Thebes is a city in southern Boeotia, the region
north and west of Attica. Thebes was founded by
Cadmus, who occupied the
land, in Boeotia, that until then had belonged to
the Ectenes, ruled by Ogygus.
Location of Thebes in Boeotia (enlarge)
Inflexible Pentheus 1
In the times of King
several calamities occurred, mainly because of
Pentheus 1's strange
ideas about law and order, which resulted in his
inflexible resistance against the god of
Dionysus 2. He
attempted to put a stop to the Theban women's
frenzy, and coming to Cithaeron to spy like a thief
on the Bacchanals, he was killed.
Pentheus 1 became
ruler of Thebes because, being the son of one of
the so called SPARTI, he
belonged to a powerful family.
His successor Polydorus 2, a son of Cadmus, married Nycteis, who was the daughter of Nycteus 2. His reign was probably short since, when he died, his son Labdacus 1 was still a child. So, for the time being, the kingdom was entrusted to his father-in-law.
War with Sicyon
At the time when Nycteus 2 was regent in Thebes, the Thessalian Epopeus 1 emigrated to Sicyon and became king of the city. Since property and women are often considered indispensable possessions worth taking great risks, Epopeus 1, being no exception in this regard, decided to increase his own wealth by abducting Antiope 3, the daughter of the Theban regent. This woman, who some considered daughter not of Nycteus 2 but of the river god Asopus, was for Epopeus 1 what some today call a "representative wife", as she had a name in all Hellas for her beauty. Because of his not at all uncommon ambition, a hostile army, the Theban, invaded Sicyon, which up to then had enjoyed unbroken peace. In the battle that ensued, which meant defeat for the Thebans, both Nycteus 2 and Epopeus 1 were wounded. Nycteus 2 returned to Thebes as a dying man, but before passing away he appointed as his successor his own brother Lycus 5, for Labdacus 1 was still a child.
Labdacus 1, grandfather of Oedipus
In time Labdacus 1 became king, but his reign ended in the same manner as that of his predecessor Pentheus 1, whose narrow ideas about law and order he shared. Labdacus 1 opposed the Bacchanals and the god of the vine Dionysus 2,
and consequently was killed by the
MAENADS. During the rule of Labdacus 1, the Thebans were involved in yet another military expedition against one neighbor. This time the Thebans engaged, for a matter of boundaries, in a war against the Athenians, who were at the time ruled by King Pandion 2. However, the Athenians received military aid from the Thracians led by cruel King Tereus 1, who help them
bring the war to a successful close.
When Labdacus 1 died, he left a child Laius 1. But as
Laius 1 was only a child, Lycus 5, who previously had experienced the sweet taste of power, usurped the government in Thebes, and reigned for twenty years.
The usurper Lycus 5
This Lycus 5 and his now dead brother Nycteus 2 came to Thebes as fugitives because they had killed the Boeotian King Phlegyas 1. In Thebes they became citizens through their friendship with Pentheus 1. When Nycteus 2 died, he asked his brother to punish Epopeus 1 and Antiope 3. So Lycus 5, repeating his brother's expedition against Sicyon, marched with an army against the city, conquered it, and having killed Epopeus 1, led Antiope 3 away captive. Some affirm that Antiope 3, before being abducted by Epopeus 1, was Lycus 5's wife, and that before she was taken back to Thebes she had given birth to twins who were not the sons of Epopeus 1 but Zeus' children, as the
god had approached her in the form of a Satyr. Lycus 5 and his new wife Dirce imprisoned her and treated her spitefully. But one day Antiope 3 escaped, and reunited with her twins Amphion 1 and Zethus, who came to Thebes, and slew both Lycus 5 and his wife. It is said that the twins Amphion 1 and Zethus
tied Dirce to a bull, and flung her dead body into
the spring called Dirce after her.
Usurpers against usurpers
The death of Lycus 5 did not restore Laius 1 to the throne.
When the twins had eliminated the regent and the
first lady, they believed that such sort of crime
is naturally followed by acquisition of power and
other plenties. So they decided to take over the
kingdom of Thebes, and having fortified the city
(the stones following the lyre of
Amphion 1), they
expelled Laius 1.
