (c) are no more fortunate. It is arbitrary of him to suppose that because (b) is shorter than (c) it represents a “correction” of (c)’s error in attributing too much to our epic. And his customary explanation of the contents of the relevant scholion as a “guess” (this time based on the common knowledge that the Thebais named Adrastus as Arion’s owner) is as unconvincing as usual. Further arguments in favor of (c) as an integral part of our fragment are to be found in Janko 51–55.

A description of Arion’s passage through the hands of successive owners would be quite in keeping with early poetry (see, for instance, the account of Agamemnon’s scepter in Iliad II 101–105), as Severyns (1928:221) saw. For the significance of the mention of Cycnus see Janko 51–55. On Arion and his role in saving Adrastus’ life see in general L. Malten, “Das Pferd im Totenglauben,” Jahrbuch des Kaiserlich Deutschen Archäologischen Inst ituts 29 (1914): 201–208. Building on foundations laid by Wilamowitz (“Lesefrüchte,” Hermes 35 [1900]: 563–564 = Kl eine Schriften 4.140), Malten ingeniously inferred from passages such as Propertius II 34.37 (vocalis Arion), Statius Thebaid VI 424 (praesagus Arion), and ibid. XI 442–443 (fata monentem | … Ariona) that the horse could speak in a {86|87} human voice, not only in the context indicated by these passages (the Nemean funeral games for Archemorus), but as a warning to his master Adrastus of the impending catastrophe at Thebes. This warning he attributed (p. 205) to our epic, comparing the prophecy of Achilles’ horse at Iliad XIX 400–418. A similar picture, with Arion and Adrastus as the models for the Homeric Achilles and Xanthus, was drawn by E. Heden, Homerische Götterstudien (diss. Upsala 1912) 136–138; cf. B. C. Dietrich, Death, Fate and the Gods (London 1965) 237. For artifacts that depict Adrastus’ escape with his horse (including the famous relief from Gjölbaschi-Trysa) see Krauskopf in LIMC I.1 H1 (pp. 235–236).

The tradition that Arion was the offspring of Poseidon and an Erinys may also be found in Hesychius α7267 (1.246 Latte): Ἀρίων: ὁ ἵππος, Ποσειδῶνος υἱὸς καὶ μιᾶς τῶν Ἐρινύων. It is readily explicable, since both Poseidon and the Erinyes were originally conceived of as horse-shaped: see, for instance, the two articles of E. Wüst in RE (22.1 [1953]: 482–484 and 499 [Poseidon]; Suppl. 8 [1956] 92.3–30 [Erinys]); B. C. Dietrich, “Demeter, Erinys, Artemis,” Hermes 90 (1962): 129–134 = Death, Fate and the Gods 118–132; Richardson on Homeric Hymn to Demeter 18. The alternative spelling of Arion’s name as Ἐρίων is suggestive of Ἐρινύς. [91] For full bibliography and discussion see Dietrich as cited, 140n8 = 136–137n7; cf. Janko 54n90. For Poseidon as a begetter of horses compare Hesiod Theogony 276–281, where the god sleeps with Medusa and when Perseus later cuts her head off out jump Chrysaor and Pegasus. Medusa was originally identified with Demeter-Erinys (see Richardson on Homeric Hymn to Demeter 4 [p. 140]) and the deity on whom Poseidon fathers Arion is sometimes said to be Demeter-Erinys or Demeter in horse-shape: cf. Pausanias VIII 25.4–8 and 42.1–6; also Apollodorus III 6.8. On Demeter-Erinys see Wilamowitz, Glaube der Hellenen 1.398–403; Dietrich as cited; Burkert, Structure and History in Greek Mythology and Ritual (Berkeley 1979) 125–129; A. Schachter, Cults of Boeotia 1 (BICS suppl. 38.1 [1984]): 164. For the un-Homeric nature of such animal metamorphoses see Griffin 1977:41 = 2001:369.

Arion’s begetting was sometimes located in Arcadia and sometimes in Boeotia. For the details see Pfeiffer on Callimachus fr. 652 and Fontenrose, Python 367–371; for discussion see Wilamowitz, Dietrich, and Fontenrose as cited. Bethe (1891:92–93) infers that the Boeotian version is the earlier (because that land, unlike Arcadia, is suited for the breeding of horses and because Copreus in [b] can be linked to Boeotia [cf. Σ T Iliad XV 639 (4.133 Erbse): Κοπρεύς … ἄλλος Bοιώτιος, Ἁλιάρτου παῖς]), and equates this older form with the Thebais’. Wilamowitz {87|88} (1891:225n1 = 60n1) took the reverse view on account of the Arcadian spelling Ἐρίων (see page 87 above). For further bibliography and discussion see Dietrich as cited (126n2).


εἵµατα λυγρά: Welcker (1865:2.369) ludicrously supposed these to be garments of mourning (“Trauergewand”: the rendering was still taken seriously by Wecklein [1901:685]), an idea rightly scotched by Bethe (1891:93n25): as if a defeated general fleeing for his life from the battlefield will have time to slip into something appropriately gloomy! We should follow Bethe in turning first to those Odyssean passages where similar phrases are used (λυγρὰ δὲ εἵματα ἕσσε περὶ χροΐ [xvi 457] and τὰ δὲ λυγρὰ περὶ χροΐ εἵματα ἕστο [xvii 203, 338; xxiv 158]) of Odysseus’ disguise as a decrepit old {88|89} beggar. “Dirty, tattered” is the meaning suggested by the context of all these passages, and a very similar meaning seems required in our own line. Iliad XVIII 538, from the battle scene on the Shield of Achilles (εἷμα δ’ ἔχ’ ἀμφ’ ὤμοισι δαφοινεὸν αἵματι φωτῶν), conveniently reminds us of the way in which εἷμα in the singular can be used of a warrior’s armor and suggests the nature of the grime in the present passage. For a comparable exploitation of tattered clothing in elevated poetry we may cite Xerxes’ rags in Aeschylus’ Persae. On the meaning of λυγρός see further I. Anastassiou, Zum Wortfeld “Trauer” in der Sprache Homers (diss. Hamburg 1973), esp. 154–155. For the possibility that the noun is corrupt see the following note.

