Seven against Thebes

When the blind Oedipus was expelled from Thebes, then his sons with Creon shared power among themselves. Each of them was to rule in turn for a year. Eteocles did not want to share power with his older brother Polynices, he expelled his brother from the Seven Gates Thebes and one seized power over Thebes. Polyneices retired to Argos, where the king ruled Adrast.

King Adrastus came from the Amiphaonid family. Once two heroes, the great soothsayer Melampod and Biant, the sons of the hero Amifaon, married the daughters of the king Proyt. It happened like this: the daughters of Proyt angered the gods and were punished by the fact that the gods sent madness on them. In a fit of madness, the daughters of Proyt imagined that they were cows, and with lowing they ran through the surrounding fields and forests. Melampod, who knew the secret of how to heal the daughters of Proyt, volunteered to heal them, but for this he demanded that Proyt give him a third of his possessions. Proyt did not agree to this. The calamity increased even more, and other women were infected with madness. Again turned to Melampod Proyt. Melampus demanded not one-third, but two-thirds, one for himself and the other for his brother Byant. Proyt had to agree. Melampus with a detachment of youths went to the mountains, captured after a long pursuit all the crazy women and daughters of Proyt and healed them. Proytes gave his daughters to wife Melampodes and Byantus.

Melampod had a son Antifat, Antifat had a son Oikl, Oikl or Amfiarayo. Biant had a son Tal, and his children were Adrast and Erifila. When the descendants of Melampod and Byant, Adrastus and Amphiaraus, matured, a strife broke out between them. Adrastus had to flee to Sicyon to King Polybus. There he married the king's daughter and received power over Sicyon. But a little time later he returned to his native Argos Adrastus, reconciled with Amphiaraus and gave him his sister Erifila. Adrast and Amfiarai swore to each other that Erifila would always be the judge in their disputes and that they would have to unquestioningly follow her decisions. Amphiaraus did not think that this decision would cause the death of him and his family.

Polyneices came to the palace of King Adrast late at night, hoping to find protection and help from him. At the palace, Polynices met the son of Oineyo, the hero of Tideus, who, having killed in his homeland uncle and cousins, also fled to Argos. A fierce dispute broke out between the two heroes. The indomitable Tydeus, who did not tolerate anyone's objection, grabbed his weapon. Polyneices also, hiding behind a shield, drew his sword. Heroes rushed at each other. Their swords rattled loudly against copper-bound shields. Like two angry lions, heroes fought in the darkness. Adrastus heard the noise of the duel and left the palace. How surprised he was to see two youths fighting fiercely with each other. One of them, Polynices, was covered on top of the armament with the skin of a lion, the other, Tydeus, with the skin of a huge boar. Adrastus remembered the prophecy given to him by the oracle that he should marry his daughters to a lion and a boar. Hastily he parted the heroes and introduced them as guests to his palace. Soon King Adrastus gave his daughters - one, Deipila, to Polynices, the other, Argeya, for Tydeus.

Becoming Adrast's sons-in-law, Polynices and Tydeus began to ask him to return power to them in their homeland. Adrast agreed to help them; he only made it a condition that Amphiaraus, a mighty warrior and a great soothsayer, also take part in the campaign.

Polyneices gives Eriphyle a necklace
Polynices hands the necklace to Eriphyle.
(Design on a vase.)

It was decided to move first of all against the seven gates of Thebes. Amphiaraus refused to take part in this campaign, as he knew that the heroes were undertaking this campaign against the will of the gods. He, the favorite of Zeus and Apollo, did not want to anger the gods by violating their will. No matter how Tydeus persuaded Amphiaraus, he firmly stood by his decision. Tydeus flared up with indomitable anger, the heroes would have become enemies forever if Adrast had not reconciled them. In order to still force Amphiaraus to take part in the campaign, Polynices decided to resort to tricks. He decided to persuade Erifila to his side, so that by her decision she would force Amphiaraus to go against Thebes. Knowing Erifila's greed, Polyneices promised to give her a precious necklace Harmony, the wife of the first king of Thebes, Cadma. She was seduced by the precious gift of Erifil and decided that her husband should participate in the campaign. Could not Amphiaraus refused, because he himself once swore an oath that he would obey all the decisions of Erifila.So Erifila sent her husband to certain death, tempted by a precious necklace; she did not know that great misfortunes bring the necklace to the one who owns it.Many heroes agreed to participate in this campaign.It was attended by the mighty descendants of Proytes, strong as a god, Kapaneyo and Eteocles, the son of the famous Arcadian huntress Atalanta, young and beautiful Partenopayo, glorious Hippomedont a> and many other heroes.Polyneices also turned to Mycenae for help; the ruler of Mycenae had already agreed to take part in the campaign, but the great thunderer kept him from this Zeus with his menacing signs. Nevertheless, a large army gathered. Seven leaders led the army against Thebes, and at the head of all was Adrast. Heroes were dying. They did not listen to the exhortations of the soothsayer Amfiarayo, who asked them not to start this campaign. All of them burned with only one desire - to fight under the walls of Thebes.

