Barker, Elton T. E., and Joel P. Christensen. 2019. Homer's Thebes: Epic Rivalries and the Appropriation of Mythical Pasts. Hellenic Studies Series 84. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_BarkerE_ChristensenJ.Homers_Thebes.2019.
5. Theban Palimpsests 
Ἔρις ἔριν τίκτουσα προσμνᾶται λόγον.
This proverb on strife, preserved in both the Suda and the Mantissa Proverbiorum, is unusually cryptic for a maxim. The verb προσμνᾶται is not attested anywhere else but clearly relies on a metaphor of wooing;  logos can be translated in any number of ways, but here probably means something along the lines of “reason”;  both texts gloss the proverb as applying “to those who chatter on because of friendship” (ἐπὶ τῶν ἐκ φιλίας ἀδολεσχούντων). The language, if we understand it correctly, is deeply ambiguous, implying, it seems, that strife pursues or tries to win over reason, like a persistent suitor. The difficult point may just be that conflict in multiple forms is always in the process of inviting or courting argumentation and reason to challenge or support it, or otherwise reflect upon it in some way.
Enabling Strife, Founding Politics
οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρίʼ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγεʼ ἔθηκε,
πολλὰς δʼ ἰφθίμους ψυχὰς Ἄϊδι προΐαψεν
ἡρώων, αὐτοὺς δὲ ἑλώρια τεῦχε κύνεσσιν
οἰωνοῖσί τε πᾶσι, Διὸς δʼ ἐτελείετο βουλή,
ἐξ οὗ δὴ τὰ πρῶτα διαστήτην ἐρίσαντε
Ἀτρεΐδης τε ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν καὶ δῖος Ἀχιλλεύς.
τίς τʼ ἄρ σφωε θεῶν ἔριδι ξυνέηκε μάχεσθαι;
Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus’ son Achilles,
The ruinous rage which made endless griefs for the Achaeans
And sent many stout souls of heroes to Hades
As it made their bodies into food for the dogs
And all the birds. And Zeus’ plan was being accomplished.
Start from when those two men first stood apart in strife
Atreus’ son, lord of men, and shining Achilles.
Which god sent them together to fight in strife?
The notes of this proem chime with themes that we have heard in Hesiod and were likely activated by poems of the Theban tradition. The reference to heroes immediately locates the Iliad in a heroic epic cosmos, tasked with addressing (at its core) the death of the race of the demi-gods; the formulaic half-hexameter line, “and the will of Zeus was being accomplished,” provides an assurance that the plot will unfold according to the plan of Zeus which, along with the invocation to the Muse, gives an authoritative backing to this version of events.  Within this frame, the narrator traces a direct line from the first word “wrath” to the headline of strife at the proem’s end, from which point the tale will begin (“from when those two men first stood apart in strife,” ἐξ οὗ δὴ τὰ πρῶτα διαστήτην ἐρίσαντε, 6) and the question of divine agency which marks the beginning of the narrative proper (τίς τάρ σφωε θεῶν ἔριδι ξυνέηκε μάχεσθαι, 8). It is in the unveiling of what this strife entails that the Iliad immediately issues a challenge to its own tradition: Achilles’ wrath sends the spirits of his own people to Hades; it is his strife with Agamemnon, “lord of men,” that is under scrutiny, not (so much) the conflict with the Trojans. This provocative turn inwards, a Theban kind of strife, questions and threatens the very constitution of Achaean epic society.
τῇ δεκάτῃ δ᾽ ἀγορὴν δὲ καλέσσατο λαὸν Ἀχιλλεύς.
τῷ γὰρ ἐπὶ φρεσὶ θῆκε θεὰ λευκώλενος Ἥρη.
κήδετο γὰρ Δαναῶν, ὅτι ῥα θνήσκοντας ὁρᾶτο.
οἳ δ᾽ ἐπεὶ οὖν ἤγερθεν ὁμηγερέες τε γένοντο,
τοῖσι δ᾽ ἀνιστάμενος μετέφη πόδας ὠκὺς Ἀχιλλεύς.
For nine days the deadly barbs of the god rained down on the army,
And on the tenth Achilles called the people to assembly.
For the white-armed goddess Hera put it into his mind:
Her heart went out to the Danaans, as she saw them dying.
When they had gathered and were all gathered together,
Then swift-footed Achilles stood up and spoke to them.
In our Introduction we analyzed the resonance of the phrase “swift-footed Achilles” and argued that this first example sets the tone for the rest of the epic in that the Iliad depicts an Achilles who, for the most part, is paradoxically motionless (literally) and immovable (figuratively). Here, the “misuse” of the epithet, applied to his act of having risen to his feet to speak, places emphasis on the precise nature of his immobility: that is to say, his gathering of the people to assembly. As Johannes Haubold (2000:33) has argued, “One of the basic facts of social life in early Greek hexameter poetry is that the people [laoi] need to be ‘gathered’. They do not assemble regularly or of their own accord.” This event is further emphasized by the doublet ἤγερθεν ὁμηγερέες τε γένοντο. (To bring out the redundancy we ungracefully translate this as “they had gathered and were all gathered together.”)
