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Adrastus 1

Adrastus 1 is seen lying to the right. In the middle, his wife. Behind his daughters stand Tydeus 2 (left) and Polynices. RV-1400: Tydeus, Polynices, Adrastus and his family. Vasenbild: Tydeus und Polyneikes, zu Adrast kommend, von dessen Frau un Töchtern begrüßt (nach Arch. Zeitg. 1866, Taf. 206, 1). Roscher, 1884.

"I raise my hand in welcome to the dead, and pour sad dirges in a flow of tears, to greet my friends, whose loss I mourn, alone and desolate. Wealth lost may be retrieved; but this most dear treasure, once spent, is never found again: the life of man." (Adrastus 1. Euripides, Suppliants 775).

King Adrastus 1 of Argos married his daughters to two exiles: Argia 1 to Theban Polynices, and Deipyle to Calydonian Tydeus 2. Having promised his sons-in-law to restore them both to their native lands he raised an army in order to march first against Thebes. He lost the war, but of all the SEVEN AGAINST THEBES he was the only to survive, saved by his horse.

Three kingdoms of Argos

At the time of Adrastus 1's reign, Argos, or rather the district of Argolis, was ruled by three kings, Adrastus 1 himself being one of them. This peculiar state of affairs originated when King Proetus 1 of Argos (Danae's uncle) gave a third part of his kingdom to the seer Melampus 1 for having healed, by means of drugs, his daughters of madness. Melampus 1 in turn shared the kingdom with his brother Bias 1, and in this way three kingdoms of Argos were created, the brothers Melampus 1 and Bias 1 reigning over two of them, and the third being ruled by King Alector 1, a man belonging to Proetus 1's family. Later the thrones were occupied by their descendants: Iphis 1 (son of Alector 1), Amphiaraus (descendant of Melampus 1), and Adrastus 1 (grandson of Bias 1).

Origin of his afflictions

Adrastus 1's misfortune began when he, influenced by an obscure oracle of Apollo, bestowed his daughters on two exiles, and granted his sons-in-law wishes that came from their violent nature. One of them was Tydeus 2, who had been forced to leave Calydon for having murdered a man; and the other was Oedipus' son Polynices, who came to Argos after having been betrayed and banished from Thebes by his brother Eteocles 1.

Arrival of the two exiles

On their simultaneous arrival by night to the palace of Adrastus 1, they engaged in a fight, waking up the king, who parted them. Some say that Adrastus 1 compared them to wild beasts because they came to blows about a bed, or because they fought like savage animals. But others say that when Adrastus 1, after letting them into his palace, examined the boar and lion in their shields (for Polynices adorned it with a lion and Tydeus 2 with a boar; although some have said that there was "a lion's skin with shaggy mane" upon Tydeus 2's shield—Euripides, Phoenician Women 1120. Seeing these decorations, Adrastus 1 remembered the words of a seer who had told him to yoke his daughters in marriage to a boar and a lion. And since Adrastus 1 was a man of omens and believed, not only that these come from Heaven, but also that they are easy to understand, he, interpreting the seer's words the best he could, thought that these two gentlemen were a gift from the gods, and that they had come to aid his work. That is why he exclaimed in happiness:

"I have found, O Fortune, that the gods are gods indeed." (Adrastus 1. Statius, Thebaid 1.510).

... and so he married the two exiles to his daughters.

Not a complete unknown

Some may think that the exiles were unknown foreigners; and even Theseus, whom Adrastus 1 met after the war of the SEVEN, asked him thus:

"Ah! You bestowed your Argive girls on foreigners?" (Theseus to Adrastus. Euripides, Suppliants 135).

But at least Tydeus 2 could not have been a complete stranger, since his uncle Capaneus was the son of Adrastus 1's sister Astynome 1.

Adrastus 1's fateful promise

The exiles showed no intention of leading a peaceful life in Argos. Instead they wished to return to their native countries, which must be done by violence, since each of them had been declared at home what is now called "persona non grata". Nevertheless Adrastus 1, certainly an ambitious man himself, promised that he would restore them both to their native lands, Polynices first. Now, said the Seven Sages (long after Adrastus 1's time): "A pledge, and ruin is near." And curiously enough (for a man of omens), when he later was trying to fulfil the promise that ruined him, he neither consulted seers nor observed altar flames, and engaged in military operations, lacking the favor of the gods.