Amphiarius goes on a campaign
Amphiarius sets out on a campaign. The last figure on the left is Eriphyle with a necklace.
(Design on a vase.)

The army set out on a campaign. Amphiaraus also said goodbye to his family, he hugged his daughters, hugged his sons, very young Alkmeon and little Amphiloch, who was still in the arms of the wet nurse. Before leaving, Amphiaraus conjured his son Alcmaeon to take revenge on his mother, who had sent his father to his death. He ascended, full of sorrow, on the chariot of Amphiaraus: he knew that he was seeing his children for the last time. Standing on the chariot, Amphiaraus, turning to his wife Erifila, threatened her with a drawn sword and cursed her for dooming him to death.

Ofelt's death
The death of Ofelt.
(Bas-relief of the 2nd century BC)

The army of Nemea reached safely. Warriors, tormented by thirst, began to look for water there. They could not find a single source anywhere, since they were covered by nymphs at the behest of Zeus, who was angry at the heroes who undertook a campaign against his will. Finally, they met the former queen of Lemnos Gypsipila with the little son of King Nemea Lycurgus, < a href="/en/glossary/ofelt">Ofelt, on the hands. Hypsipyla was sold into slavery by the women of Lemnos because she saved her father Phaont, when they killed all the men in their house. Now the queen of Lemnos was a slave to Lycurgus and nursed his son. I planted Gipsypylus little Ofelt on the grass and went to point out to the soldiers the source hidden in the forest. As soon as Hypsipyle and the soldiers departed from Ofelt, a huge snake crawled out of the bushes and wrapped its rings around the child. At his cry, the soldiers and Hypsipyle came running, Lycurgus and his wife hurried to help Eurydice, but the snake has already strangled Ofelt. With a drawn sword, Lycurgus rushed to Hypsipyle. He would have killed her, but Tydeus protected her. He was ready to fight Lycurgus, but Adrast and Amphiaraus held him back. They did not allow blood to be shed. The heroes of Ofelt were buried and war games were staged at his funeral. Amphiaraus understood that the death of Ofelt was a formidable sign for the entire army, that this death foreshadowed the death of all heroes. He called Ofelt Amphiaraus Archemor (leading to death) and began to advise all the heroes to stop the campaign against Thebes; but, as before, they did not obey - they stubbornly walked towards their death.

After passing through the gorges of the elk Cithaeron, the army arrived to the banks of Asopus, to the walls of the seven gates of Thebes. The leaders did not immediately begin the siege. They decided to send to Thebes to negotiate with the besieged Tydeus. Arriving in Thebes, Tydeus found the most noble Thebans at a feast at Eteocles. The Thebans did not listen to Tydeus, they laughingly invited him to take part in the feast. Tydeus got angry, and, despite the fact that he was alone in the circle of enemies, he challenged them to single combat and defeated all of them one by one, as she helped her pet Athena-Pallas. Anger seized the Thebans, they decided to destroy the great hero. They sent fifty young men under the leadership of Meont and Likofon to ambush Tydeus as he returns to the besiegers' camp. And then Tideus did not die, he killed all the young men, only Meont was released by the command of the gods, so that Meont could inform the Thebans about the feat of Tideus.

After that, the enmity between the heroes who came from Argos and the Thebans flared up even more fiercely. All seven leaders made sacrifices to the god Ares, all the gods of battle and the god Tanat. Having dipped their hands in sacrificial blood, they swore either to destroy the walls of Thebes, or to drink, having fallen in battle, the Theban land with their blood. The Argos army prepared for the assault. Adrastus distributed the troops, each of the seven leaders had to attack one of the seven gates.