φέρων: previously rendered as “wearing” (Evelyn-White in his Loeb text of Hesiod, the Homeric Hymns and Homerica [London 1914] 485, Huxley 1969:44 etc.; Krauskopf, LIMC 1.1.232, etc.). But the verb does not mean this anywhere else in Greek: φορῶν is what this translation requires, and the two verbs are often interchanged in MSS (see Barrett on Euripides Hippolytus [Oxford 1964] line 316). Perhaps the poet intended this here: for the Attic contraction in epic see φοροῦσ’ (Cypria F 4.3). Synezesis (φορέ͜ων) is another possibility. εἵματα λυγρὰ φέρων could hardly mean “enduring filthy garments” (Odyssey xviii 134–135 ἀλλ’ ὅτε δὴ καὶ λυγρὰ θεοὶ μάκαρες τελέσωσι, | καὶ τὰ φέρει ἀεκαζόμενος τετληότι θυμῶι is a merely formal parallel), or “bringing” them “with him” (Grote, History of Greece 1.268–269). But we cannot absolutely exclude the possibility of the “weak” meaning “with” here, which φέρων, like ἄγων, ἔχων, and λαβών, can exhibit in tragedy (see Stinton, “Agamemnon 1127 and the Limits of Hyperbaton,” Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society 21 [1975]: 85 = Collected Papers on Greek Tragedy 101). Compare West’s translation 2003:55. Alternatively, we may follow W. Beck, “Thebais Fr. 6A Davies (Pausanias 8.25.8),” Museum Helveticum 38 (2001): 137–139 in emending the first word of our fragment to σήματα (an easy change), with reference to the tokens attached by the Seven to Adrastus’ chariot at the start of their expedition, as keepsakes for their heirs should they fail to return (cf. Aeschylus Seven Against Thebes 49–51). σὺν Ἀρίονι: “with the help of” A.: cf. Iliad V 219–220 σὺν ἵπποισιν καὶ ὄχεσφιν | ἀντιβίην ἐλθόντε. Other epic instances of σύν with this nuance in Chantraine, Gramm. hom. 2.135. Ἀρίονι: this (not -είονι) is the right spelling: see LfrgE S.V. (1. col. 1304), Pfeiffer on Callimachus fr. 223. Ἀρίονι κυανοχαίτηι |: cf. [Hesiod] Shield of Heracles 120 ὣς καὶ νῦν μέγαν ἵππον Ἀρίονα κυανοχαίτην |. The epithet is also associated with horses in Iliad XX 224 (Boreas) ἵππωι δ’ εἰσάμενος παρελέξατο κυανοχαίτηι |, Hesiod Theogony 278 τῆι δὲ μιῆι παρελέξατο Κυανοχαίτης | (of Poseidon’s intercourse with Medea, from whose severed head Pegasus later springs), Antimachus fr. 50 Matthews πατρί τε κυανοχαῖτα Ποσειδάωνι πεποιθώς (probably referring to Arion: see Matthews ad loc.). But of course it is most often employed in Homer of Poseidon (Iliad XIII 563, Odyssey ix 528, etc.), to whom it is so often applied that it can be used as a substitute for his actual name (Iliad XX 144, Odyssey ix 536, Hesiod Theogony 278). μελαγχαίτης is used of centaurs in [Hesiod] Shield of Heracles 186 and on the François Vase.

Adrastus had a son called Κυάνιππος (Apollodorus I 9.13). If Adrastus was originally the leader of a host of underworld demons, as Howald supposed (see above page 68), the epithet becomes even more significant (cf. Homeric Hymn to Demeter 347 Ἄιδη κυανοχαῖτα, Euripides Alcestis 439 ἁίδας ὁ μελαγχαίτας θεός). On Tydeus’ opponent Melanippus see page 73 above. {89|90}


On Amphiaraus in myth see Robert 1915:1.205–214; Howald 1939:13–14; Usener, “Der Stoff des griechischen Epos,” 37–39 = Kl eine Schriften 4.234–239; F. Bener, Die Amphiaraossage in der griechischen Dichtung (diss. Zurich 1945); P. Vicaire, “Images d’Amphiaraos dans la Grèce archaïque et classique,Bulletin de l Association Guillaume Budé 1 (1979): 2–45; Braswell’s commentary on Pindar Nemean XI (Berlin 1998); and Matthews’ on Antimachus, general index s.v. ; LIMC I.1 s.v. “Amphiaraos” E (pp. 694–697). On the connection between horse and chariot, underworld and death which the manner of Amphiaraus’ end implies see (apart from Usener) Malten (as cited page 86 above); Dietrich, Death, Fate, and the Gods, 131–132; Richardson on Homeric Hymn to Demeter 18. For Baton and Amphiaraus in the Underworld in art see LIMC I.1 E 20 (p. 85); S. I. Johnston and T. J. McNiven, “Dionysus and the Underworld in Toledo,” Museum Helveticum 83 (1996): 29. Howald (1939:14) assumes that the hero’s relatively merciful fate was a later modification induced by reluctance to accept a collective retribution suffered by every one of the seven commanders. The fullest surviving literary treatment of his disappearance is Pindar Nemean IX 24–27:

ὁ δ’ Ἀμφιαρεῖ σχίσσεν κεραυνῶι παμβίαι
Ζεὺς τὰν βαθύστερνον χθόνα, κρύψεν δ’ ἅμ’ ἵπποις
δουρὶ Περικλυμένου πρὶν νῶτα τυπέντα μαχατάν
θυμὸν αἰσχυνθῆμεν. ἐν γὰρ δαιμονίοισι φόβοις φεύγοντι καὶ παῖδες θεῶν.

That this description derives from the Thebais was suggested by Welcker (1865:2.366) and approved by such scholars as Wilamowitz (1891:225 = 1971:60 and n3), Robert (1915:1.246), Stoneman (1981:49), and Braswell ad loc.

The role accorded to Periclymenus in this account is noteworthy. It recurs in Apollodorus III 6.8: Ἀμφιαράωι δὲ φεύγοντι παρὰ ποταμὸν Ἰσμηνόν, πρὶν ὑπὸ Περικλυμένου τὰ νῶτα τρωθῆι, Ζεὺς κεραυνὸν βαλὼν τὴν γὴν διέστησεν. It is further implied by a black-figure lekythos [95] showing Amphiaraus in a four-horse chariot expressing lively discomfort at the presence of a spear in his back (two eagles carrying respectively a garland and a snake symbolize Zeus’ intervention). For another possible depiction of Amphiaraus’ disappearance (on a volute krater in Ferrara: ARV 2 612.1 [1]) see Small 143–144. We should also note two Etruscan urn-reliefs from Volterra dating to the second century BC which come from a larger group that depicts Amphiaraus’ disap- {90|91} pearance (see Krauskopf 98; Small 143–150). The pair we are concerned with go further in providing an enemy to assail Amphiaraus as he sinks from sight. One is a fairly normal presentation of this scene, [96] while the other [97] places the assailing warrior in front of Amphiaraus so that he must turn around (as he does) to strike at him. Robert (1915:2.89n163) explained this arrangement on grounds of symmetry. However that may be, it seems likely that the warrior is Periclymenus, an identification that is accepted in Small’s discussion (149–156) of these and related works. From the role thus inferred for Periclymenus in the Thebais, Wilamowitz and Robert as cited above concluded that the epic did not anticipate Aeschylus’ balanced allotment of a single Theban defender to a single Argive chieftain (see page 73 above): for F4 of our poem informs us that Periclymenus also killed Parthenopaeus.

Apollodorus III 6.8 continues the narrative quoted above with the following: ὁ δὲ σὺν τῶι ἅρματι καὶ τῶι ἡνιόχωι Βάτωνι, ὡς δὲ ἔνιοι Ἐλάτωνι, ἐκρύφθη. Amphiaraus’ charioteer appears on the above vases and on two Volterran urns (Small, cat. 13 and 14, pp. 20–21 and 150–151). He is also given some prominence in depictions of Amphiaraus’ departure from home and family (see page 104 below); scholars have generally inferred that he was mentioned in the Thebais. Amphiaraus’ chariot is specified as a quadriga by Hyginus Fabulae 250 and Propertius II 34.39 (compare the two vases mentioned above): see page 90 above.