Argives at variance

On the matter of the approaching Argive intervention in the Theban affairs, the opinions were almost as divided as Argos itself. King Iphis 1 agreed, and in time he sent his son Eteoclus to join the alliance. But King Amphiaraus, who was a seer and knew that the expedition would fail, refused to participate, and warned Adrastus 1. Now Amphiaraus was married to Adrastus 1's sister Eriphyle. And once before, when a difference arose between the two men, Amphiaraus had sworn to let Eriphyle decide any future dispute he might have with Adrastus 1. Knowing this, King Iphis 1 told Polynices that Amphiaraus could be forced to yield, if Eriphyle were conveniently bribed by means of the Necklace of Harmonia 1, a Theban treasury that Polynices had brought to Argos. And although Amphiaraus had forbidden Eriphyle to accept gifts from Polynices, the latter succeeded in giving her the Necklace so that she would persuade her husband to join the coalition. Accordingly, when war was advocated by Adrastus 1 and opposed by Amphiaraus, Eriphyle, having accepted the Necklace, decided in favor of Adrastus 1, and Amphiaraus had to yield. But others have said that Amphiaraus, with the knowledge of his wife, hid himself to avoid going to war, and that it was Adrastus 1 himself who bribed Eriphyle with a necklace of gold and gems of his own making. In any case Adrastus 1, sacrificing judgement, forced the circumstances so that they would seem favorable, and engaged in the bold enterprise remembered as the SEVEN AGAINST THEBES, a family venture through which he intended to obtain influence in a foreign city.

The Nemean games

Having mustered the army, Adrastus 1, who was now a man "verging toward Old Age from life's mid-course" (Statius, Thebaid 1.390) marched against Thebes. In Nemea, where the army stopped for water, he inaugurated for the first time the Nemean games, winning, despite his age, the horse race, which was rather won by the marvellous horse he was riding (Arion 1) . The games were celebrated in honour of the little prince Opheltes 1, whom a serpent killed when his nurse Hypsipyle, showing the way to a spring to the SEVEN, left him behind. After celebrating the Nemean games, the army came to Cithaeron (the mountain between Boeotia and Attica) whence Tydeus 2 was sent as ambassador to Thebes to tell Eteocles 1 to cede the kingdom to Polynices, as he had previously agreed with his brother; for their covenant was that each should rule alternately for one year at a time. As this embassy had no effect, the army approached the walls of Thebes, and each commander was stationed in front of each of the seven gates, with the whole host behind them.

The SEVEN dead

In this war all Argives leaders were killed except Adrastus 1, as Amphiaraus knew beforehand. But Amphiaraus himself was never found; for as they say, the gods seized him and let him and his chariot be swallowed by the earth. The main contenders, Eteocles 1 and Polynices, slew each other, thus fulfilling the curse that their father Oedipus had called upon their heads; for he had said:

This curse I leave you as my last bequest: Never to win by arms your native land, nor return to Argos, but by a kinman's hand to die and slay." (Oedipus to Polynices. Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus 1385).

Adrastus 1 survives

Adrastus 1 survived because he, recovering the prudence he long ago had lost, fled away, leaving camp, army, and son-in-law behind. Only that now prudence looked more like something else. But no one should call a man coward, not even a general, nor demand of him to sacrifice his life when everything else is lost. And although there are those who do just that, Adrastus 1, thinking perhaps that a good flight is better than a bad fight, reached security far from the battlefield's hopeless slaughter, being carried away by the swift steed of divine lineage. Yet later he was heard saying:

"I should have died beside them. How I wish I had!" (Adrastus 1. Euripides, Suppliants 769).