The mighty Tydeus stood with his detachment against the Proytis Gate, thirsting for blood, like a ferocious dragon. Three crests fluttered on his helmet, on his shield was a night sky covered with stars, and in the middle of the eyes of the night was a full moon. Opposite the gates of Electra, a huge, like a giant, Capaneus placed his detachment. He threatened the Thebans that he would take the city, even if the gods opposed this; he said that even the all-destroying anger of the thunderer Zeus would not stop him. On the shield of Capaneus was a naked hero with a torch in his hands. Eteocles, a descendant of Proytes, stood up with a detachment against the gates of Neia; and on his shield was an emblem: a man climbing a ladder on the tower of a besieged city, and at the bottom it was written: "God himself Ares will not overthrow me." Hippomedon stood against the gates of Athena; on his shield, sparkling like the sun, was Typhon spewing flames. The war cry of Hippomedon sounded furious, the look of his eyes threatened everyone with death. The young and beautiful Parthenopaeus led his detachment against the Boread gates. On his shield was a Sphinx with a dying Theban in its claws. The soothsayer Amphiaraus besieged the Homoloid gates. He was angry with Tydeus, the instigator of the war, he scolded him, the murderer, the destroyer of cities, the herald of fury, the servant of murder, the adviser of all evils. He hated this campaign, he reproached Polynices for the fact that he led an army of foreigners to destroy his native Thebes. Amfiarai knew that the descendants would curse the participants of this campaign. Amphiaraus also knew that he himself would fall in battle and the land of Thebes would swallow up his corpse. There was no emblem on Amphiaraus' shield - his very appearance was more impressive than any emblem. The last, seventh gate was besieged by Polynices. On his shield was a goddess leading an armed hero, and the inscription on the shield read: "I will bring this man as a conqueror back to his city and to the house of his fathers." Everything was ready to storm the invincible walls of Thebes.

The Thebans also prepared for battle: Eteocles placed a detachment of warriors at each gate, led by a famous hero. He himself took upon himself the defense of the gate against which his brother Polynices was. The mighty son of Astakh Melanippus, a descendant of one of the warriors who grew out of teeth a snake killed by Kadmus. Eteocles Polyfont, defended by Artemis, sent against Capaneus. The son of Creon Megareas stood with the detachment at the gate, which was to be attacked by Proetid Eteocles; the son of Oyonor Hyperbiyo was sent against Hippomedon, against Parthenopae - the hero Actor, and against Amphiaraus - Leisfen, a young man in strength and an old man in mind. Among the Theban heroes was the mighty son of Poseidon, the invincible Periklimen.

Before starting the battle, Eteocles asked the soothsayer Tiresias about the outcome of the battle. Tiresias promised victory only if Menokey, the son of Creon, was sacrificed to Ares (who was still angry for killing the serpent dedicated to him) by Cadmus. The young man Menokeyus, having learned about this prophecy, climbed the wall of Thebes and, standing in front of the cave where the serpent dedicated to Ares once lived, he himself pierced his chest with a sword. Thus died the son of Creon; he voluntarily sacrificed himself to save his native Thebes.

Everything promised victory for the Thebans. Angry Ares is propitiated, the gods are on the side of the Thebans, who observe the will and signs of the gods. But the Thebans did not immediately win. When, coming out from under the protection of the walls, they entered into battle with the Argive army at the sanctuary of Apollo, they had to retreat under the onslaught of enemies and again take cover behind the walls. The Argives rushed to pursue the retreating Thebans and began to storm the walls. The arrogant Kapaneus, proud of his inhuman strength, put a ladder against the wall and was about to break into the city, but Zeus did not tolerate anyone entering against his will into Thebes. He threw at Capaneus, when he was already on the wall, his sparkling lightning. It's time to diezil Zeus Capaneus; he was all engulfed in fire, and his smoking corpse fell from the wall at the feet of the Argives standing below.

Pal, besieging Thebes, and young Parthenopaye; the mighty Periclymenos threw down from the wall on his head a huge stone the size of a rock. This stone crushed the head of Parthenopaeus, he fell dead to the ground. The Argives retreated from the walls - they were convinced that they could not take Thebes by storm. Now the Thebans could rejoice: the walls of Thebes stood firm.

Then the enemies decided that the brothers Polynices and Eteocles should decide by single combat which of them would have power over Thebes. The sons of Oedipus prepared for the duel. Eteocles came out of the gates of Thebes, shining with weapons; Polyneices came out from the camp of the Argives to meet him. Now the fratricidal battle was about to begin. The brothers burned with hatred for each other. One of them was bound to fall. But the great, implacable goddesses of fate Moira promised otherwise. The avengers of Eumenides did not forget the curses of Oedipus, nor did they forget the crimes of Laius and the curses of Pelops.

