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Royal House of Thebes. TRAGEDY!. Europa. Phoenician Who else was Phoenician? *Hint: Carthage*. Europa. Phoenician Who else was a Phoenician? Dido Seduced by Zeus, who was in the form of a white bull. Titian (1562 AD). Rembrandt (1632). Frescoe in Pompeii (covered in 79 AD).

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Royal House of Thebes

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Royal house of thebes

Royal House of Thebes




  • Phoenician

    • Who else was Phoenician? *Hint: Carthage*



  • Phoenician

    • Who else was a Phoenician?

      • Dido

  • Seduced by Zeus, who was in the form of a white bull

Titian 1562 ad

Titian (1562 AD)

Rembrandt 1632

Rembrandt (1632)

Frescoe in pompeii covered in 79 ad

Frescoe in Pompeii (covered in 79 AD)

Teracotta figurine from athens ca 480 b c

Teracotta figurine from Athens, ca. 480 B.C.



  • Phoenician

    • Who else was a Phoenician?

      • Dido

  • Seduced by Zeus, who was in the form of a white bull

  • Her brothers ordered not to return until they found her

    • Cadmus, Cilix, Phoenix

  • Hopeless quest, she never could be found because she was on Crete!

Europa on crete

Europa on Crete

  • Europa landed on Crete and gave birth to Zeus’ children

    • Minos, Sarpedon, Rhadamanthys

      • Sarpedon founded the kingdom Lycia (not the Sarpedon who fought in the Trojan War)

      • Minos  Minoans, ancient civilization on Crete

      • Minos = Pasiphea, Pasiphea  Minotaur whom Theseus killed

      • Minos and Rhadamanthys become 2 of the 3 judges in the underworld

        • 3rd was Aeacus



  • Civilization named by Sir Arthur Evans in 1900

  • Google it, really interesting, but essential info

    • Minoans as early as 2600, lasted until 1150 BC

    • Significant trade routes – had contact with Egypt and Asia

    • Height of the Minoans – 1900-1400 BC

      • Even the lower class people had houses modeled on the palaces

    • Weakened by an earthquake or a volcano disaster

    • Eventually taken over and absorbed into “Hellenic” Culture

Palace of knossos today

Palace of Knossos today

Minoan palace

Minoan Palace

Fresco ca 1400 bc

Fresco, ca. 1400 BC

Ladies in blue fresco

Ladies in Blue Fresco



  • Consulted oracle at Delphi

  • Told to follow a cow until it lay down

    • Yes, lay is the past tense of lie, an intransitive verb

  • Where it lay down, he was to found a city

    • Thebes!! Eventually, for now Cadmeia



  • Consulted oracle at Delphi

  • Told to follow a cow until it lies down

  • Where it lay down, he was to found a city

    • Thebes!! Eventually, for now Cadmeia

  • Men killed by dragon, Cadmus killed Dragon, Athena advised

    • Dragon teeth  Spartoi!

    • Cadmus threw a stone in the middle of them

    • Spartoi thought one of them had attacked

    • Fought until only 5 left – helped build Thebes

  • Ares mad because Cadmus killed sacred Dragon

Cadmus fighting the dragon side a of a black figured amphora from euboea ca 560 550 bc

Cadmus fighting the dragon. Side A of a black-figured amphora from Euboea, ca. 560–550 BC



  • Married Harmonia, daughter of Ares and Aphrodite

  • Wedding gift from Aphrodite/Hephaestus – necklace of Harmonia, made by Hephaestus

    • Why is this weird?