F7 (see page 142 for text)

“Die übrigenzitate eines A[sclepiades] in den Pindarscholien gehören sicher einem kommentator, d.h. doch wohl dem Myrleane” (Jacoby, FGrHist 1A.487.39–40, citing A. Adler, “Die Commentare des Asklepiades von Myrlea,” Hermes 49 [1914]: 39–46). Thanks to the Pindaric scholion ad loc. we know that the relevant portion of the sixth Olympian exemplifies a common practice in early Greek poetry (see R. Kassel in that part of his article “Dichterspiele” which deals with Metaphrasis [Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 42 (1981): 11–17 = Kleine Schriften 121–128]), whereby phrases or lines from epic were re-cast in similar metres by later poets. But how far does Pindar’s indebtedness to the author of the Thebais extend? The question must be answered by examining first of all the individual line and then the general context. {91|92}

(ii) Wilamowitz preferred to suppose that Pindar’s reworking was a little more extensive and, comparing Iliad III 179 (ἀμφότερον βασιλεύς τ’ ἀγαθὸς κρατερός τ’ αἰχμητής), he reconstituted the original verse of the Thebais thus:

This approach was approved by Robert (1915:1.248, 2.90n170) and is considered with some sympathy by Fraenkel. But it is rejected by Bethe (1891:58–59n19) and Rzach (1922:2371.4–10). Burkert’s citation (1981:48 = 2001:164) of SEG 16.193.2 (370 BC) ἀμφότερον μάντιν τ’ ἀγαθὸν καὶ δορὶ μα[χήτην vel μα[χέσθαι and Stoneman’s (1981:51n41) of Hesiod fr. 25.37 MW (ὅς ῥ’ ἀγαθὸς μὲν ἔην ἀγορῆι, ἀγαθὸς δὲ μάχεσθαι) remind us that there are other possibilites to hand. For the allusion to Amphiaraus’ twin rôles as warrior and seer cf. Pindar Nemean X 9 μάντιν Oἰκλείδαν, πολέμοιο νέφος (compared by Rzach [1922:2370n]) and Aeschylus Seven Against Thebes 569 ἀλκήν τ’ ἄριστον μάντιν, Ἀμφιάρεω βίαν, whose dependence upon our fragment was seen by e.g. Verrall (ad loc.) and Fraenkel. See too Sophocles Oedipus at Colonus 1313–1314 οἷος δορυσσοῦς Ἀμφιά-ρεως, τὰ πρῶτα μὲν | δόρει κρατύνων, πρῶτα δ’ οἰωνῶν ὁδοῖς (cited by Bethe [1891:59 and 86]).

(iii) That the allusion to the Thebais is confined to verse 17 of Pindar’s sixth Olympian was argued by Wilamowitz (Isyllos von Epidauros 163n4) and Robert (1915:1.248). For more generous interpretations of ταῦτα εἰληφέναι see Rzach 1922:2371.30–31. If we wish to decide whether the Thebais’s influence extends further than the words just considered, we would do well to start by examining the first part of Adrastus’ speech as reported by Pindar: ποθέω στρατιᾶς ὀφθαλμὸν | ἐμᾶς. Many scholars have automatically assumed that this too derives from the Theban epic (Ribbeck [“Zu den Fragmenten der griechischen Epiker,” Rheinisches Museum 33 (1878): 458] restored the noble hexameter ὀφθαλμὸν ποθέω στρατιῆς {92|93} ἐὺν Ἀμφιάρηον and alii aliter finxerunt). As Bethe observes (1891:58–59), no very staggering implications for the history of the myth would follow if this assumption could be proved correct. “This means that in the Thebais too, after the battle was over, Amphiaraus was not to be found among either the fallen or the survivors—was in fact translated.” So writes Rohde (1.114n2 = Engl. trans. 103n2), one of the most enthusiastic supporters of a generous interpretation of the Greek phrase ταῦτα εἴληφεν. But since the mysterious disappearance of Amphiaraus must be basic to any version of the story, Rohde’s enthusiasm is here perhaps misplaced.

Is there any good reason why this part of the speech too should not ema-nate from the Thebais? The only objection with which I am acquainted is Robert’s (1915:1.248): that ὀφθαλμός is unlikely to have possessed the required metaphorical sense in early epic. Certainly, whether we take the metaphor to be one where “ὀφθαλμός is … used metaphorically of anything precious” (Stevens on Euripides Andromache 406; cf. W. Schadewaldt, “Experimentelle Philologie,” Wiener Studien 79 [1966]: 75–76 = Hellas und Hesperia, 2nd ed., 1.491–492) or (with D. Bremer, Licht und Dunkel in der frühgriechischen Dichtung [Bonn 1976] 239) detect an allusion to the motif “des leitenden Blickes,” the closest analogies are provided from tragedy and elsewhere in Pindar, and early epic has nothing comparable. However, in view of the numerous un-Homeric features of the few surviving fragments of the latter, this argument cannot be pressed.

But what of the area over which Bethe and Rohde do disagree—as violently as possible? I mean the latter’s intuition that “Pindar must have taken over not merely the words of the lament of Adrastus but the whole situation that led up to these words, as he described it, from the Thebais.” Welcker (1865:2.324, 367) had certainly taken for granted that the Thebais’s framework for the mention of Amphiaraus’ prowess as seer and warrior was, as with Pindar, a speech by Adrastus at the funeral of the Greeks who perished at Thebes. See Bethe 1891:94n27 for a bibliography of those who take this view. Bethe himself (58–59, 94–96) thought otherwise. His primary objection was to the whole idea of the cremation of the dead, which he believed alien to early epic. Homeric analogies, he argued, would lead us to expect the abandonment of the defeated army’s corpses to the open air and the tender mercies of birds and beasts of prey. And such a fate is precisely what befalls the body of Capaneus in Aeschylus fr. 17 Radt (from the Ἀργεῖοι), the body of Polyneices in Sophocles’ Antigone, and the bodies of the invading army in general at verses 1080–1083 of the same play. Only when the burial of the dead becomes widely regarded as a sacred duty does literature turn its attention to the fate of the corpses of the Argive expedition. Then it is that plays such as Aeschylus’ Ἐλευσίνιοι (TrGF 3 pp. 175–176 Radt) and Euripides Suppliant Women are written, and Pindar (on Bethe’s interpretation) revises the {93|94} earlier myth at verses 15–18 of Olympian VI to bring it into conformity with contemporary religious beliefs concerning the dead.

How then did the Thebais’s Adrastus praise Amphiaraus (for Bethe rather eccentrically retains from the theory he is criticizing this particular feature) and lament his loss? Bethe, who on page 95 of his book sneers at Welcker over “einer neuen Bethätigung seines erfinderischen Geistes,” proceeds, on page 96, to a display of his own inventive spirit by conjuring up the following vivid context for the encomium of Amphiaraus: speeding over the battlefield in wild flight from his pursuers, Adrastus suddenly sees the noble seer sink from sight and with him the last vestige of hope. An immeasurably more exciting and logical framework for Adrastus’ speech of praise (Bethe finds) than the comparatively feeble and banal adaptation of the motif by Pindar, whose wording first leads us to expect precisely the same picture (lines 12–14 αἶνος … ὃν ἐνδίκας | ἀπὸ γλώσσας Ἄδραστος μάντιν Οἰκλείδαν ποτ’ ἐς Ἀμφιάρηον | φθέγξατ’ ἐπεὶ κατὰ γαῖ’ αὐτόν τέ νιν καὶ φαιδίμας ἵππους ἔμαρψεν) and then oddly and awkwardly postpones the speech (and with it Adrastus’ realization of the significance of his loss) until some unspecifically later occasion when the dead were buried at Thebes (lines 15–16: ἑπτὰ δ’ ἔπειτα πυρᾶν κτλ.).

