Teiresias (page 530)

Chapter 14: Thebes

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Fab 75 – Hyginus, Fabulae

TIRESIAS: On Mount Cyllene Tiresias, son of Everes, a shepherd, is said to have struck with his staff, or trampled on, snakes which were coupling. Because of this he was changed to a woman. Later, advised by an oracle, he trampled on the snakes in the same place, and returned to his former sex. At this same time there was a joking dispute between Jove and Juno as to whether man or woman derived more pleasure from the act of love. They took Tiresias as judge, since he had been both man and woman. When he decided in Jove’s favour, Juno with the back of her hand angrily blinded him, but Jove because of this gave him seven lives to live, and made him a seer wiser than other mortals. Latin Text

FGrH 3F92 Pherekydes – Die Fragmente der griechischen Historiker 1, pp. 85-86, ed. F. Jacoby, 2d ed. Leiden 1957.

Greek Text

Kallimachos, Hymn 5 The Bath of Pallas 

Yet even her did many tears await in the after days, albeit she was a comrade pleasing to the heart of Athena. One day those twain undid the buckles of their robes beside the fair-flowing Fountain of the Horse on Helicon and bathed; and noontide quiet held all the hill. Those two ere bathing and it was the noontide hour and a great quiet held that hill. Only Teiresias, on whose cheek the down was just darkening, still ranged with his hounds the holy place. And, athirst beyond telling, he came unto the flowing fountain, wretched man! And unwillingly saw that which is not lawful to be seen. And Athena was angered, yet said to him: “What god, O son of Everes, led thee on this grievous way? Hence shalt thou never more take back thine eyes!”

She spake and night seized the eyes of the youth. And he stood there speechless; for pain glued his knees and helplessness stayed his voice. But the nymph cried: “What has thou done to my boy, lady? Is such the friendship of you goddesses? Thou hast taken away the eyes of my son. Foolish child! Thou hast seen the breast and body of Athena, but the sun thou shalt not see again. O me unhappy! O hill, O Helicon, where I may no more come, surely a great price for little has been exacted. Losing a few gazelles and deer, thou hast taken the eyes of my child.”

Therewith the mother clasped her beloved child in both her arms and, wailing the heavy plain of the mournful nightingale, led him away. And the goddess Athena pitied her comrade and spake to her and said: “Noble lady, take back all the words that thou hast spoken in anger. It is not I that made thy child blind. For no sweet thin is it for Athena to snatch away the eyes of children. But the laws of Cronius [Zeus] order thus: Whosoever shall behold any of the immortals, when the god himself chooses not, at a heavy price shall he behold. Noble lady, the thin that is done can no more be taken back; since thus the thread of the Fates span when thou didst bear him from the first; but now, O son of Everes, take thou the issue which is due to thee. How many burnt offerings shall the daughter of Cadmus burn in the days to come? How many Aristaeus? – praying that they might see their only son, the young Actaeon, blind. And yet he shall be companion of the chase to great Artemis. But him neither the chase nor comradeship in archery on the hills shall save in that hour, when, albeit unwillingly, he shall behold the beauteous bath of the goddess. Nay, his own dogs shall then devour their former lord. And his mother shall gather the bones of her son, ranging over all the thickets. Happiest of women shall she call thee and of happy fate, for that thou didst receive thy son home from the hills – blind. Therefore, O comrade, lament not; for to this thy son – for thy sake – shall remain many other honours from me. For I will make him a seer to be sung of men hereafter, yea, more excellent than any other. He shall know the birds – which is of good omen among all the countless birds that fly and what birds are of ill-omened flight. Many oracles shall he utter to the Boeotians and many unto Cadmus, and to the mighty sons of Labdacus in later days. Also will I give him a great staff which shall guide his feet as he hath need, and I will give him a long term of life. And he only, when he dies, shall walk among the dead having understanding, honoured of the great Leader of Peoples. Greek Text

ApB 3.7.3 – Apollodoros, Bibliotheke (Library)

They first laid waste the surrounding villages; then, when the Thebans advanced against them, led by Laodamas, son of Eteocles, they fought bravely, and though Laodamas killed Aegialeus, he was himself killed by Alcmaeon, and after his death the Thebans fled in a body within the walls. But as Tiresias told them to send a herald to treat with the Argives, and themselves to take to flight, they did send a herald to the enemy, and, mounting their children and women on the wagons, themselves fled from the city. When they had come by night to the spring called Tilphussa, Tiresias drank of it and expired. Greek Text

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Edited by Elena Bianchelli, Senior Lecturer of Classical Languages and Culture, University of Georgia, March 2020

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