Creon 2 seizes power

Thus ended the adventure of the SEVEN, the defenders being victorious. However, since Oedipus' sons, fulfilling their father's curse, had killed each other, leaving the throne vacant, Creon 2 seized power in Thebes, as regent and protector of the crown prince Laodamas 2, son of Eteocles 1, since he was not only victorious but also alive—a most sweet combination of terms. Now Creon 2 lost his mind from the first day of his rule. For he, in violation of all laws, both human and divine, issued a proclamation forbidding the burial of the dead enemy soldiers (mainly Argives, but also Thebans), that were lying on the fields outside the city. This hateful measure put him soon into conflict with Antigone 2, who insisted in burying her brother Polynices, and with his own son Haemon 1. What was now happening under the rule of Creon 2 was too much for Adrastus 1, who, having lost all his military power, could not avenge the outrage. Therefore he came to Athens accompanied by Argive suppliants and, after taking refuge at the altar of Mercy where he laid the suppliant's bough (or as others say, at the altar of Demeter in Eleusis), Adrastus 1 begged King Theseus to intercede, so that the dead Argives could be given burial.

Meaningless lecture

But Theseus, who was at the height of his own glory, answered like prosperous men usually do, that is lecturing on morals, ethics, and politics. For those who enjoy prosperity are persuaded that their happy condition derives from their own wisdom alone. So making philosophy out of a simple request, he declared in a speech before the Argives that the better outweighs the worse in life, and that the gods make a rich provision for the life of mortals, wherefore those who show discontent are wanton. He also enlightened the suppliants on the subject of human nature, saying that men's pride makes them seek to outmatch the gods, claiming a wisdom higher than that of the divinity. Then he rebuked Adrastus 1, reminding him of his foolishness, which had enslaved him to a riddle; he reproached him to have married his daughters to foreigners, and finally cast into his face his whole responsibility:

"You led the entire army of Argos out to war; you ignored a prophet's warning, sought no favor of the gods, and brought defeat and ruin on your state." (Theseus to Adrastus 1. Euripides, Suppliants 229).

Going ahead with his lesson, Theseus let Adrastus 1 know that his age had afforded him no wisdom, since he let himself be misled by young men. Then he passed judgement on youth, exposing its love for popularity, its propensity to multiply wars, its lack of scruples, and its capacity for corrupting citizens, since young men, he said, are out to obtain a generalship, or to gain office either for their own pleasure, or for money.After h Having thus defined the nature of youth, Theseus gave a talk on social science, stating that there are three orders of citizens, two of which are vicious: the rich, who are useless, for being steered by Wealth, and the very poor, who are dangerous, since they listen to Envy. The middle order, said Theseus, is the city's life and health; and to them he could not give a sensible reason for making an alliance with Adrastus 1, he explained. So he ended his discourse with this exhortation:

"Fight with your fate yourself, and do not trouble us." (Theseus to Adrastus 1. Euripides, Suppliants 249).

When the meaningless harangue was over, Adrastus 1, making no attempt to justification, answered the wise man as clearly as he could:

"I did not ask you to pass judgement on my faults ... nor did I come to you for punishment, nor for rebuke, of such mistakes as I have made. I came for help. So, if you will not give me this I must accept your answer. What else can I do?" (Adrastus 1 to Theseus. Euripides, Suppliants 249).

The Argive women intervene

That said, Adrastus 1 made sign to leave. But the Argive women, who suffered at the thought of their unburied husbands and children, renewed the request, reminding Theseus that even a beast can flee for refuge to the rock, or a slave find sanctuary at an altar, and that in human life nothing enjoys for ever quiteness and prosperity. And when they had spoken, Theseus' own mother Aethra 2 joined them in their demand, bidding her son not to err by refusing help to the opressed, but instead, by the might of arms, force them to their duty who, undermining laws common to all men, denied burial to the Argives.

Theseus attacks Thebes

Taking counsel from his mother, Theseus saw himself under a new light and, assuming the role of defender of the laws of all nations, as well as of the covenants of heaven, he marched against Creon 2 with a powerful host that was persuaded of both the worth and justice of the enterprise. This is how Thebes, which had just gained peace at a high price of blood, lost it again, and was forced by arms to let the Argives burn on the funeral pyre. Some have said that the burial took place near Eleusis. But the Thebans have denied that they ever engaged in battle against Theseus, saying that they voluntarily gave up the dead for burial.