F8 (see page 143 for text)

As Rzach observes (1922:2367–2368), this fragment may derive from an account of Tydeus’ genealogy. {95|96}

Loose Ends

At the start of his somber catalogue of things we do not know about the Thebais, Robert (1915:1.180–182) gave pride of place to Oedipus’ wife, what her name was, and whether she was alive or dead by the time her sons clashed for the last and fatal time. His suggestion that, as in the Oedipodeia, she went by the name of Euryganeia (1.180–181) is a rather misleading guess, which is best ignored.

Ismene and Antigone seem attested for the Oedipodeia (see page 26 above) and may well have featured in our epic too. Indeed, we may well feel happier about the notion, since the plot of the Thebais supplies, prima facie, more potential opportunities for significant activity on their part. The first attested mention of both sisters is Pherecydes FGrHist 3 F95: see Fowler ad loc. (2013:407). [106] Mimnermus fr. 21 W, however, has Ismene killed by Tydeus, and this detail was once attributed to the Thebais by Robert (Bild und Lied: Archäologische Beiträge zur Geschichte der griechischen Heldensage [Berlin 1881] 20–21n19, approved by Bethe 1891:166) [107] in connection with the Corinthian neck amphora [108] showing Tydeus stabbing a reclining and naked Ismene in the breast with a sword, while an equally naked Periclymenus runs off discomforted. Robert supposed that Mimnermus referred to the same event and therefore corrected the wording of this fragment to Μ. φησι τὴν μὲν Ἰσμήνην προσομιλοῦσαν Περικλυμένωι [Θεοκλυμένωι cod.] [109] ὑπὸ Tυδέως κατὰ Ἀθηνᾶς ἐγκέλευσιν τελευτῆσαι. Periclymenus is certainly at home in the Thebais (see page 90 above). In his later and more cautious and detailed treatment of the relevant texts and artifacts (1915:1.121–124; cf. E. Pfuhl, “Der Tod der Ismene,” Hermes 50 (1915): 468–479 for modifications), Robert restated this part of his theory confidently, but jettisoned most of the rest, stressing in particular the impossibility of accommodating any reconstruction of the story within the framework of the attack on Thebes.

However, Robert’s own interpretation of the available data (an angry Athena—Athena Onca: cf. Aeschylus Seven Against Thebes 486–487 and 501–502—demands the punishment of her votaress, who has offended by intercourse with Periclymenus, son of Poseidon and therefore [cf. Robert, Heldensage 3.1.924–925] the goddess’s enemy) is perfectly compatible with a peacetime visit to Thebes by Tydeus, and this is precisely what Friedländer postulated [see page 34 above]). {96|97}

For a survey of other artifacts which may depict the same legend see Small 94–95. Our views as to whether Antigone played a part in the Thebais will naturally be colored by various preconceptions (cf. Bethe 1891:165 and n9). Did Sophocles invent the famous story of Polyneices’ burial at his sister’s hands? [111] Such was the assumption of P. Corssen, Die Antigone des Sophokles (Berlin 1898), followed at first by Wilamowitz, “Drei Schlussscenen griechischer Dramen, I.–II.,” Sitzungsberichte der Königlich Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin (1903): 438. Wilamowitz later changed his mind (1914:90–92), because he supposed he had detected in Apollodorus III 7.1 [112] a pre-Sophoclean tradition wherein Creon punishes Antigone’s defiance by burying her alive in the grave she had intended for her brother. This convinced Lloyd-Jones, “The End of the Seven Against Thebes,” Classical Quarterly 9 (1959): 96. Let us examine the relevant words:

For our present purposes we should particularly note that to infer the foregoing to be the version of the Thebais one must pile hypothesis upon hypothesis: the tradition is un-Sophoclean, therefore pre-Sophoclean, therefore epic, therefore (finally) our own epic. But I should contest the initial premise. Frazer ad loc. (1.373n2) assumes that Apollodorus is here following Sophocles’ Antigone, and this is surely right. Such references in that play as verse 849 (πρὸς ἔργμα τυμβόχωστον ἔρχομαι τάφου ποταινίου), 888 (ζῶσα τυμβεύειν) or 891–892 (ὦ τύμβος, ὦ νυμφεῖον, ὦ κατασκαφὴς | οἴκησις) adequately explain and justify Apollodorus’ rather elliptical phraseology. See further Robert 1915:1.367–368, {97|98} who sees the Apollodorean passage as a mere paraphrase of Sophocles Antigone 773–774.

Rzach maintained (1922:2372.44–47) that if the corpses of the Argive chieftains were cremated in the Thebais on seven pyres, Polyneices’ corpse must have been among them. This is not necessarily the case (see page 94 above).

Did Creon feature in the Thebais? We know him to have been named as the father of a victim of the Sphinx in the Oedipodeia F1, which only makes sense if (see ad loc.) he was also conceived as regent of Thebes. But that does not necessarily guarantee his appearance in our epic. {98|}


[ back ] 1. “For the title of the … Thebais to be styled Homeric depends upon evidence more ancient than any which can be produced to authenticate the Iliad and the Odyssey.”

[ back ] 2. On the general nature of Scott’s reasoning in these works see Dodds, Fifty Years (and Twelve) of Classical Scholarship (Oxford 1968) 9–10.

[ back ] 3. Schwartz (3n1) mentions Demetrius of Scepsis as a possibility, since this writer, as source in turn for Strabo, would seem to have often quoted Callinus (cf. Schwartz, RE 4 [1901]: 2811.41–42). On Demetrius see Pfeiffer, History of Classical Scholarship, 1: From the Beginnings to the Hellenistic Age (Oxford 1968) 249–251 and 259.

[ back ] 4. O. Crusius (“Litterargeschichtliche Parerga,” Philologus 54 [1895]: 723) appears to find Hiller’s approach excessively skeptical. I cannot agree.

[ back ] 5. One of the earliest is Grote (History of Greece 2.129n3). Perhaps it was expressed most extremely by Wilamowitz (1884:352: “es ist … nur sinn in dieser geschichte, wenn Homer als der dichter der Thebais verstanden wird”; cf. 1914:102). The same view is taken by for instance, Stein (2.68) and How and Wells (2.34) in their Herodotean commentaries ad loc. Further bibliography is in Rzach 1922:2363.22–24. See more recently E. Cingano, “Clistene di Sicione, Erodoto e i poemi del ciclo tebano,” Quaderni Urbinati di Cultura Classica 20 (1985): 31–40. Opposition already came from Welcker (1865:2.474n27).

[ back ] 6. Admittedly, Powell’s translation of the present passage (2.381) renders the verb “extolled.” But as we shall see (page 70 below), the Thebais is unlikely to have depicted the Argives in any very favorable light, a point not taken by, e.g., Cingano, as cited in the previous note.

[ back ] 7. Compare esp. Thucydides I 1 (Θουκυδίδης … ξυνέγραψε τὸν πόλεμον τῶν Πελοποννησίων καὶ Ἀθηναίων … ἐλπίσας μέγαν τε ἔσεσθαι καὶ ἀξιολογώτατον τῶν προγεγενημένων). See further Nisbet and Hubbard, Horace Odes 2 p. 9.

[ back ] 8. In both passages he shows himself characteristically eager to stress that Pausanias can have had no direct knowledge of the Thebais’s text.

[ back ] 9. On these and the following passages see the work of Andersen (1978: passim, esp. 33–94), who gives the best exposition to date of the paradigmatic effect of the four passages (the first in particular) and shows that the poet’s invention is often a more plausible hypothesis than his use of some such source as the Thebais.

