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Greek Mythology: lecture 5

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  1. Greek Mythology: lecture 5 The Theban Cycle: part 2

  2. The curse takes effect • Eteocles & Polynices agree, then disagree on a settlement: • Divide inheritance between property & kingship (Stesichorus) • Agree to take turns ruling; Eteocles reneges on promise (Eur. Phoen., hinted in Supp., Soph. OC) • Eteocles expelled Polynices (Soph. OC)

  3. The lion & the boar • P comes to Argos & gets into fight with Tydeus. • Oracle told Adrastus to marry daughters to ‘the lion & the boar’. • Promises to restore birthright of sons-in-law – P first. • Amphiaraus foresees disaster – Polynices bribes Eriphyle with necklace of Harmonia to support expedition.

  4. The Seven against Thebes • Number made canonical by Aeschylus (identities vary): • Tydeus, son of Oineus of Calydon. • Capaneus, son of Hipponous of Argos. • Eteoclus, son of Iphis of Argos (Capaneus’ brother-in-law). • Hippomedon, brother/nephew of Adrastus of Argos. • Parthenopaeus, son of Atalanta from Arcadia. • Amphiaraus the seer, brother-in-law of Adrastus of Argos. • Polynices, son of Oedipus of Thebes. • (Adrastus, king of Argos)

  5. Battle & aftermath • Sacrifice of Menoeceus (Eur. Phoen.) • Eteocles & Polynices kill each other • Capaneus struck by lightning, Amphiaraus swallowed by earth, Adrastus escapes • Other bodies left unburied; retrieved by Theseus (Eur. Supp.) • Antigone determines to bury Polynices • And is entombed alive (Soph. Ant.) • And goes into exile with Oedipus (Eur. Phoen.)

  6. The sons of the Seven • The Epigonoi: • Diomedes, son of Tydeus • Sthenelus, son of Capaneus • Polydorus, son of Hippomedon (cf. Pausanias) • Promachus, son of Parthenopaeus • Alcmaeon and Amphilochus, sons of Amphiaraus • Thersander, son of Polynices • Aegialeus, son of Adrastus • Euryalus, son of Mecisteus (cf. Apollodorus)

  7. Male & female • Visible in Bacchae: Pentheus’ relationship with Maenads; gender ambiguity. • Proper conduct of marriage relations: Oedipus; also see Suppliants. Reproduction within closed circuit vs. extreme exogamy. • Balance of power: Eriphyle & Amphiaraus, Antigone & Creon.

  8. Public & private • Male & female can be mapped onto wider framework of state vs. family. • Sphinx episode: brings affairs of home into public realm, continues with Theban plague. • Eteocles & Polynices: needs of polis vs. rights of patrimony. • Antigone: edict of state vs. right/duty towards dead.

  9. Divine & human law • Who is ‘right’ and is ‘right’ an absolute category? • From Bacchae to Antigone, ambivalence between divine command & human law/order. • How would audience have viewed situation/perceived ‘meaning’?