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Location of Thebes in Boeotia (enlarge)

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.

Inflexible Pentheus 1

In the times of King Pentheus 1, Cadmus' successor, 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 wine, 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.

Polydorus 2

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.

Oedipus' father restored

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, Apollo and 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.

Oedipus' birth

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 king

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.

Oedipus' curse

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 isolated. 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 SEVEN AGAINST 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).

Throne Succession in Thebes 

Land of the Ectenes



The Ectenes were the first to occupy the land of Thebes. From their king Ogygus is derived the epithet Ogygian, often applied to Thebes. Some have said that King Eleusinus of Eleusis was son of Ogygus. Aulis, after wom the city Aulis is named, has been called daughter of Ogygus, and so has Alalcomenia, after whom Alalcomenae in Boeotia received its name.


The Phoenician Prince Cadmus founded Cadmea, later called Thebes.

This son of Echion 2 (one of the SPARTI) and Agave 2 ended his reign destroyed by the MAENADS. When Dionysus 2 came to Thebes he forced the women to abandon their houses and rave in Bacchic frenzy on Mount Cithaeron. But Pentheus 1 attempted to put a stop to these proceedings, and coming to Mount Cithaeron to spy on the MAENADS, he was killed.

Polydorus 2

Son of Cadmus & Harmonia 1. Father of Labdacus 1 who was Oedipus' grandfather [see Oedipus].

Nycteus 2

An outsider. To Nycteus 2 was entrusted the care of Labdacus 1, still a child, along with the government of Thebes at the death of Polydorus 2. Some say he was the son of Hyrieus & the Nymph Clonia. Hyrieus is known for being the man who owned a treasure inside a building built by Trophonius and Agamedes 1, which had a stone that they could take away from the outside, thus robbing him, until one of them was caught in a trap made by Hyrieus.

Others say, however, that his father was Chthonius 2, one of the SPARTI.

[Details about the rule of Nycteus 2 are at Oedipus].

Labdacus 1

Oedipus' grandfather. Labdacus 1 is son of Polydorus 2 & Nycteis. Labdacus 1 made war against King Pandion 2 of Athens, and was killed by the MAENADS, as his predecessor Pentheus 1.

Lycus 5

Lycus 5 is brother of Nycteus 2. As Laius 1 (Oedipus' father) was only a child Lycus 5 usurped the government in Thebes and reigned for twenty years. He and his brother had fled from Euboea because they had killed Phlegyas 1 (a Boeotian king). They became Theban citizens through their friendship with Pentheus 1.

Lycus 5 is known, among other things, for having waged war against Sicyon.

Thebes was named after Thebe, daughter of the river god Asopus & Metope 1 (daughter of river god Ladon 1). Thebe married Zethus, brother of Amphion 1.

Some say Amphion 1 was son of Zeus & Antiope 3 (daughter of Nycteus 2). He fortified Thebes and built its seven gates. His children the NIOBIDS were killed by Apollo and Artemis.

Laius 1

Son of Labdacus 1 and father of Oedipus [see Oedipus].

At the death of Laius 1, Creon 2 became Regent of Thebes, until Oedipus became king [see Oedipus]. Creon 2 was son of Menoeceus 1. He sent Oedipus into exile and forbade the burial of the Argives after the war of the SEVEN AGAINST THEBES.

Eteocles 1

One of Oedipus' sons by his own mother Jocasta [see Oedipus and SEVEN AGAINST THEBES].

Came to power again after the war of the SEVEN AGAINST THEBES.

Laodamas 2

Son of Eteocles 1. Defender of the city against the EPIGONI.

Thersander 1

One of the EPIGONI. When these won the war Thersander 1 became king of Thebes. Thersander 1 is son of Polynices & Argia 1, princess of Argos and daughter of Adrastus 1, son of Talaus, son of Bias 1, son of Amythaon 1, son of Cretheus 1, son of Aeolus 1, son of Hellen 1, son of Deucalion 1, the man who survived the Flood.

Tisamenus 1

Tisamenus 1, son of Thersander 1 & Demonassa 4 (daughter of the Argive Amphiaraus who was one of the SEVEN), was not yet old enough to lead the second expedition against Troy after the reverse in Mysia.

Instead Peneleus led the Boeotians against Troy and never returned because he was killed during the Trojan War by the Mysian Eurypylus 6, son of Telephus, son of Heracles 1. Peneleus was son of Hippalcimus 2, son of Itonus 2, son of Boeotus, after whom the Boeotians are called.

Autesion 1

King of Thebes after his father Tisamenus 1. They say that the ERINYES of Laius 1 and Oedipus persecuted him, and following an oracle, he migrated to the Dorians. On his departure, Damasichthon 2 was chosen to be king.

Damasichthon 2

Son of Opheltes 2, son of Peneleus.

Ptolemy 2

Succeeded his father in the throne.

Xanthus 6

Xanthus 6 was killed by Andropompus 1, a Messenian who had been expelled by the HERACLIDES. But some say that it was Melanthus 1, son of Andropompus 1, who killed Xanthus 6. Melanthus 1 had come Athens and deposed Thymoetes 2, becoming king himself. Melanthus 1 is the grandfather of many of those who led the Ionian colonization in Asia Minor.

Collective rule

After Xanthus 6 the Thebans thought it better to entrust the government to several persons, rather than to only one man.

Related sections Cadmus, SPARTI, Robe & Necklace of Harmonia 1, Pentheus 1, Amphion 1, NIOBIDS, Creon 2, Oedipus, Sphinx, Tiresias, SEVEN AGAINST THEBES, Antigone 2, EPIGONI 

Some mentions of Thebes: Apd.1.8.2, 1.8.6, 1.9.13, 1.9.23, 2.4.6-9, 2.4.11, 2.6.1, 2.7.6, 3.4.1, 3.5.2, 3.5.4-.6, 3.5.8-9, 3.6.1-2, 3.6.6-8, 3.7.1-5, 3.9.2; Cal.BP.57.