[ back ] 10. τὰ Ὁμηρικὰ ἐγκώμια is how this and the other Iliadic allusions to Tydeus are summed up by Σ Aeschylus Seven Against Thebes 377 (2.2.180 O. L. Smith) and the accuracy of such a description is proved by Andersen’s work.

[ back ] 11. Cf. Beazley, “The World of the Etruscan Mirror,” Journal of Hellenic Studies 69 (1949): 1: “Nearly always the subject chosen testifies only to the boundless love of the Etruscans for Greek heroic legend and Greek heroic characters. … Some legends are represented with more circumstance on Etruscan mirrors than in any extant Greek monument”; and Etruscan Vase Paintings (Oxford 1947) 8: “Against certain crude or brutal traits in the Etruscan there is something to set. I cannot believe that the intense interest in the great heroic and tragic figures of Greece … was due to no more than the love of exciting tales of adventure and violence; but must suppose that there was a heroic strain in the Etruscan character to which these figures made a natural appeal.” For a more negative and reductive approach see Dohrn, 26: “Die Etrusker haben offenkundig nicht genug Phantasie gehabt, um sich selbst einen Mythos zu schaffen.” For another less idealized view see the study entitled “Banalizzazioni etrusche di miti greci” by G. Camporeale in Studi in onore di Luisa Banti (Rome 1965) 111–120. There is a balanced summary of the issue in Boardman’s review of Hampe and Simon, Journal of Hellenic Studies 85 (1965): 241 (stressing the possibility that Greek artists were involved). Cf. Heurgon (1980) as cited above; and for “Etruria Hellenised” see now e.g. N. Spivey, Etruscan Art (London 1996) 53–80.

[ back ] 12. And apparently independent, but considerably more cautious. Burkert’s definition of “formulaic language” restricts itself (1981:47 = 2001:163) to “words with at least three syllables or groups of at least two words in the same metrical position.” A much less well defined and more chaotic notion of “formula” underlies Notopoulos’ statement (1964:28) that “almost one hundred per cent of the verses [from the three fragments analyzed] exhibit formulae, ready-made or created by analogy to pre-existing systems.”

[ back ] 13. On the emotional force of the Iliad’s οὐλομένην, for instance, see J. Griffin, “Homeric Pathos and Objectivity,” Classical Quarterly 26 (1976): 171 = Homer on Life and Death (Oxford 1980) 118.

[ back ] 14. Followed by Blass, Interpolationen in der Odyssee (Halle 1904) 290.

[ back ] 15. A not dissimilar inference is already in Wecklein 1901:676–677.

[ back ] 16. One of the earliest offenders was the great Grote: see his history of Greece 1.262: “The Thebais was composed more in honour of Argos than of Thebes, as the first line of it … betokens.” Cf. 2.129n2. Add to Stephanopoulos’ bibliography van Groningen (as cited on page 46 above) 4n9; Burkert, Museum Helveticum 29 (1972): 83 = Kleine Schriften 1.147; P. Vicaire (as cited below page 90), p. 6; E. Cingano, “Clistene di Sicione, Erodoto e i poemi del ciclo tebano” (as cited n5 above), 37, etc.

[ back ] 17. See e.g. L. C. Valckenaer, Euripidis Tragoedia Phoenissae (Leiden 1802) 194; G. Hermann, De Aeschyli Trilogiis Thebanis (Leipzig 1835) 10–11 = Opuscula 7.199.

[ back ] 18. It seems not to have featured in the Stesichorean treatment: see Davies and Finglass on fr. 97.

[ back ] 19. On the alternative tradition whereby Adrastus bribes Eriphyle see page 125 below.

[ back ] 20. On the Erinys in this play see e.g. F. Solmsen, “The Erinys in Aischylos’ Septem,” Transactions of the American Philological Association 68 (1937): 197–211 = Kleine Schriften 1.106–120; and N. Sewell–Rutter, Guilt by Descent (Oxford 2008) 83–109.

[ back ] 21. Whether rightly, or (as Hutchinson thinks, pp. xxv–xxvi of his commentary on Aeschylus Seven Against Thebes) wrongly.

[ back ] 22. Comparing Xenophon Agesilaus 5.1 (διμοιρία ἐν ταῖς θοίναις) for the Spartan kings, and 1 Samuel 1.5 (double portion for Hanna). On honorable cuts and their withholding see further E. Cingano, “The Sacrificial Cut and the Sense of Honour Wronged in Greek Epic Poetry: Thebais, frgs. 2–3 D,” in C. Grottanelli and L. Milano, eds., Food and Identity in the Ancient World (Padua 2004) 57–67.

[ back ] 23. Burkert (1981:37–38 = 2001:156) compares τέλος → τελείω for the formation ὄνειδος → ὀνειδείω, and suggests a “transformation” of ὀνειδείοις (ϝ) ἐπέεσιν | to ὀνειδείοντες ἔπεμψαν |. But the verb still stands in great need of the object provided by Buttmann.

[ back ] 24. Schwyzer’s suggestion that εὖκτο for εὔχετο may be paralleled by γεύμεθα for γευόμεθα at Theocritus Idyll XIV 51 is dubious: see Dover ad loc. for an explanation of the latter which would rule out Schwyzer’s idea.

[ back ] 25. To which add A. Citron, Semantische Untersuchung zu σπένδεσθαι, σπένδειν, εὔχεσθαι (Winterthur 1965) 73; J.-L. Perpillou, “Signification de εὔχομαι dans l’épopée,” in Mélanges de linguistique et de philologie grecques offerts à Pierre Chantraine (Paris 1972) 169–182; L. C. Muellner, The Meaning of Homeric εὔχομαι through Its Formulas (Innsbruck 1976) 114n21, etc.

[ back ] 26. That εὖκτο could be “künstliche für εὔχετο” was specifically denied by Schwyzer.

[ back ] 27. Szemerényi is surely wrong to insist that the sense of our passage requires the aorist (which is how Jebb on Sophocles Trachiniae 610 also took it): clearly Oedipus could have repeated his curse on several occasions.

[ back ] 28. On the general issues involved here see M. Mayrhofer, Kurzgefasstes etymologisches Wörterbuch des Altindoarischen (Heidelberg 1953–1955) fasc. 26, Nachträge p. 658 (s.v. ćhate); and C. Watkins, Indogermanische Grammatik III.1: Geschichte der Indogermanischen Verbalflexion (Heidelberg 1969), 113.

[ back ] 29. That εὔχομαι was thematic long before Homer (as Szemerényi stresses) does not alter this picture. For a brief introduction to the question of thematic and athematic see L. R. Palmer, The Greek Language (London 1980) 294.

[ back ] 30. With εὖκτο compare Sophocles Trachiniae 610 (ηὔγμην) and TrGF 4 F730f 16 Radt (ηὖκτ’). Those forms have been regularly taken to be pluperfect (see my note on the former; both taken thus by e.g. Carden [The Papyrus Fragments of Sophocles (Berlin 1974) 111] and Radt [p. 505] ad loc.). But LSJ s.v. εὔχομαι IV allows that the former (and the Thebais’s εὗκτο) may be “plpf. (or non-thematic preterite),” and all three occurrences are treated as imperfect by Schmitt.

[ back ] 31. See A. R. Dyck, “The Glossographoi,” Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 91 (1987): 139, though cf. Burkert 1981:33 = 2001:153; E. Cingano, “The Death of Oedipus in the Epic Tradition,” Phoenix 46 (1992): 1–11.