Like two furious lions fighting over prey, so brothers clashed in a fierce duel. Covered with shields, they fight, vigilantly following each other's movements with hateful eyes. Here Eteocles retreated, immediately threw the spear of Polynices at his brother and wounded him in the thigh. Blood poured out of the wound, but upon impact, Polynices opened his shoulder, and Eteocles immediately struck him with a spear in the shoulder. The spear bent, hitting the armor of Polynices, and his shaft broke. Left with one sword Eteocles. He quickly bent down, picked up a huge stone and threw it at his brother; the stone hit Polynices' spear and broke it. Now both brothers were left with only swords. Closing their shields, the brothers fight; both of them are wounded, their armor stained with blood. Eteocles quickly took a step back; Polynices did not expect this, raised his shield, and his brother at that moment plunged a sword into his stomach. Polyneices fell to the ground, blood gushed like a river from a terrible wound, his eyes clouded with the darkness of death. Eteocles triumphed; he ran up to the brother he had killed and wanted to take off his armor. Gathered the last strength of Polynices, he got up and hit his brother with his sword on the chest; with this blow, his soul flew off into the gloomy kingdom of Hades. Like a felled oak, Eteocles fell down dead on the corpse of his brother, and their blood mixed, staining the earth all around. The Thebans and Argives looked with horror at the terrible outcome of the duel of brothers.

The truce between the besieged and the besiegers did not last long. Again a bloody battle broke out between them. In this battle, the gods patronized the Thebans. Hippomedon and Proitis Eteocles fell, the invincible Tydeus was wounded to death by the mighty Melanippus. Although Tydeus was mortally wounded, he nevertheless found the strength in himself to take revenge on Melanippus and slay him with a spear. Athena-Pallas, seeing the dying, blood-drenched Tydeus, begged Zeus to allow her to save her pet and even grant him immortality. Athena hurried to Tydeus. But at this time, Amphiaraus cut off the head of Melanippus and threw it to the dying Tydeus. In a mad rage, Tydeus grabbed her, broke her skull, and, like a wild beast, began to drink the brain of his enemy. Athena shuddered, seeing the fury and bloodthirstiness of Tydeus, she left him, and the dying Tydeus only managed to whisper his last prayer after Athena - to grant his son, Diomedes, the immortality that he himself did not receive.

The Thebans defeated the Argos, their entire army perished near Thebes. Amphiarai also died. He hurried to escape in his chariot, driven by Baton. He was pursued by the mighty Periclymenes. Already Periklimen overtook the great soothsayer, he had already swung his spear to hit him, when suddenly lightning flashed. Zeus, and thunder struck, the earth parted and swallowed up Amphiaraus with his war chariot. Of all the heroes, only Adrastus escaped. He rode off on his horse Areion, fast as the wind, and took refuge in Athens, from where he returned to Argos.

The Thebans rejoiced; Thebes was saved. They betrayed their fallen heroes to a solemn burial, but they left the heroes and all the soldiers who came from Argos with Polyneices without burial. Polynices lay unburied on the battlefield, raising his hand against his homeland.

We learned that the heroes of Argos, their wives and mothers remained unburied. Full of sorrow, they came with Adrast to Attica to pray to King Theseus to help their grief and force the Thebans to give them the bodies of the dead. In Eleusis, at the temple of Demeter, they met the mother of Theseus and begged her to beg her son to demand that the bodies of the Argive warriors be handed over. Theseus hesitated for a long time, finally decided to help the women of Argos and Adrast. Just at this time, an ambassador came from the king of Thebes, Creon. He demanded from Theseus that he should not help the women of Argos and expelled Adrast from Attica.

Theseus was angry. How dare Creon demand submission from him? Isn't he in control of his own decisions! Theseus marched with an army against Thebes, defeated the Thebans and forced them to hand over the corpses of all the fallen soldiers. At Eleutherus, seven fires were piled, and the corpses of soldiers were burned on them. The corpses of the leaders were transferred to Eleusis and burned there, and the ashes of their mother and wife were carriedhome, in Argos.

Only the ashes of Capaneus, who was killed by Zeus' lightning, remained in Eleusis. Sacred was the corpse of Capaneus, since he was killed by the Thunderer himself. The Athenians built a huge fire and placed the corpse of Capaneus on it. When the fire was already starting to flare up and the fiery tongues were already touching the corpse of the hero, the wife of Kapanei, the beautiful daughter of Iphita, Evadna. She could not bear the death of her beloved husband. Putting on luxurious funeral clothes, she climbed a rock that hung over the very fire, and threw herself from there into the flames.

Thus Evadne perished, and her shadow descended with her husband's shadow into the dark realm Aida.