Seven Against Thebes

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Seven Against Thebes

Image:The Oath Of The Seven Chiefs - Project Gutenberg eText 14994.png

Written by Aeschylus
Chorus Theban Women
Characters Eteocles
Setting Citadel of Thebes
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Seven Against Thebes is a play by Aeschylus concerning the battle between Eteocles and the army of Thebes and Polynices and his supporters, traditional Theban enemies. This same story is told in a later play by Euripides called the Phoenician Women.

When Oedipus stepped down as King of Thebes, he gave the kingdom to his two sons, Eteocles and Polynices, who agreed to alternate the throne every year. After the first year, Eteocles refused to step down and Polynices attacked Thebes with his supporters (the eponymous seven against Thebes). Both brothers killed each other in single combat. Their maternal uncle, King Creon, who ascended to the throne of Thebes, decreed that Polynices, "who came back from exile, and sought to consume utterly with fire the city of his fathers," is not to be buried: "touching this man, it hath been proclaimed to our people that none shall grace him with sepulture or lament, but leave him unburied, a corpse for birds and dogs to eat, a ghastly sight of shame."

Due to the popularity of Sophocles's Antigone, the ending of Seven Against Thebes was rewritten about 50 years after Aeschylus's death.<ref>Aeschylus. "Prometheus Bound, The Suppliants, Seven Against Thebes, The Persians." Philip Vellacott's Introduction, pp.7-19. Penguin Classics. </ref> Where the play (and the trilogy of which it is the last volume) was meant to end with somber mourning for the dead brothers, it instead contains the ending as follows:

Antigone, their sister, defied the order, (explaining that "I owe a longer allegiance to the dead than to the living: in that world I shall abide for ever") but was caught. Creon decreed that she was to be buried alive, even though she was betrothed to his son, Haemon. He declares "'Tis Death that shall stay these bridals for me." The gods, through the blind prophet Tiresias, expressed their disapproval of Creon's decision ("one begotten of thine own loins shall have been given by thee, a corpse for corpses; because thou hast thrust children of the sunlight to the shades, and ruthlessly lodged a living soul in the grave"), which convinced him to rescind his order, and he went to bury Polynices. However, Antigone had already hanged herself rather than be buried alive. When Creon arrived at the tomb where she was to be interred, his son, Haemon, attacked him and then killed himself. When Creon's wife, Eurydice, was informed of their death she, too, took her own life.

Also during this battle, Capaneus was killed by a lightning bolt from Zeus as punishment for his arrogance. His wife, Evadne, threw herself on his funeral pyre. Also, Megareus killed himself because Tiresias prophesied that a voluntarily death from a Theban would save Thebes.

Image:Eteocles and Polynices - Project Gutenberg eText 14994.png
Eteocles and Polynices being carried away, dead, after the Battle of Thebes, by Alfred Church

The Seven Against Thebes were

  1. Adrastus
  2. Amphiaraus
  3. Capaneus
  4. Hippomedon
  5. Parthenopeus
  6. Polynices
  7. Tydeus


  1. Eteoclus and Mecisteus. Some sources, however, state that Eteoclus and Mecisteus were in fact two of the seven, and that Tydeus and Polynices were allies. This is due to the fact that both Tydeus and Polynices were foreigners. However, Polyneices was the cause of the entire conflict, and Tydeus performed acts of valour far surpassing Eteoclus and Mecisteus. Either way, all nine men were present (and killed) in the battle, save Adrastus.

The defenders of Thebes included

  1. Creon
  2. Megareus
  3. Poriclymenus
  4. Melanippus
  5. Polyphontes
  6. Hyperbius
  7. Actor
  8. Lasthenes

See also Epigoni

[edit] References


[edit] Translations

  • A. S. Way, 1906 - verse
  • E. D. A. Morshead, 1908 - verse: full text
  • G. M. Cookson, 1922 - verse
  • Herbert Weir Smyth, 1922 - prose: full text
  • David Grene, 1956 - verse
  • Philip Vellacott, 1961 - verse
Image:Aischylos Büste.jpg Plays by Aeschylus
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Seven Against Thebes

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