[ back ] 32. See further Wolff in Roscher 3.2664–2665 for scholars who suppose the Thebais’s Oedipus to have been locked away. Edmunds (1981b:230–231) links the tradition with his hypothetical “revenant” Oedipus. Cf. also Euripides Phoenician Women 870–879, on which see Mastronarde ad loc. and Ed. Fraenkel, “Zu den Phoenissen des Euripides,” 37–41 esp. 40n2. Note especially verse 875: his sons vex Oedipus οὔτ’ ἔξοδον διδόντες. Indeed, it would seem that in the Thebais seclusion and curse were inextricably combined. For Oedipus to be provoked into a curse he must remain behind.

[ back ] 33. See Stith Thompson, Motif-Index A 525.1; Fontenrose, The Cult and Myth of Pyrros at Delphi (University of California Publications in Classical Archaeology 4 [(1960]) 246–248; T. H. Gaster, Myth, Legend, and Custom in the Old Testament (London 1969) 163–164.

[ back ] 34. Cf. Welcker 1865:2.340.

[ back ] 35. Their absence from Aeschylus Seven Against Thebes, in spite of the abundant opportunities for their mention afforded by the description of the shields at 377–652, is striking, as Bethe (1891:166–167) observed.

[ back ] 36. If the lion and boar were designs upon shields compare pages 73–74 below on the “Schildzeichen” of the Seven. If they were animal skins, compare Diomedes’ lion-pelt, Menelaus’ leopard-skin, and Dolon’s wolf-hide in Iliad X. Reinhardt (Die Ilias und ihr Dichter [Göttingen 1961] 249–250) detected influence by the Thebais here: in that epic: “sind die Tierbekleidungen nicht nur Kostüm sondern Verhängnis, mit ihnen beginnt die Vorgeschichte des Unterganges der Sieben.”

[ back ] 37. LIMC VIII.1 s.v. “Tydeus” C9: cf. Hampe(–Simon) 18–25, esp. 24, plates 8 and 11; R. Hampe and E. Simon, “Gefälschte etruskische Vasenbilder?,” Jahrbuch des Römisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseum Mainz 14 (1967): 68–71.

[ back ] 38. For an analogous depiction of the goddess see Hampe(–Simon) 24, with plate 6.1.

[ back ] 39. Nat. Mus. Chr. VIII 496: for illustration see Hampe(–Simon) 26; see Krauskopf in LIMC I.1, p. 234 (B1); cf. p. 237.

[ back ] 40. Archäologische Zeitung 24 (1866): 130–132.

[ back ] 41. Rzach (1922:2363–2364) follows Robert in supposing the existence of a simpler tradition; he is more cautious over the notion of the Thebais as its source. The truth about the figure’s sex was seen as early as Bethe (1891:168n13) etc.

[ back ] 42. See, e.g., Hampe(–Simon) 25–26, Krauskopf (n39 above). A complicating factor is the inscription -ομαχος at the edge of the scene. For attempted explanations see Robert 1915:2.74–75n72, Hampe(–Simon) 25–26. Here we may merely observe that attempts to interpret it as the name of Tydeus’ companion as suppliant (thus allowing a revival in slightly different form of Robert’s hypothesis) are rendered unattractive by the apparent proximity of the two daughters of Adrastus.

[ back ] 43. R. Hampe, “Tydeus und Ismene,” Antike Kunst 18 (1975): 13–15 with plate 1.1. Berlin skyphos inv. 1970.9: LIMC V.1 s.v. “Ismene” C5.

[ back ] 44. See, for instance, Heinze, Virgils Epische Technik 3 (Leipzig 1928) 152 = Engl. trans. 125–126.

[ back ] 45. Such considerations tell against Grote’s notion (History of Greece 1.266), already amply refuted by Pearson (Euripides Phoenissae pp. xxii–xxiii), that the number of leaders against Thebes was much more numerous in the Thebais and reduced to seven by Attic tragedy. For the various lists of the Seven given by antiquity and for scholars who attribute invention of the number to a source other than the Thebais see further Kühr 2006:137nn15 and 17.

[ back ] 46. Cf. L. H. Jeffery, “The Battle of Oenoe in the the Stoa Poikile: A Problem in Greek Art and History,” Annals of the British School at Athens 60 (1965): 48–50: A. F. Garvie, Dionysiaca (Page Festschrift [1978]) 84n28. For further discussion, cf. E. Cingano, “I nomi dei Sette a Tebe e degli Epigoni nella tradizione epica, tragica e iconografica,” in I Sette a Tebe: Dal mito alla letteratura (Bologna 2002) 27–62.

[ back ] 47. Not to be equated with the Halimedon depicted on the Amphiaraus vase (page 104 below): see Robert 1915:1.237–238.

[ back ] 48. 1313–1325 del. Reeve, “Some Interpolations in Sophocles,” Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 11 (1970): 291–293, def. H. Lloyd-Jones and N. G. Wilson, Sophoclea (Oxford 1990) 255.

[ back ] 49. “To avoid confusion with Eteocles,” according to Collard on Euripides Suppliant Women 857–917. The change also restores the Thebais’s version, according to Robert (1915:1.243) and Stephanopoulos (1980:124). But since Aeschylus courts precisely the same confusion, Beazley (“Some Inscriptions on Vases: V,” American Journal of Archaeology 54 [1950]: 313n5) inferred he must have inherited Eteoclus from an earlier tradition (contra Garvie [Dionysiaca (Page Festschrift 1978) 72–73], who suggests that he is Aeschylus’ invention; see further below, page 70). The two heroes were probably one originally: see Howald 1939:13–14.

[ back ] 50. Especially 1891:228n2 = 63n1: “Niemand bezweifelt heute, dass die Thebais die sieben Helden gehabt hat, und Pindar allein würde solchen Zweifel verbieten.” Pausanias’ statement to the contrary (II 20.5) is taken as merely further evidence that he had not actually read the Thebais.

[ back ] 51. Bethe backed up this hypothesis (1891:84–85) by observing that the minor figures among the Seven (e.g. Mecisteus) are totally irrelevant to the plot of the play.

[ back ] 52. “Tradition und Geist im homerischen Epos,” Studium Generale 4 (1951): 339 = Tradition und Geist (Göttingen 1960) 14–15.

[ back ] 53. Note especially Aeschylus Seven Against Thebes 170: ἑτεροφώνωι cτρατῶι (cf. Lloyd-Jones, “The End of the Seven Against Thebes,” Classical Quarterly 9 [1959]: 85n3; G. Zuntz, “Notes on Some Passages in Aeschylus’ Septem,” Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society 27 [1981]: 90; and Hutchinson ad loc.).

[ back ] 54. See Collard on Euripides Suppliant Women 496–497 (2.242); on the evidence of art, see page 76 below.

[ back ] 55. When Collard writes, “Epic, however, ignores the episode, dignifying C. as ἀγακλειτός Iliad II 564 and κυδάλιμος IV 403,” he means “Homer” not “Epic.”

[ back ] 56. According to Σ Euripides Phoenician Women 1173 (1.374 Schwartz) ὁ Καπανεὺς θέλων μιμήσασθαι τὸν Δία ἀνῆλθεν εἰς κλίμακα ἔχων δύο λαμπάδας. τὴν μίαν κεραυνὸν ἔλεγεν εἶναι καὶ τὴν μίαν ἀστραπήν. ἐπὶ τούτοις ὀργισθεὶς ὁ Ζεὺς ἐκεραύνωσεν αὐτόν. In his note on Aeschylus Seven Against Thebes 422–456, Hutchinson suggests this version is early and presupposed by the Aeschylean passage.

