The story of the cursed House of Thebes as taken from the following Sophoclean plays
The First Family of Greek Tragedy was the House of Cadmus, the royal family of Thebes.Thebes was a real city in central Greece with real history, but there was a dark side.Thebes had a bizarre mythological history which was much more disturbing than most other cities mythologies.
Laius visited Pelops, King of Pisa. Pelops and a nymph had an illegitimate child named Chrysippus. Laius was tasked with teaching the child to drive a chariot. Unfortunately, Laius developed feelings for the beautiful Chrysippus. A kidnapping and rape followed. Chrysippus killed himself. Pelops laid a curse on the Theban king which would eventually come to fruition.
Agenor (son of Poseidon) was King of Phonecia. He had a beautiful daughter named Europa. Europas brother Cadmus was sent to look for her. Cadmus never found his sister, but he did follow another cow and started a city where it stopped to rest.
The Oracle at Delphi tells Cadmus to forget his sister and break off to establish his own city.
Cadmuss site was next to a spring-inconveniently it was a sacred spring of Ares. Ares had placed a dragon there to guard the spring. Cadmus killed the dragon then sacrificed his cow to Athena. Athena said he should plant the dragons teeth to see what would happen.
When Cadmus planted the seeds, the teeth immediately sprouted into armed men, called Spartoi or sown men after the way they were created.They started fighting. Guess how Cadmus stopped them.When the dust settled there were five warriors left.
On the plus side, Cadmus had a population for his city.On the minus side, he had to serve Ares for eight years.After his time was up Athena arranged for him to be King of Thebes (the new city) and Zeus found a wife for him. Harmonia-daughter of Ares and Aphrodite.
The children of Cadmus and Harmonia were named Semele, Agave, Polydorus, Ino, and Illyrius. Semele-Dionysus mother who saw Zeus in his godly form and diedIno-jumped into the sea with her dead sons body in her arms; became a sea goddess; eventually saved Odysseus. Her husband was struck with madness and killed her son.
Polydorus s son became king of Thebes, and after him his son Laius. Laius marries his third cousin, Jocasta. Jocasta has a brother named Creon.Laius and Jocasta received an oracle: You will have a son, and he will kill you.
To stop the prophesy from coming true, they hobbled the baby and had him left on a mountainside.
A shepherd found the baby, picked him up, passed him to another shepherd, who eventually took him to the King and Queen of Corinth who had recently lost their baby.
They named him Oedipus because of his swollen feet. They did not tell him he was adopted.
When he came of age, Oedipus journeyed to the Oracle at Delphi where he learned he was fated to kill his father and marry his own mother.
He decided to leave Corinth so this would never, ever happen!
Three roads converged near Delphi. As he reached the intersection he met a wagon carrying some important person. One of the attendants hit Oedipus with a club to make him stand off the road as the wagon passed.In a rage, Oedipus killed all the men but one.These things happened back then.
In addition to rude travelers, the road also had a monster. A sphinx,( womans head, lions body, snake for tail, wings) had taken up residence on the road.This sphinx was asking riddles and killing anyone who answered incorrectly.The Theban king had been to the Oracle to find out the answer and banish the sphinx. Too bad he never made it home.
What creature walks on four legs in the morning, two at midday, and three legs in the evening?Oedipus answered correctly and the sphinx threw herself off a cliff and died. The people of Thebes were so happy about the deceased sphinx they made Oedipus their king.
The new king was expected to marry the widow of the old king, so he did. They had four children.EteoclesPolynicesAntigoneIsmene
Everyone was happy, until the plague struck. Oedipus sent Creon to Delphi to find out how to end the Gods punishment.Creon reports to Oedipus that Apollo says the plague wouldnt end until the people of Thebes found the murderer of King Laius and bring him to justice.
Oedipus felt relieved that all he had to do to end the drought was find Laiuss killer.
His relief came too soon!
Oedipus sent for Tiresias the blind prophet to help solve the mystery of the murder.
When Oedipus asks the question, Who did it? Tiresias refuses to answer.