Amphion 1 built the seven gates of Thebes, and named them after his daughters Thera, Cleodoxa, Astynome 2, Astycratia, Chias, Ogygia, and Chloris 1.
Amphion 1 married Niobe 2, a boastful woman daughter of the impious Tantalus 1, and had by
her the many children that are known as the
NIOBIDS. Niobe 2 provoked with her boasts and insults the wrath of the sweet children of Leto,
Artemis, who from afar
shot the NIOBIDS with their arrows. This means, in other words, that the Royal House was left desolate by plague. Also Zethus's son was killed through some mistake, and Zethus himself died of a broken heart. And while Niobe 2 left the country and went to her father at Sipylus where she was transformed into a stone by Apollo,
Laius 1 was restored by
the Thebans as king.
Background of Laius 1
While Laius 1 was
still in exile he lived in Peloponnesus, being
generously hosted by King
Pelops 1, brother of Niobe 2. However, while he, in the course of the Nemean Games, taught Chrysippus 2, a bastard son of Pelops 1 by the nymph Danais, to drive the chariot, he fell in love with him and carried him off. The legitimate sons of
Pelops 1 and Hippodamia 3, Atreus and Thyestes 1, pursued him and arrested him, but Laius 1 obtained mercy
from Pelops 1 on account of his love. However, Hippodamia 3 found the occasion opportune to have the bastard Chrysippus 2 killed, and arguing that he would become a contestant for the kingship, she tried to persuade her sons to assassinate him. But the time for bloodthirsty deeds had not yet arrived for Atreus and Thyestes 1, and they refused. So at night Hippodamia 3 visited Laius 1 and Chrysippus 2 when they were asleep, and taking the sword of the Theban, she wounded Chrysippus 2 and fixed the sword in his body, so that Laius 1 would be suspected. However, Chrysippus 2 aknowledged the truth before dying, and Pelops 1 banished his
wife, who, according to some, committed suicide.
When Laius 1 became king of Thebes, he married Jocasta, daughter of Menoeceus 1. At this time an oracle came from Delphi warning him not to
have a son because that son was fated to kill his
own father. In spite of this oracle,
Laius 1, who did not
share his predecessors aversion against
wine, flushed with this
same divine beverage had intercourse with his wife,
and she conceived a son.
Oedipus (for that is
the name of the son of Laius 1) was exposed by his father, who feared the
oracle. But since fate cannot be circumvented,
Oedipus did kill his
father, and having solved the riddle of the
Sphinx, he became the
master of Thebes after, he married his own mother
Jocasta, and had children by her.
Later, Oedipus, being
found guilty of both murder and incest, was forced
to abdicate. And the man who unwittingly had killed
his father and slept with his mother found himself,
not only deprived of his throne and reputation, but
also despised by his sons, who feared the mere
company of this family shame, and kept
Oedipus met this outrage by cursing his sons Polynices and Eteocles 1 so that they never would come to terms as to who would become Oedipus'
successor and king of Thebes.
In order to avoid their father's curse, Polynices and Eteocles 1 made at first an agreement with each other, and decided that each should rule alternately for one year at a time. But this deal did not last long, and Oedipus had not yet died when Polynices was already raising an army to march against his younger brother Eteocles 1, who having seized power, banished him, refusing to share the throne. This civil war, spiced with foreign
intervention, is the war of the
THEBES, in which Polynices and Eteocles 1 slew each other, thus fulfilling Oedipus' curse.
Creon 2 came to power after the death of Eteocles 1, and because he forbade to bury the dead enemies, an Athenian intervention under the command of Theseus took place which
forced him to carry on the regular funeral
practices. But Oedipus'
daughter Antigone 2,
who resisted Creon 2's
unholy edict and in secret buried her brother
Polynices, was detected and interred alive. Ten years after these events, the sons of the
SEVEN, called the
EPIGONI, marched against
Thebes, and were victorious. When the EPIGONI won the war, Polynices' son Thersander 1 became king of Thebes (for other rulers after him see Throne Succession below).