    • Cursed to bring disaster to any who wore it BUT also gives the wearer everlasting youth and beauty

    • Later used as a bribe to start a war against Thebes (more on that later)

  • Cadmus and Harmonia – four daughters, one son

    • Ino, Semele, Autonoe, Agave

    • Polydorus

  • Cadmus and Harmonia turned into serpents

  • All the children ill-fated

Semele opera by handel 1744

Semele - Opera by Handel (1744)



  • Semele catches Zeus’ eye

  • She gets pregnant

  • Hera (in disguise) convinces her to ask Zeus to see him in all his true glory, or his real godly form

  • Zeus promises her by the river Styx anything she asks of him before she asks her question (rash boon)



  • Semele vaporized

  • Zeus rescues Dionysus (Twice Born)

    • Sews him into his thigh

    • Raised first by Aunt Ino and her husband Athamas

    • Then by nymphs

Birth of dionysus italian vase ca 405 385 bc

Birth of Dionysus, Italian Vase, ca. 405-385 BC

Royal house of thebes


  • Married Athamas

    • Athamas married to Nephele, but he got tired of her, so he married Ino

  • Athamas sent messengers to Delphi to ask why famine

    • Ino intercepted the messengers on the way back, lied to Athamas, said Oracle commanded the sacrifice of Phrixus, son by Nephele

      • This way, one of her sons would be the king instead

Helle and phrixus

Helle and Phrixus

  • Athamas was about to sacrifice Phrixus when a golden ram appeared

  • Golden ram took Phrixus and sister Helle on its back and flew away

  • Helle fell off Hellespont

  • Phrixus ended up in Colchis, across the Black Sea

    • Sacrificed the Ram to Zeus to show appreciation

    • Gave the Golden Fleece to Aeetes, king of Aea

      • Jason and the Argonauts

Mirror from a tomb at vetralla imperial period

Mirror, From a tomb at Vetralla, Imperial period

Mosaic in naples site was in german

Mosaic in Naples (?)site was in German . . .

Back to ino

Back to Ino

  • Athamas first wife, Nephele complained to Hera about Athamas taking a second wife

  • OR

  • Ino helped raise Dionysus, making the Jealous Hera furious

  • Two versions of the results

First ino version

First Ino version

  • Hera drove Athamas mad

    • Athamas killed one son (Learchus) with an arrow and then came after the other son (Melicertes)

    • Ino grabbed M, ran until they came to a cliff and jumped into the water below

    • She drowned, but because she helped raise Dionysus, Zeus turned her into a sea diety (Leucotha) and her son into a sea diety (Palaemon)

John flaxmann 1755 1826 the fury of athamas

John Flaxmann (1755-1826)“The Fury of Athamas”

Second ino version

Second Ino Version

  • Athamas and Ino both went mad

    • Athamas kills L.

    • Ino boils M. in a cauldron and jumps into the river holding the cauldron in her arms

  • No matter what version, the boys and the mother die

  • Athamas fled from Boetia (area around Thebes)



  • Mother of Actaeon

  • Actaeon

    • Out hunting

    • Stumbled upon Artemis while she was bathing

    • Maiden Goddess upset he saw her naked in her secret bathing place





  • Mother of Actaeon

  • Actaeon

    • Out hunting

    • Stumbled upon Artemis while she was bathing

    • Maiden Goddess upset he saw her naked in her secret bathing place

    • Turned him into a stag

    • Set his own dogs loose on him

Royal house of thebes

The Fountain of Diana and Actaeon (sculptures by Paolo Persico, Brunelli, Pietro Solari) – at the Palace of Caserta near Naples, 18th century



  • Married to one of the Spartoi (Serpent teeth man), had son Pentheus

  • Pentheus

    • Refused to accept cousin Dionysus as a god and did not allow him to have his center of worship in Thebes



  • Agave was a Maenad – female follower of Dionysus

    • Mistook Pentheus for a wild animal in the forest (Dionysus made them all crazy)

    • Ripped him to pieces

Pottery ca 480 bc

Pottery, ca. 480 BC

Fresco in pompeii

Fresco in Pompeii

Amphion and zethus

Amphion and Zethus

  • Twin sons of Zeus and Antiope

    • Zeus seduced her in the form of a satyr

  • Antiope’s Uncle Lycus – regent of Thebes (first to Labdacus, then to Labdacus’ son, Laius)

  • Lycus ordered his great nephews to be exposed

    • They were discovered and raised by a cowherd

  • Gave Antiope to wife, Dirce, who treated her very cruelly

Amphion and zethus1

Amphion and Zethus

  • Mom Antiope escaped wicked Aunt Dirce and found her two sons

  • Amphion and Zethus returned to Thebes

    • Killed Dirce

      • Had her tied to the horns of a bull

    • Forced Lycus out of Thebes (or they killed him)