ἣ θέμις ἐστὶν ἄναξ ἀγορῇ: σὺ δὲ μή τι χολωθῇς.”
“Son of Atreus, with you I’ll fight first in your foolishness:
It’s the custom, lord, in the assembly. And you, don’t get angry.”
Applying the phrase “it is the custom” prescriptively to authorize his capacity to speak in opposition to Agamemnon, Diomedes institutionalizes the assembly as a place where disagreement is allowed.  Furthermore, by making the conflict with words in the assembly critical for its own narrative fulfillment, in the assembly of Book 9, the Iliad puts a political stamp on the epic theme of strife. Like the Theban epics discussed above, the action of the Iliad is motivated in part by a disagreement over distribution of common goods. Where the Theban epics turn a domestic (intrafamilial) conflict into an international one, the Iliad reversions the Trojan tale and reverses this movement, by transforming it from an international conflict into a domestic one that focuses on internal conflict, and promotes its own value as a foundational narrative for political institutions and action.
ὠρώρει, δύο δ’ ἄνδρες ἐνείκεον εἵνεκα ποινῆς
ἀνδρὸς ἀποφθιμένου· ὃ μὲν εὔχετο πάντ’ ἀποδοῦναι
δήμῳ πιφαύσκων, ὃ δ’ ἀναίνετο μηδὲν ἑλέσθαι·
ἄμφω δ’ ἱέσθην ἐπὶ ἴστορι πεῖραρ ἑλέσθαι.
λαοὶ δ’ ἀμφοτέροισιν ἐπήπυον ἀμφὶς ἀρωγοί·
κήρυκες δ’ ἄρα λαὸν ἐρήτυον· οἳ δὲ γέροντες
εἵατ’ ἐπὶ ξεστοῖσι λίθοις ἱερῷ ἐνὶ κύκλῳ,
σκῆπτρα δὲ κηρύκων ἐν χέρσ’ ἔχον ἠεροφώνων·
τοῖσιν ἔπειτ’ ἤϊσσον, ἀμοιβηδὶς δὲ δίκαζον.
κεῖτο δ’ ἄρ’ ἐν μέσσοισι δύω χρυσοῖο τάλαντα,
τῷ δόμεν ὃς μετὰ τοῖσι δίκην ἰθύντατα εἴποι.
The people were gathered in a crowd in the assembly, where a conflict
had arisen: two men were in conflict over the penalty for
a man who had been killed; the first one was promising to repay everything
as he was testifying to the people; but the other was refusing to take anything;
and both men longed for a judge to make a decision.
The people, partisans on either side, applauded.
Then the heralds held the people in check; the elders
sat on smooth stones in a sacred circle
as they held in their hands the scepters of clear-voiced heralds;
each one was leaping to his feet, and they pronounced judgments in turn.
In the middle there were two talents of gold to give
to whoever among them uttered the straightest judgment.
Not only is strife headlined: a conflict had already arisen (νεῖκος / ὠρώρει) and was still unresolved (ἐνείκεον); the scene of two antagonists fighting with words in an assembly clearly recalls the opening neikos of the Iliad. Equally clearly, however, the scene on the shield depicts an institutional framework far more developed than anything represented in the story-world of the Iliad.  Two plaintiffs testify to the people (demos) in the assembly (agora); the people (laos) support either side; an arbitrator (histor) adjudicates; elders pass judgment; prizes are “in the middle,”  ready to be given to the elder who passes the “straightest judgment.” Given this picture of a community working together to resolve strife without a role for named individuals (far less for heroes), this seems to be a far cry from Homer’s world of warring heroes. In fact, the emphasis on communal performance, to the erasure of individual identities, amounts to something of an anti-heroic-epic aesthetic.
Enduring Strife, Surviving Epic
ἴσχεο, παῦε δὲ νεῖκος ὁμοιΐου πτολέμοιο,
μή πώς τοι Κρονίδης κεχολώσεται εὐρύοπα Ζεύς.”
“Divine-born son of Laertes, many-wiles Odysseus,
Hold back, stop the conflict of a like war,
Lest Zeus, the wide-browed son of Kronos, get angry in some way.”
Little more than 60 lines before, Zeus ordained such an ending (24.482–486):
ὅρκια πιστὰ ταμόντες ὁ μὲν βασιλευέτω αἰεί,
ἡμεῖς δ’ αὖ παίδων τε κασιγνήτων τε φόνοιο
ἔκλησιν θέωμεν· τοὶ δ’ ἀλλήλους φιλεόντων
ὡς τὸ πάρος, πλοῦτος δὲ καὶ εἰρήνη ἅλις ἔστω.”
