P. 296

Chapter 9, Theseus’ Later Exploits

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Euripides, Phoenissae 1705-07

Oidipous: To die in Athens while wandering.

Antigone: Where? Which Attic city shall receive you?

Oidipous: Holy Kolonos, the house of the horse-god.  (transl. Aaron J. Ivey)  Greek Text

Sophokles, Oidipous at Kolonos 549-68 ff.

Chorus
Look, there comes our lord, Theseus son of Aegeus, [550] at the sound of your voice, to do that for which he was summoned.

Enter Theseus.

Theseus
Through hearing from many in the past about the bloody marring of your sight, I recognized it was you, son of Laius; and now on coming here, through sight I am more fully certain. [555] For your clothing and that heart-rending face alike assure me that it is you. And in all compassion I ask you, ill-fated Oedipus, with what petition to the city and to me have you taken your place here, you and the poor maiden at your side. Declare it. Dire indeed must be the fortune which you tell, [560] for me to stand aloof from it; since I know that I myself also was reared in exile, just as you, and that in foreign lands I wrestled with perils to my life, like no other man. [565] Never, then, would I turn aside from a stranger, such as you are now, or refuse to help in his deliverance. For I know well that I am a man, and that my portion of tomorrow is no greater than yours.  Greek Text

Pausanias, Description of Greece 1.28.7

Within the precincts is a monument to Oedipus, whose bones, after diligent inquiry, I found were brought from Thebes. The account of the death of Oedipus in the drama of Sophocles I am prevented from believing by Homer, who says that after the death of Oedipus Mecisteus came to Thebes and took part in the funeral games.  Greek Text

Homer, Iliad 23.677-80

Euryalos alone stood up against him, a man equal to the gods, the son of lord Mekisteus of Talas’ blood, who once came to Thebes to the tomb of fallen Oidipous. There he defeated all the Kadmeians.  (Transl. Aaron J. Ivey)  Greek Text

Euripides, Hiketides (The Suppliants) 87-99 ff

Theseus and his retinue enter.

Theseus
What is this lamentation that I hear, this beating of the breast, these dirges for the dead, with cries that echo from this shrine? How fluttering fear disquiets me, [90] lest something has happened to my mother, in quest of whom I come, for she has been long absent from home. Ha! what is this? A strange sight challenges my speech: my aged mother sitting at the altar and foreign women with her, who in various note [95] proclaim their woe; from aged eyes the piteous tear is starting to the ground, their hair is shorn, their robes are not the robes of joy. What does it mean, mother? It is for you to make it plain to me, for me to listen; yes, for I expect some strange tidings.  Greek Text

Plutarch, Theseus 29.4-5

He also aided Adrastus in recovering for burial the bodies of those who had fallen before the walls of the Cadmeia, not by mastering the Thebans in battle, as Euripides has it in his tragedy, but by persuading them to a truce; for so most writers say, and Philochorus adds that this was the first truce ever made for recovering the bodies of those slain in battle, [5] although in the accounts of Heracles it is written that Heracles was the first to give back their dead to his enemies. And the graves of the greater part of those who fell before Thebes are shown at Eleutherae, and those of the commanders near Eleusis, and this last burial was a favour which Theseus showed to Adrastus. The account of Euripides in his Suppliants  is disproved by that of Aeschylus in his ‘Eleusinians,’  where Theseus is made to relate the matter as above.  Greek Text

Isokrates, Panathenaikos 168-71

[168] I could not, then, point out a greater service than this, rendered by our ancestors, nor one more generally beneficial to the Hellenes. But I shall, perhaps, be able to show one more particularly related to their conduct of war, and, at the same time, no less admirable and more manifest to all. For who does not himself know or has not heard from the tragic poets at the Dionysia of the misfortunes which befell Adrastus at Thebes, [169] how in his desire to restore to power the son of Oedipus, his own son-in-law, he lost a great number of his Argive soldiers in the battle and saw all of his captains slain, though saving his own life in dishonor, and, when he failed to obtain a truce and was unable to recover the bodies of his dead for burial, he came as a suppliant to Athens, while Theseus still ruled the city, and implored the Athenians not to suffer such men to be deprived of sepulture nor to allow ancient custom and immemorial law to be set at naught—that ordinance which all men respect without fail, not as having been instituted by our human nature, but as having been enjoined by the divine power? [170] When our people heard this plea, they let no time go by but at once dispatched ambassadors to Thebes to advise her people that they be more reverent in their deliberations regarding the recovery of the dead and that they render a decision which would be more lawful than that which they had previously made, and to hint to them also that the Athenians would not countenance their transgression of the common law of all Hellas. [171] Having heard this message, those who were then in authority at Thebes came to a decision which was in harmony neither with the opinion which some people have of them nor with their previous resolution; on the contrary, after both stating the case for themselves in reasonable terms and denouncing those who had invaded their country, they conceded to our city the recovery of the dead.  Greek Text

Pindar, Nemean Odes 9.22-24

After fixing their sweet return on the banks of Ismenos, they fattened the white smoke with bodies. For seven pyres feasted upon young-limbed men.  (Transl. Aaron J. Ivey).  Greek Text

Pausanias, Description of Greece 9.9.5

Some of the Thebans escaped with Laodamas immediately after their defeat; those who remained behind were besieged and taken. About this war an epic poem also was written called the Thebaid. This poem is mentioned by Callinus, who says that the author was Homer, and many good authorities agree with his judgment. With the exception of the Iliad and Odyssey I rate the Thebaid more highly than any other poem.  Greek Text

Pausanias, Description of Greece 1.39.2

A little farther on from the well is a sanctuary of Metaneira, and after it are graves of those who went against Thebes. For Creon, who at that time ruled in Thebes as guardian of Laodamas the son of Eteocles, refused to allow the relatives to take up and bury their dead. But Adrastus having supplicated Theseus, the Athenians fought with the Boeotians, and Theseus being victorious in the fight carried the dead to the Eleusinian territory and buried them here. The Thebans, however, say that they voluntarily gave up the dead for burial and deny that they engaged in battle.  Greek Text

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Edited by Aaron J. Ivey, Graduate Teaching Assistant, Department of Classics, University of Georgia, July 2016.

Updated by Elena Bianchelli, Retired Senior Lecturer of Classical Languages and Culture, Univ. of Georgia, May 2023.

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