      • King Laius was spirited away

    • Became co-rulers

  • City finally named “Thebes” after Zethus’ wife, Thebe

Fresco in the house of vetii in pompeii

Fresco in the house of Vetii in Pompeii

Amphion and zethus2

Amphion and Zethus

  • Built the walls of Thebes with 7 gates

    • Zethus very strong – he carried the rocks

    • Amphion very talented musician – got the rocks to follow him as he played his lyre

  • Amphion married Niobe

    • Had 7 daughters and 7 sons,

      • Niobe boasted she was a better than Leto, the mother of Apollo and Artemis, because she had more children

      • Apollo and Artemis killed all or most of the children

Jacque louis david 1772 neoclassical

Jacque Louis David – 1772 - Neoclassical

Hellenistic statue in the uffizi

Hellenistic Statue – in the Uffizi

Niobe being turned to stone vase 4 th century b c

Niobe being turned to stone – vase, 4th century B.C.



  • Amphion and Zethus died of old age, Laius returned and became king of Thebes

  • Laius married Jocasta

  • Prophecy that Laius’ son would kill him and have children with his own mother, Jocasta



  • Laius ordered newborn son to be exposed

  • Infant discovered by a shepherd OR shepherd didn’t have heart to leave the child to die

    • Shepherd gave child to Queen of Corinth, wife of Polybus, who raised child as their own

    • Oedipus = swollen foot



  • Learned from Delphi prophecy that he would kill his father and marry his mother

  • Thought Polybus, king of Corinth, was his father, so he left to avoid the prophecy

  • Oedipus met an old man in the road

    • Old man attacked Oedipus

    • Oedipus killed the old man and all but one of his 5 guards

Oedipus and the sphinx

Oedipus and the Sphinx

  • Sphinx had been killing travelers who couldn’t answer her riddle

    • What walks on 4 legs in the morning, 2 legs in the afternoon, and 3 legs at night?

  • Oedipus answered correctly: Man

    • because as infant would crawl on it hands and feet (4); in most of his life, he would walk on two legs; but when he was old, he would have to rely on a walking stick (3)

  • The Sphinx drowned herself

Amphora 450 440 b c

Amphora, 450-440 B.C.



  • Creon married Oedipus to Jocasta and gave him the kingship as a reward

    • Oedipus had just unknowingly married his mother

  • Oedipus ruled happily with Jocasta until their sons were grown

    • Had 4 kids – Polyneices, Eteocles, Ismene, Antigone

  • Then Thebes was struck with a plague that led to a famine . . . Things were bad



  • Sends Creon to Delphi

    • Oracle said murderer of Laius must be punished

  • Teiresias

    • Blind prophet

    • Reveals that Oedipus had killed Laius

  • Oedipus refuses to believe and investigates further



  • Messenger comes to Thebes to announce that Polybus, king of Corinth, has died

    • Oedipus believes he has beaten the prophecy

    • Messenger reveals Oedipus was adopted!

  • Jocasta puts together the truth and slips away

  • Oedipus learns from the old shepherd that Laius was his father and Jocasta his mother



  • Oedipus goes to find his mother/wife

  • Finds she has committed suicide

    • She stabbed herself

  • Oedipus puts out his own eyes

    • Doesn’t want to see the shame in his new world

  • Oedipus goes into exile

    • His daughter Antigone went with him

    • Both daughters present when he died (antigone and Ismene)

Seven against thebes

Seven Against Thebes

  • While Oedipus was in exile, sons Eteocles and Polyneices were to alternate years as rulers

  • However, Eteocles refused to give up the throne when Polyneices returned to Thebes for his turn and banished his brother from Thebes

  • Polyneices went to Argos to appeal to king Adrastus for help

Seven against thebes1

Seven Against Thebes

  • Adrastus married Polynices and Tydeus to his daughters and promised to restore them to their kingdomes