The Megarians assert that Adrastus 1 died at Megara of Old Age and grief at the death of his son Aegialeus 1, whom Laodamas 2 killed during the war of the EPIGONI. Others have said that Adrastus 1 and his son Hipponous 4 threw themselves into the fire, following (again) an oracle of Apollo, a god who, apparently, wished his destruction. And still others say that Adrastus 1 returned to Argos after his defeat. Whatever happened, Death never fails; and years after, when Aeneas descended to Hades, he saw, among the shades of the dead, the pale spectre of Adrastus 1.

Adrastus 1 fought against after death

Despite the fact that Adrastus 1 committed serious mistakes, which make of him a member of the legion of the defeated, he was venerated throughout Argive territory for many years, and particularly in Sicyon, since Adrastus 1 had once received the throne of this city from his maternal grandfather Polybus 9, father of Lysianassa 3. This is why the Sicyonians paid honors to Adrastus 1, celebrating his memory with tragic choruses. But when 600 years after his death Cleisthenes came to power in Sicyon (in times that are recorded as historical) his position was weakened. For Cleisthenes, who disliked the Argive influence, put an end to the minstrels' contests, since these had as theme of the songs the prowesses of the Argives, and restored the tragic choruses to Dionysus 2. Likewise he wished to cast out Adrastus 1's hero shrine, who was in the marketplace at Sicyon. Yet, not daring to do such a thing without authority, he sought it in the oracle of Delphi, which utterly disappointed him by answering:

"Adrastus is king of Sicyon, and you but a stone thrower." (The Oracle to Cleisthenes. Herodotus, History 5.67.2).

As he could not find satisfaction in such an answer, he then introduced the cult of Melanippus 1, who had died defending Thebes against the SEVEN, after slaying Tydeus 2 and Mecisteus 1, brother of Adrastus 1. In addition Cleisthenes, being eager to remove the Argive influence, renamed their tribes in a ridiculous way, calling them Swinites, Assites and Porkites, and reserving for his own tribe the title Archelaoi, rulers of the people. This lunacy lasted for sixty years after Cleisthenes' death. Afterwards the Sicyonians, recovering their senses, changed the names into respectable ones, and added one which they called Aegialeis after Adrastus 1's son Aegialeus 1.

The marvellous horse

Adrastus 1 won the horse race of the first Nemean games, which he himself instituted, riding Arion 1, the dark-maned steed that also saved his life, carrying him away from the battlefield. Arion 1 was first tamed by Oncius, an Arcadian son of Apollo, and later, when Heracles 1 waged war against Elis, he asked the horse to Oncius, and was carried to battle on its back when he took Elis. Afterwards the horse was given by Heracles 1 to Adrastus 1. Arion 1 was said to be the offspring either of Poseidon and Demeter, or of Gaia, or of Zephyrus 1 (one of the WINDS) and Podarge, one of the HARPIES. It is said that when Demeter was looking for her daughter Persephone, she was followed by Poseidon, and in order to avoid him she turned into a mare. However, Poseidon changed himself into a stallion and enjoyed Demeter, who gave birth to a daughter, whose name is not supposed to be divulged to the uninitiated, and the horse Arion 1. This took place in Thelpusian territory in Arcadia, which belonged to Oncius.

Others with identical name

Adrastus 2 was father of Eurydice 6, wife of Ilus 2, the founder of Troy. Adrastus 3 is one of the TROJAN LEADERS. Adrastus 4 is the grandson of Adrastus 1. Adrastus 5 is counted among the TROJANS.


Parentage (three versions)




Talaus & Lysimache 1

Talaus & Eurynome 2

Talaus & Lysianassa 3

King Talaus of Argos was either son of Bias 1, son of Amythaon 1, son of Cretheus 1, son of Aeolus 1, or of Cretheus 1.
Lysimache 1 is daughter of Abas 3, son of the seer Melampus 1, son of Amythaon 1, son of Cretheus 1, son of Aeolus 1.
Eurynome 2 is daughter of Iphitus 3.
Lysianassa 3 was the daughter of King Polybus 9 of Sicyon, son of Hermes and Chthonophyle, daughter of Sicyon, son of either Metion 1, or of King Erechtheus of Athens, or of Pelops 1, or of Marathon.

Amphithea 1

Argia 1

Amphithea 1 was daughter of Pronax, son of Talaus, that is, Adrastus 1's niece.

