39 pages 1 hour read


The Seven against Thebes

Fiction | Play | Adult | Published in 467

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Literary Context: The Myths of Oedipus

Aeschylus’s Seven Against Thebes was the last tragedy of a trilogy about the myths of King Labdacus’s descendants: Laius, Oedipus, and Oedipus’s sons, Eteocles and Polynices. The myths of Thebes were extremely familiar in ancient Greece and appeared often in early Greek literature, including epics, lyrics, and dramas. There were different versions of the myths of Thebes (as with all Greek myths), but the overall outlines remained largely consistent.

Thebes was the principal city of the central Greek region of Boeotia. The mythology of the city usually began with its foundation by Cadmus, a prince from the Levant who had traveled west in search of his lost sister (or, in some versions, niece) Europa. Failing in his quest, Cadmus settled down at a site designated by the gods and founded a city there: the city of Thebes. Cadmus and his descendants continued to rule Thebes for several generations of the city’s mythical history. Many myths were told about Cadmus and his descendants. One grandson of Cadmus was Actaeon, who was transformed into a stag when he stumbled on the goddess Artemis in her bath. Another grandson of Cadmus was Pentheus, who was destroyed when he refused to worship the new god Dionysus (himself a grandson of Cadmus).