39 pages 1 hour read


The Seven against Thebes

Fiction | Play | Adult | Published in 467

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more.

Important Quotes

Quotation Mark Icon

“You citizens of Cadmus, there is need

for good and timely counsel from the one

who watches over the progress of the ship

and guides the rudder, his eye not drooped in sleep.

For if we win success, god is the cause,

but if—may it not chance so—there is disaster,

throughout the town, voiced by its citizens,

a multitudinous much-repeated prelude

cries on one name ‘Eteocles’ with groans:

may Zeus the Protector keep this from the city

of Cadmus, proving faithful to his title.”

(Lines 1-9)

The opening lines of the play, spoken by Eteocles, reference some of the play’s central themes, symbols, and motifs. Eteocles’s comparison of the ruler of a city to a ship’s helmsman arises from what was a highly prevalent metaphor in ancient Greece, in which the state was likened to a ship. This metaphor features prominently throughout the play (See: Symbols & Motifs). Eteocles’s observation that the gods are given the credit for success while the ruler is blamed for misfortune, moreover, reflects the conflict of Human Agency Versus Divine Forces, one of the play’s major themes.

Quotation Mark Icon

“There were seven men, fierce regiment commanders;

they cut bulls’ throats into an iron-rimmed

shield, and with hands touched the bulls’ blood,

taking their oaths by Ares and Enyo,

and by the bloodthirsty god of Terror,

either to smash and lay your city level

with the ground, sacked, or by their death to make

a bloody paste of this same soil of yours.”

(Lines 43-44)

The “seven men” whose actions are described by the Messenger are, of course, the “Seven Against Thebes,” the seven heroes who lead the invasion of Thebes in the play. The gory way in which they swear their oath reflects ancient Greek customs, as in ancient Greece the most solemn oaths were often sanctified by an animal sacrifice. The savage determination of these “fierce regiment commanders” invokes The Horrors of War.