Argia 1 married Polynices and had by him Thersander 1, Adrastus 4 and Timeas.


Deipyle married Tydeus 2 and gave birth to Diomedes 2.


Aegialia, like other wives of the Achaeans, was induced by Palamedes' father Nauplius 1 to play her husband false. And as Diomedes 2 wounded Aphrodite during the Trojan War, the goddess helped her to obtain many lovers, among which were Cometes 2, son of Sthenelus 2, one of the ACHAEAN LEADERS, and Hippolytus 6. Aegialia is sometimes called daughter of Aegialeus 1.

Aegialeus 1

Aegialeus 1 is one of the EPIGONI.


Cyanippus is counted among the ACHAEAN LEADERS and among those who hid inside the WOODEN HORSE. He is sometimes called son of Aegialeus 1.

Hipponous 4

Hipponous 4 is reported to have thrown himself into the fire, together with his father, following an oracle of Apollo.

Genealogical Charts

Names in this chart: Abas 2, Achelous, Adrastus 1, Adrastus 4, Aegialeus 1, Aegialia, Aegyptus 1, Aeolus 1, Aetolus 2, Agenor 6, Aglaia 2, Alcidice, Alcmaeon 1, Alector 1, Aleus, Amphiaraus, Amphilochus 1, Amphilochus 2, Amphion 1, Amphithea 1, Amythaon 1, Anaxagoras, Anchinoe, Antiope 3, Aphidas 1, Arcas 1, Argia 1, Asopus, Atlas, Belus 1, Biantes 1, Bias 1, Callisto, Calydon, Capaneus, Chloris 1, Cometes 2, Cretheus 1, Cyanippus, Danaus 1, Deimachus 1, Deipyle, Demonassa, Deucalion 1, Diomedes 2, Dione 3, Enarete, Endymion, Epaphus 1, EPIGONI, Epicasta 1, Eriphyle, Eteoclus, Euryalus 1, Euryte 2, Evadne 2, Hellen 1, Himas, Hippodamas 1, Hippodamas 3, Hippomedon 1, Hipponous 1, Hipponous 4, Hypermnestra 1, Hypermnestra 2, Idomene, Io, Iphis 1, Jocasta, Libya, Lynceus 2, Mantineus 1, Manto 1, Mecisteus 1, Megapenthes 2, Memphis 2, Menoeceus 1, Neleus, Nilus, Niobe 2, Oedipus, Oeneus 2, Oicles, Orseis, Parthenopaeus, Periboea 5, Perimede 1, Pero 2, Pheres 1, Phorbus, Pleuron, Pluto 3, Polydorus 1, Polynices, Porthaon, Poseidon, Proetus 1, Promachus 1, Pronax, Pronoe 2, Pyrrha 1, Salmoneus, SEVEN AGAINST THEBES, Sthenelus 2, Talaus, Tantalus 1, Thersander 1, Thestius 1, Timeas, Tiresias, Tisamenus 1, Tlesimenes, Tydeus 2, Tyro, Zeus.


During a conflict between the three influential Argive families (descendants of Proetus 1, of Melampus 1, and of Bias 1), the Biantid Talaus, or perhaps his son Pronax (brother of Adrastus 1), was killed by Amphiaraus (descendant of Melampus 1). As a result, Adrastus 1 fled to Sicyon, where his grandfather Polybus 9 reigned (Polybus 9 was father of Lysianassa 3, wife of Talaus and mother of Adrastus 1), and married his daughter Amphithea 1 (who otherwise is called daughter of Pronax).
Roscher, Lex. 1.78.59

Adrastus 1 became powerful in Sicyon, and reconciliation with Amphiaraus followed as the latter married Adrastus 1's sister Eriphyle. Having made a pact with his former enemy that any future disagreement between them would be settled by Eriphyle, Adrastus 1 returned to Argos.
Roscher, Lex. 1.79.10.

Related sections

Apd.1.9.13, 3.6.1-8, 3.7.1; Dio.4.65.9; Eur.Supp. passim; Hdt.5.67ff.; Hyg.Fab.70, 73, 242; Pau.1.39.2, 1.43.1, 2.6.6, 10.25.7; Stat.Theb.2.141 and passim; Vir.Aen.6.480.