Book Notes Part 5, Chapter 2: The Royal House of Thebes Notes from Mythology

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Mythology Part 5, Chapter 2: The Royal House of Thebes

Europa, carried away by Zeus in the form of a bull, was pursued by her brother Cadmus who went to Delphi to ask where he could find her. Apollo told him to stop looking for her and build his own city. Cadmus founded Thebes. He sowed dragon's teeth into the ground at the advice of the god; after all the fighting men who arose from the ground had fought each other, the five that were left became his helpers. He introduced the alphabet to Greece and married a daughter of Ares and Aphrodite. They had four unfortunate daughters: Semele, who gave birth to Dionysius, Ino, who was an evil stepmother, but became a good goddess after she was turned into a nymph, Agave, who killed her son Pentheus, and Autonome, who watched her own son die. Autonome's son was turned into a deer while hunting and she watched him torn apart by his own dogs. Cadmus and his wife were turned into serpents in their old age for no apparent reason.

King Laius was the great grandson of Cadmus and he married Jocasta. The oracle at Delphi warned him that his own son would kill him. He sent his child away to be abandoned when it was born. Many years later, a terrible Sphinx (who put a riddle to every traveler and killed him when he did not answer correctly) besieged Thebes. Oedipus was believed to be the son of another king and he left home because the oracle said that he would one day kill his father. He came to Thebes and solved the riddle of the Sphinx, killing it. He went to the city as a hero and married the King's widow.

When their sons grew older, a terrible plague ravaged the city. He sent Jocasta's brother Creon to Delphi to seek a solution to the plague. He came back and told them that the murderer of Laius must be found. Oedipus ardently began the search. Thieves had killed Laius on a path many years before. Only one of his servants survived the encounter. Oedipus asked Teiresias who the murderer was and he refused to answer. When he cajoled the blind prophet, he said that it was he, Oedipus that had killed him. He asked to speak to the slave who survived the attack. Jocasta began to panic. A messenger from Oedipus' old home in Thebes arrived and told them that he had gotten Oedipus from a wandering shepherd and the King of Corinth had raised him as his own. The shepherd verified this and Oedipus suddenly realized that he had killed his father and married his mother. Jocasta hanged herself and Oedipus blinded himself in punishment. "The world of blindness was a refuge; better to be there than to see with strange shamed eyes the old world that had been so bright." Part 5, Chapter 2, pg. 382.

Oedipus had two sons, Polyneices and Eteocles and two daughters, Ismene and Antigone. Creon took over the rule of the town and after years, Oedipus was kicked out. Antigone followed her father as a guide. Polyneices and Eteolces fought over the throne. Polyneices was building an army in another town. Oedipus and Antigone went to Colonus where Oedipus died.

Theseus received him and buried him after his death. Ismene came to him before he died. The sisters returned to the city of Thebes and found the war. Six chieftains joined Polyneices. The battle raged on until the two brothers dueled and died together. One of the seven champions survived. Creon decreed that none of those who attacked Thebes would be buried. Antigone was shocked that her brother Polyneices would not be buried. Creon threatened death for anyone who disobeyed him. Despite this, Antigone buried her brother. Ismene wanted to share the blame, but Antigone would not let her. Creon had her killed.

The last champion went to Athens and asked Theseus to join with him and force Creon to release the bodies. Theseus would only do so if it were the will of the people. Athens marched against the city to retrieve the dead bodies. Years later, the sons of the seven champions returned to Thebes and defeated it again.

Topic Tracking: Women 18
Topic Tracking: Atrocity 11
Topic Tracking: Fate 10

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