When Oedipus stepped down as King of Thebes, he gave the kingdom to his two sons, Eteocles and Polynices, who both agreed to alternate the throne every year. After the first year, Eteocles refused to step down and Polynices attacked Thebes with his supporters (the eponymous seven against Thebes). Both brothers died in the battle. King Creon, who ascended to the throne of Thebes decreed that Polynices, "who came back from exile, and sought to consume utterly with fire the city of his fathers," is not to be buried: "touching this man, it hath been proclaimed to our people that none shall grace him with sepulture or lament, but leave him unburied, a corpse for birds and dogs to eat, a ghastly sight of shame."
Antigone, his sister, defied the order, (explaining that "I owe a longer allegiance to the dead than to the living: in that world I shall abide for ever") but was caught. Creon decreed that she was to be buried alive, that in spite of the fact that she was betrothed to his son, Haemon. He declares "'This Death that shall stay these bridals for me." The gods, through the blind prophet Tiresias, expressed their disapproval of Creon's decision ("one begotten of thine own loins shall have been given by thee, a corpse for corpses; because thou hast thrust children of the sunlight to the shades, and ruthlessly lodged a living soul in the grave"), which convinced him to rescind his order, and he went to bury Polynices. However, Antigone had already hanged herself rather than be buried alive. When Creon arrived at the tomb where she was to be interred, his son, Haemon, attacked him and then killed himself. When Creon's wife, Eurydice, was informed of their death she, too, takes her own life.
Also during this battle, Capaneus was killed by a lightning bolt from Zeus as punishment for his arrogance. His wife, Evadne, threw herself on his funeral pyre. Also, Megareus killed himself because Tiresias prophesied that a voluntarily death from a Theban would save Thebes.
The Seven Against Thebes were
The defenders of Thebes included
Seven against Thebes (Modern Greek Text, PDF File)
Plays by Aeschylus
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