[ back ] 57. Bethe was certainly wrong (1891:88) to lump him with others as “keine berühmten Namen.” But one should not follow Wilamowitz (1914:102) in supposing that Herodotus V 67 is testimony to Megareus’ importance: see page 30 above.

[ back ] 58. See, for instance, Hampe(–Simon) 27: “die reichen und vielfältigen Schildembleme der ar-chaischen Zeit verschwinden in der frühen Klassik fast ganz und verlieren Kraft und Aus-drucksfülle”; cf. Beazley and Caskey, Attic Vase Paintings in Boston, vol. 2 (Boston 1954) 79.

[ back ] 59. LIMC I.1 s.v. “Amphiaraos” E161: plate 8 in Hampe(–Simon); see page 104 below.

[ back ] 60. Such a scheme only appears in extant artifacts from the fourth century, and Krauskopf (16) de-rives these from the Phoenician Women. For bibliography on reconstructions of this scene of the Chest see Small 104n12.

[ back ] 61. For instance, Robert 1915:1.224–225; Rzach 1922:2369.40–42; Krauskopf 69n80.

[ back ] 62. See LIMC V.1 s.v. “Kapaneus” D (Krauskopf), 41–42 (discussion) and 957–959 (lists) with plate 18; cf. Small 146–147.

[ back ] 63. See LIMC VIII.1 (Krauskopf), 142–143 (discussion) and 102–103 (lists), with plate 19; cf. Small 145–146.

[ back ] 64. 215: LIMC V.1 s.v. “Kapaneus” III C318; Small, cat. 15, plate 9; see in particular Robert 1915:1.227–231; Krauskopf p. 57 (and plate 23.2); a full description of contents in Small 122–123.

[ back ] 65. E.g. the Roman sarcophagus in the Villa Pamphili: LIMC V.1 s.v. “Kapaneus” C2.17: Krauskopf plate 23.3.

[ back ] 66. Cf. O.-W. von Vacano, “Die Figurenanordnung im Giebelrelief von Telamon,” Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, Römische Abteilung 76 (1969): 154.

[ back ] 67. Cf. LIMC V.1 s.v. “Kapaneus” D10 (p. 959).

[ back ] 68. For the self-sacrifice of Menoeceus, here interpolated, as a Euripidean invention, see Stepha-nopoulos 1980:115–118,

[ back ] 69. See page 79 below.

[ back ] 70. “Notes on Sophocles’ Antigone,” Classical Quarterly 7 (1957): 15n1 = Academic Papers [I] 372n7.

[ back ] 71. For further parallels see Schmid, GGL 1.1.128n1; S. West, The Ptolemaic Papyri of Homer (Cologne 1967) 20–35.

[ back ] 72. See Wilamowitz 1891:225 = 60n2.

[ back ] 73. This is summarized in his preface to the reprint of Nicole’s edition (Hildesheim 1966).

[ back ] 74. 1915:1.195 (the story of Tydeus’ cannibalism “kann … in der Thebais kaum gefehlt haben”) and 205; see too Rzach 1922:2368.42–43, A. Severyns, “Le cycle épique et l’épisode d’Io,” Musée Belge 30 (1926): 122 and n1, repeated in 1928:77–78, 219–220, etc.

[ back ] 75. E.g. Pearson, Fragments of Sophocles 3.39; Griffin 1977:42 and 46 = 2001:372 and 380; Stoneman 1981:57.

[ back ] 76. Researches on the Text and Scholia of the Iliad (Leiden 1963) 1.333–334.

[ back ] 77. On which see Robert 1915:1.131–134 and 2.48–49 and Beazley, “The Rosi Krater,” Journal of Hellenic Studies 67 (1947): 1–9 (with bibliography in 3n4 and 5n5).

[ back ] 78. Cf. G. S. Kirk, Myth: Its Meaning and Functions in Ancient and Other Cultures (Cambridge 1971) 140, 144–145.

[ back ] 79. See J. Bauer’s article s.v. “Lebenskraut” in EM 8.836–838; T. H. Gaster, Myth, Legend, and Custom in the Old Testament (London 1968) 29–30; cf. T. Karadagli, Fabel und Ainos: Studien zur griechischen Fabel (Beiträge zur klassischen Philologie 135 [1981]) 145–148; M. Davies, “The Ancient Greeks on Why Mankind Does Not Live Forever,” Museum Helveticum 44 (1987): 69, and “ ‘Unpromising’ Heroes and Heroes as Helpers in Greek Myth,” Prometheus 37 (2011): 125.

[ back ] 80. Cf. Frazer, Loeb Apollodorus 2, appendix 7; J. Fontenrose, “The Cult and Myth of Pyrros at Delphi,” California Studies in Classical Antiquity 2 (1969): 127–128.

[ back ] 81. Reinhardt, Studium Generale 4 (1951): 339 = Tradition und Geist 15; Griffin 1977:42 and 46 = 2001:372 and 380.

[ back ] 82. Dirlmeier 1954:152–153 = pp. 49–50. M. Delcourt, “Tydée et Mélanippe,” Studi e Materiali di Storia delle Religioni 37 (1966): 139–188; cf. Vicaire (as cited below page 90), p. 7n5.

[ back ] 83. It may well be—as suggested by J. G. Frazer, Loeb Apollodorus 1.369n4 and 2.70–71n2; also The Golden Bough: Spirits of the Corn and of the Wild (London 1912) 138–168 (the same idea in, for instance, Radermacher, Mythos und Sage bei den Griechen [Leipzig 1939] 37; D. S. Robertson, “The Food of Achilles,” Classical Review 54 [1940]: 178; Griffin, Homer on Life and Death 20; Vicaire [as cited below page 90], 7–8n5; contra Wilamowitz, Glaube der Hellenen 1.287n3)—that Tydeus’ act was originally connected with the primitive belief that eating raw flesh transfers to the eater the qualities of the eaten. But in the story as it now stands this motivation is impossible, and a new psychological twist is given to the motif. Compare Homer’s revision of the significance of burned clothing and human sacrifice in Iliad XXII 508, XXIII 22 (cf. Griffin as cited, 3 and n7: “psychological motives replace superstition”).

[ back ] 84. “The Rosi Crater” (no longer extant): LIMC VIII.1 s.v.“Tydeus” F17 (Beazley fig. 1); a fragmentary bell-krater in New York: 12.229.14: LIMC F17a (Beazley fig. 2): full descriptions and discussion in Beazley.

[ back ] 85. Cab. Méd. 1289: cf. I. Mayer-Prokop, Die Gravierten etruskischen Griffspiegel (Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, Römische Abteilung, Ergänzungsheft 13 [1967]) 70–72 and plate 15: the interpretation is Beazley’s (p. 7) followed by e.g. Mayer–Prokop, Krauskopf 45, Small 158: Tydeus himself is not shown.

[ back ] 86. LIMC VIII.1 s.v. “Tydeus” D.f. 16: cf. Krauskopf p. 144 and plate 17; Small 159–160; T. Dohrn, Die etruskische Kunst im Zeitalter der griechischen Klassik (Mainz 1982) 24.

