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.
One of the issues shadowing this book throughout—and one with which we have sparred constantly—is the how; that is, how the complex associations between poems of different traditions (and within the same tradition) originated; how the Iliad and Odyssey came to be the only heroic epic poems left standing; and how, in turn, the Theban epics were lost to time. This question is all the more pressing, when so many resonant cases of engagement may be identified between the poems that we have—the Iliad and the Odyssey—and the stories, motifs, and structures we believe were in those that we have lost.
A Theban Revenge?
This evidence is interesting, for it not only represents a literal Theban appropriation of a Homeric hero, as the bones of Hektor are dug up and reburied in Thebes; it also relies on a detailed understanding of the Iliad in which Boiotian Thebes is conspicuous by its absence—and all the more so when, as we saw in the previous chapter, the Catalogue of Ships circles around Thebes but studiously avoids naming the city. The familiar trope of an oracular proclamation as a response to some crisis also invites the reader to ponder the cause and effect: here, the implication seems to be that the Greeks are suffering from famine because of their assault on Troy, as if it hadn’t enjoyed the full support of the gods after all. Again such an explanation both corrects the Iliad (where Zeus oversees the fall of Troy) and draws on it for its legitimacy (where Apollo, indeed, favors the Trojans and is represented largely acting against the Achaeans). Using the Iliad against itself, then, this account finds in favor of Thebes, the one (mainland) Greek city not to have joined in the (now) discredited expedition against Troy.
αἴ κ᾿ ἐθέλητε πάτραν οἰκεῖν σὺν ἀμύμονι πλούτῳ,
Ἕκτορος ὀστέα Πριαμίδου κομίσαντες ἐς οἴκους
ἐξ Ἀσίης Διὸς ἐννεσίῃσ’ ἥρωα σέβεσθαι.
τῇ δὲ Οἰδιποδίᾳ κρήνῃ τὸ ὄνομα ἐγένετο ὅτι ἐς αὐτὴν τὸ αἷμα ἐνίψατο Οἰδίπους τοῦ πατρῴου φόνου.
If you want to live in a country with blameless wealth
Bring the bones of Hektor, Priam’s son, home
From Asia to be honored as a hero at Zeus’ urging.
The spring was named after Oedipus because Oedipus washed off the blood from his father’s murder into it.
There is some debate about whether or not there was an actual cult practice centered around Hektor’s bones in Thebes and, if there was, when it actually began.  For our purposes what it represents is a continuation of some of the same real-world struggles and tensions that helped to shape the Homeric poems. However secure (or not) these texts are as witnesses to an ancient tradition, they reflects an ongoing understanding of the absence of Thebes in the Trojan War narrative, a reflection of the importance of Thebes right up to and beyond the composition and institutionalization of the Homeric poems, and, despite the city’s absence in the extant heroic epic corpus, an indelible connection between the two chief cities of ancient Greek myth.