Tireseas was not born a blind prophet. One day he was walking along a path in the mountains and saw two snakes copulating. He killed the snakes (who needs more snakes, right?) The snakes disappeared, and Tiresias was transformed into a woman. He remained a woman for seven years. In the eighth year he was walking along the same path, saw two more snakes, and whacked them with his stick. Now he was transformed back into a man.
Years later Hera and Zeus were having a PG-13 argument regarding pleasure. They decided to consult Tiresias, since he had been both male and female. When faced with the gods Tiresias knew there was no way he could win. He declared Zeus was correct and Hera blinded him in her rage. Zeus felt slightly guilty, so he gave Tiresias the gift of prophetic sight and allowed him to live for seven lifetimes.
Oedipus accuses Tiresias of being complicit in the murder and cover-up.
Tiresias finally told him, You are the murderer you seek.
Jocasta said she did not believe in prophets because of the inaccurate prophesy she had received concerning the death of Laius at the hands of his own son.
What message did Delphi give to Jocasta and her family?
Jocasta continues the story she believes exonerates Oedipus.
My husband and I left the child to die.Laius was killed by robbers at the intersection of three roads to Delphi.
While this denial of fact is occurring, Apollo comes to announce the death of Polybus to the court of Thebes.
Who was Polybus????Why would Jocasta say this death proved her point?
Apollo asks Oedipus whether fear of killing his father, Polybus, had driven him from Corinth.
What revelation is this leading us to?
Both Jocasta and Oedipus suffer once they learn the truth.
In what way does each of the characters punish herself or himself?
Antigone and Ismene, the daughters of Oedipus, discuss the disaster which has befallen them. Their father is banished, and their brothers have killed each other over control of Thebes.
Creon is finally in charge.
My own flesh and blooddear sister, dear Ismene, how many griefs our father Oedipus handed down! Do you know one, I ask you, one grief that Zeus will not perfect for the two of us while we still live and breathe? Theres nothing, no painour lives are painno private shame, no public disgrace, nothing I havent seen in your grief and mine. (Antigone, 1-8)
Antigone left with her father. She didnt think it was wise to allow her blind father to wander around the countryside.
Ismene remained in Thebes to protect her fathers interests.
Creon is now Regent.
Each son wanted to become the new king of Thebes. Technically the older son should get the job, but both wanted power.
Eteocles became king and exiled Polyneices.
Anarchyshow me a greater crime in all the earth! She, she destroys cities, rips up houses, breaks the ranks of the spearmen into headlong rout. But the ones who last it out, the great mass of them owe their lives to discipline. Therefore we must defend the men who live by law, never let some woman triumph over us. Better to fall from power, if fall we must, at the hands of a mannever be rated inferior to a woman, never.(Antigone, 751-761)
Polyneices went to Argos to try to raise an army.
Oedipus and Antigone found refuge in Colonus which was near Athens. Colonus was the home of the Furies (aka the benignant goddesses).
Oedipus dies with Antigone and Ismene by his side.Apollo promised that Oedipus would bring a mysterious blessing from the gods to the place where his grave lay.
Theseus welcomed Oedipus to Athens. He died a happy man, and with his death Athens was blessed.
The sisters return to Thebes and find Eteocles fighting to save Thebes from attack, and Polyneices fighting to regain power of Thebes.The sisters refused to choose sides with either brother.
Polyneices has recruited an army of six champions to lead his attack against Thebes.(SEVEN gates-SEVEN champions)Adrastus, King of Argos and his brother- in law, Amphiaraus)One of the seven was Amphiaraus, a prophet, who knew that of the seven only Adrastus would survive.
Amphiaraus joined unwillingly. His wife Eriphyle was trusted to be the tie breaker when he and her brother had disputes. Polyneices bribed her with a beautiful necklace. The necklace was gift Harmonia received on her wedding day. (the cursed necklace)
HARMONIA was the goddess of harmony and concord. As a daughter of Aphrodite, she presided over marital harmony, soothing strife and discord; as a daughter of Ares, she represented harmonious action in war. Late Greek and Roman writers sometimes portrayed her as harmony in the more abstract sense : a deity presiding over the cosmic harmony.
Harmonia was born of Aphrodite's adulterous affair with the god Ares. She was awarded