    • Tydeus had been exiled from his own kingdom as well

  • Amphiaraus

    • One of the argonauts

    • Married to Adrastus’ sister, Eriphyle

    • As a seer, knew the war against Thebes would fail

    • Did not want to go to war with Adrastus

Seven against thebes2

Seven Against Thebes

  • Amphiaraus and Adrastus

    • Had an arrangement that any disagreement would be settled by Adrastus’ sister and Amphiaraus’ wife, Eriphyle

    • Polyneices bribed Eriphyle with the Necklace of Harmonia, starting the war of the Seven Against Thebes

Seven against thebes3

Seven Against Thebes

  • Adrastus

    • only survivor of the Argives

  • Amphiaraus

    • earth swallowed him alive because Zeus felt bad for his favorite seer

  • Capaneus

    • first to reach the top of the walls,

    • boasted not even Zeus could stop him,

    • struck down with lightning

Royal house of thebes

Capaneus scales the city walls to overthrow King Creon who looks down from the battlements. Campanian red-figure neck-amphora, ca. 340 BC

Seven against thebes4

Seven Against Thebes

  • Hippomedon

    • father of Polydorus

  •  Parthenopaeus

    • son of Hippomenes and Atalanta

  •  Polynices

    • killed by his brother, whom he also killed

    • Not always considered one of the Seven

  •  Tydeus

    • Fatally wounded

    • Athena about to save him, but he ate his enemy’s (Melanippus) brains, so she let him die

Seven against thebes5

Seven Against Thebes

  • In order for Thebes to be successful, Creon’s son Menoeceus had to die in battle

    • He snuck out to join the war

    • Thebes won

  • Because both brothers were dead, Creon became ruler of Thebes

  • Adrastus escaped to Athens

    • More on that later



  • Theseus had made sure that Antigone and Ismene made it home to Thebes safely

  • Waited in Thebes during the war to see which brother would win

  • Neither won, both died, so Creon became ruler

  • Polyneices and the others who died fighting against Thebes were to be left as bird food by decree of Creon

    • Anyone who defied his ruling would be punished with death



  • Ismene refused to go against Creon’s orders

  • Antigone snuck out and performed burial rites for Polyneices

  • Antigone got caught by the guards

    • Ismene tried to share the blame, but Antigone wouldn’t let her

  • Creon punishes Antigone by entombing her in a cave

Antigone in front of the dead polynices nikoforos lytras 1865

Antigone in front of the dead Polynices – Nikoforos Lytras - 1865

Antigone at her brother s grave red figure 4th century bc mus e du louvre paris

Antigone at her Brother's GraveRed Figure, 4th century BCMusáe du Louvre, Paris



  • Her fiance, Creon’s son Haemon, went to rescue her, but she had already hung herself

  • Creon also came to let her out, Haemon tried to kill him, failed and then killed himself in front of his father

  • Creon’s wife, Eurydice, killed herself out of grief of losing all 3 of her children

  • Creon’s pride killed his niece and destroyed his own family

Back to adrastus

Back to Adrastus

  • The remaining generals still were not buried

  • Adrastus appealed to Theseus

  • Theseus at first refused to help

    • His mother reasoned with him

  • Theseus agreed

    • Marched on Thebes

    • Defeated Thebes

    • Did not sack the city, simply demanded the dead receive their proper burials



  • The sons were not happy that the Thebans were not being punished for the dishonor to their fathers

    • They swore vengeance on the Thebans by some day conquering Thebes

  • Epigoni – Greek for after born

  • Attacked Thebes 10 years after their fathers’ deaths



  • Aegialeus, son of Adrastus - irony-the only one to die, son of the only one to have survived the first siege.

  • Thersandros, son of Polynices

  • Alcmaeon, son of Amphiareus

  • Diomedes, son of Tydeus

  • Polydorus, son of Hippomedon

  • Sthenelos, son of Capaneus

  • Promachus, son of Parthenopaeus



  • Aegialeus died

    • Adrastus died of grief, fulfilling a prophecy that until all the Seven Against Thebes were dead, the Epigoni could not win

  • The Epigoni conquered Thebes

    • Most of the Thebans fled to Ilyria

  • Thersander, son of Polyneices, became the king of Thebes

The end

The End

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