[ back ] 87. Volterra: inv. 370: Small, cat. 87, plate 39a; inv. 436: Small, cat. 89, plate 40a. Florence: inv. 78483: Small, cat. 90, plate 40b. For a full description of their appearance and contents see Small 67–76.

[ back ] 88. Cf. J. Th. Kakridis, “ΤΙϴΩΝΟΣ,” Wiener Studien 48 (1930): 36–37.

[ back ] 89. The same line is taken by Rzach (1922:2370.35–38), Malten (as cited page 86 below, 201), etc.

[ back ] 90. That they are cited only for this detail is suggested by Jacoby on Ar(i)aethus of Tegea FGrHist 316 F5 (3b text p. 70).

[ back ] 91. See in particular Bethe 1891:89n17; Wilamowitz 1891:225 = 60n1 and “Excurse zum Oedipus des Sophokles,” Hermes 34 (1899): 71 and n1 = Kleine Schriften 6.224 and n1; Pindaros (Berlin 1922) 40n2; Glaube der Hellenen 1.393.

[ back ] 92. Which Wilamowitz (Glaube der Hellenen 1.399) took as a reference to the Thebais (see too Malten p. 203 etc.). The mythological exemplum is of the type discussed by Arnott on Alexis fr. 306 KA and Zagagi, Tradition and Originality in Plautus (Hypomnemata 62 [1980]) 19.

[ back ] 93. For the further significance of Argos (Ἄργος ἵππιον in the account of Pindar Isthmian VII 11) as the place to which Arion brings Adrastus see Malten 203. Howald (1939) supposes he originally returned to the appropriate abode for a god of the Underworld.

[ back ] 94. Who points out the actual implausibility of the derivation.

[ back ] 95. Athens, Nat. Mus. 1125 (cc 960): LIMC I.1 s.v. “Amphiaraos” L37; Haspels, Attic Black-Figured Lekythoi, plate 50, fig. 3.

[ back ] 96. Volterra 186: LIMC L41 = Small, cat. 12, plate 7b; see in particular O.-W. von Vacano, “Studien an Volterraner Urnenreliefs,” Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, Römische Abteilung 87 (1960): 57–62, with plate 22.1; full description in Small 19–20.

[ back ] 97. Volterra 185: LIMC L40 = Small, cat. 11, plate 7a; Vacano pp. 62–64, with plate 22.2 (also illustrated in Robert 1915:2.89); full description in Small 18–19; the object is rather fragmentary.

[ back ] 98. Ol. VI 17 = epode 3, where (quite uniquely in Pindaric dactylo-epitrite) we find the repetition d1–d1.

[ back ] 99. In Isyllos von Epidauros (Berlin 1884) 163n4; “Hieron und Pindaros,” Sitzungsberichte der Königlich Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin (1901): 1285n1 = Kleine Schriften 6.247n3; and Pindaros 310n3. In the former book he supposed the Iliadic verse to be modeled on the Thebais; in the latter he reversed the relationship.

[ back ] 100. “Wie matt!” he cries, the very exclamation which Pindar’s narrative at 15–18 evoked from Bethe (1892:96).

[ back ] 101. In Ἀρίσταρχός φησι ὅτι ἰδιάζει καὶ ἐν τούτοις ὁ Πίνδαρος (Σ Pindar Olympian VI 23A [1.158 Dr.]) the scope of the reference is quite uncertain.

[ back ] 102. Some of Bethe’s argumentation takes strict logic to such absurd extremes—Pindar’s Adrastus (see above) should have noted Amphiaraus’ absence earlier, Pindar should not allow Amphiaraus to be called στρατιᾶς ὀφθαλμὸν ἐμᾶς when that army no longer exists (1891:96n30)—that one is glad to see such logic used against Bethe himself in P. Corssen’s protest (Die Antigone des Sophokles [Berlin 1898] 26) that the fleeing Adrastus would have no time or inclination to deliver even “eine kleine Lobrede.”

[ back ] 103. F. Legras, Les légendes thébaines dans l’epopée et la tragédie grecque (Paris 1905) 80–82, followed by Severyns (1928:222), thought the motif of prevented burial originated in the Epigoni or Alcmaeonis to explain the need for a second expedition.

[ back ] 104. This does not entail that the actual phrase Ἄδρηστον μειλιχόγηρυν vel sim. should be excogitated as a fragment of the Thebais from Plato Phaedrus 269A 5 and Tyrtaeus fr. 12.8 W (γλῶσσαν δ’ Ἀδρήστου μειλιχόγηρυν), as advocated by Merkelbach, Kritische Beiträge zu antiken Autoren (Beiträge zur Klassischen Philologie 47 [1974]) 2–3, followed by Burkert (1981:29 = 2001:150n4) and (West 2003:41). See my remarks in “Poetry in Plato: A New Epic Fragment?,” Museum Helveticum 37 (1980): 131–132.

[ back ] 105. 23D (1.159 Dr.): seven pyres for the seven divisions of the army (so e.g. Barrett, Euripides Hippolytus, p. 367; Braswell on Pindar Nemean IX 24; contra Stoneman 1981:50n38, Fowler 2013:413–414).

[ back ] 106. This is the passage where Tydeus kills Ismene ἐπὶ κρήνης καὶ ἀπ’ αὐτῆς ἡ κρήνη Ἰσμήνη καλεῖται. Welcker (1865:2.357) derived this version from the Thebais; Bethe (1892:166) from the Oedipodeia.

[ back ] 107. As it is by Wecklein (1901:676), Wilamowitz (1914:93), etc.

[ back ] 108. Louvre E 640: LIMC V.1 s.v. “Ismene” C3 (p. 797); cf. R. Hampe, “Tydeus und Ismene,” Antike Kunst 18 (1975): 11 with plate 1.5; Small 93–94; R. Wachter, Non–Attic Greek Vase Inscriptions (Oxford 2001) 299. All the figures are labeled.

[ back ] 109. The emendation goes unrecorded in the editions of West and Gentili–Prato.

[ back ] 110. Inv. 1970.9: his plate 1.2; LIMC V.1 s.v. “Tydeus” C5 (p. 797).

[ back ] 111. For the general ban on burial of the Argive dead as Attic in origin see page 94 above.

[ back ] 112. He acknowledges the reference to this passage in Bruhn’s tenth edition (1904) of Sophocles’ Antigone. The passage is also interpreted as pre-Sophoclean and potentially epic in origin by Drach-mann (“Zur Composition der Sophokleischen Antigone,” Hermes 43 [1908]: 70–76).

[ back ] 113. Sic coni. Lloyd-Jones p. 96n2; αὐτ’ (i.e. the compendium) Κ, αὐτήν A, αὐτοῦ Wilamowitz 1914:91.

[ back ] 114. Note, however, that the question can be unexpectedly complicated from our point of view. Thus Robert (1915:1.181), though decidedly of the opinion that most of the end of the drama has been interpolated, took the anapaests at verses 861–874 for genuine, and was therefore impressed by the way in which they presuppose in the audience knowledge about the sisters. Cf. A. L. Brown, “The End of the Seven Against Thebes,” Classical Quarterly 26 (1976): 207n6. A treatment of Antigone’s fate was assumed for the Thebais by Wecklein (1901:676), as previously by Boeckh (in his translation of the Antigone [10 p. 146]). Lloyd-Jones (“The End of the Seven Against Thebes,” Classical Quarterly 9 [1959]: 98–99) once argued that Pausanias IX 25.2 and Philostratus Imagines II 29 preserve the Thebais’s account of how Antigone buried her brother.