“Since Odysseus has paid back the suitors,
let him be king again for good after they all take faithful oaths.
Let us force a forgetting of that slaughter of children and relatives.
Let all the people be friendly towards each other as they were.
Let wealth and peace be abundant.”
In the very formalization of its closure,  the Odyssey suggests there is never any simple, easy or even final resolution to strife; any judgment to resolve strife inevitably implicates the act of the judgment. At one level this final word on strife (or, more particularly, on the “strife of a like war”) signifies the threat of a conflict that respects no distinctions, a war with one’s own kind, a civil war. It is as if the poem were threatening to take something like a Theban turn, where the very likeness of its combatants—brothers who are sons—is the catalyst for strife.  At this metapoetic level, it also directly recalls Odysseus’ description of the war between the Trojans and Achaeans, which he designates as a “great conflict of a like war” (18.264)—a war that by respecting no age or status distinctions has effectively killed off the race of heroes. Through such an abrupt and explicitly marked endgame, the Odyssey implies that no other Troy story like it should be told, lest, we should not forget, the gods disapprove. By ending strife with a divinely imposed krisis amid the chaos of transgressed institutions, the Odyssey uses the divine judgment as a kind of placeholder for the krisis to come as audiences absorb and respond to the epics’ attempted domestication of eris.
Hesiod’s Domestic Striving
μηδέ σ’ Ἔρις κακόχαρτος ἀπ’ ἔργου θυμὸν ἐρύκοι
νείκε’ ὀπιπεύοντ’ ἀγορῆς ἐπακουὸν ἐόντα.
ὤρη γάρ τ’ ὀλίγη πέλεται νεικέων τ’ ἀγορέων τε
ᾧτινι μὴ βίος ἔνδον ἐπηετανὸς κατάκειται
ὡραῖος, τὸν γαῖα φέρει, Δημήτερος ἀκτήν.
τοῦ κε κορεσσάμενος νείκεα καὶ δῆριν ὀφέλλοις
κτήμασ’ ἐπ’ ἀλλοτρίοις. σοὶ δ’ οὐκέτι δεύτερον ἔσται
ὧδ’ ἔρδειν· ἀλλ’ αὖθι διακρινώμεθα νεῖκος
ἰθείῃσι δίκῃς, αἵ τ’ ἐκ Διός εἰσιν ἄρισται.
ἤδη μὲν γὰρ κλῆρον ἐδασσάμεθ’, ἄλλα τε πολλὰ
ἁρπάζων ἐφόρεις μέγα κυδαίνων βασιλῆας
δωροφάγους, οἳ τήνδε δίκην ἐθέλουσι δικάσσαι.
νήπιοι, οὐδὲ ἴσασιν ὅσῳ πλέον ἥμισυ παντὸς
οὐδ’ ὅσον ἐν μαλάχῃ τε καὶ ἀσφοδέλῳ μέγ’ ὄνειαρ.
O Perses, keep these things in your mind
and don’t let the evil-hearted strife keep your heart from work
while you lurk about observing conflict in the assembly.
For the season of conflicts and assemblies is a short one
for any man whose means of living is not abundantly stocked at home
in time, which the earth produces, Demeter’s grain.
After you have made your fill of that, you can add to the store of conflicts and strife
over another’s possessions. But it will not be possible for you a second time
to act like this. No, let us bring our conflict to a resolution
with straight judgments, which are best from Zeus.
For we have already divided up our inheritance, and you
made off with much besides, glorifying the bribe-swallowing
kings, the men who long have judged this kind of case.
The fools, they do not know how much more half is than everything
Nor how much wealth is in mallow and asphodel.
Many of the critical themes that we have been discussing in this chapter appear in this passage: the problem of evil-hearted strife (κακόχαρτος) and quarrels in the assembly (νείκε’… ἀγορῆς; νεικέων τ’ ἀγορέων τε); the desirability of separating out strife with straight judgements (διακρινώμεθα νεῖκος / ἰθείῃσι δίκῃς); the distribution of allotments (κλῆρον ἐδασσάμεθ’); and the corrupting influence of bribe-swallowing kings (βασιλῆας / δωροφάγους).
The T Scholia credit to Pherecydes the mythographer a genealogy that combines Thebes and Troy. Two otherwise unknown brothers, Eukhênôr and Kleitos, sack Thebes with the Epigonoi and then go on to fight at Troy. There, the “Boasting-Man” (Εὐχήνωρ) is killed by Paris, but his brother, “Mr. Famous” (Κλεῖτος), survives. The pairing and the generational overlay helps to explain why even an early mythographer like Pherecydes found the intersection of the two traditions useful and insightful. The destruction at Thebes was not enough; more perishing was necessary to erase the race of heroes. Troy is not offered to replace Thebes but rather as a supplement to finish the work that was begun.