Epic Cycle (᾽Επικὸς κύκλος): set of twelve archaic epic poems, known to every educated Greek. The best-known were Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, which are also the only epics that have survived.


Homer. Glyptothek, München (Germany)

The Thebais is the third epic of the Epic Cycle; it is attributed to Homer. It tells the story that is also known as the Seven against Thebes: how seven warriors, commanded by king Adrastus of Argos, unsuccessfully besiege the city. The war culminates in the battle between two sons of Oedipus, one fighting for, one fighting against Thebes. Their killing each other means that the siege comes to an end. The story is best known from Aeschylus' tragedy. From the fragments, we can deduce that these sad events were caused by a curse by the blind Oedipus.


1. Contest of Homer and Hesiod 323:
Homer traveled about reciting his Epics, first the Thebaid, in seven thousand verses, which begins: "Sing, goddess, of parched Argos, whence lords..."

2. Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae, 11.465e:
"Then the heaven-born hero, golden-haired Polyneices, first set beside Oedipus a rich table of silver which once belonged to Cadmus the divinely wise: next he filled a fine golden cup with sweet wine. But when Oedipus perceived these treasures of his father, great misery fell on his heart, and he straightway called down bitter curses there in the presence of both his sons. And the avenging Fury of the gods failed not to hear him as he prayed that they might never divide their father's goods in loving brotherhood, but that war and fighting might be ever the portion of them both."

3. Laurentinian Scholiast on Sophocles' Oedipus at Colonus, 1375:
And when Oedipus noticed the haunch, he threw it on the ground and said: "Oh! Oh! my sons have sent this mocking me..." So he prayed to Zeus the king and the other deathless gods that each might fall by his brother's hand and go down into the house of Hades."

4. Pausanias, Guide to Greece, 8.24.8:
Adrastus fled from Thebes "wearing miserable garments, and took black-maned Areion with him."

5. Pindar, Olympian Ode 6.15:
But when the seven dead had received their last rites in Thebes, the Son of Talaüs [Adrastus] lamented and spoke thus among them: "Woe is me, for I miss the bright eye of my host, a good seer and a stout spearman alike."

6. Apollodorus, Library, 1.74:
Oeneus married Periboes the daughter of Hipponoüs. The author of the Thebais says that when Olenus had been stormed, Oeneus received her as a prize.

7. Pausanias, Guide to Greece, 9.18.6:
Near the spring is the tomb of Asphodicus. This Asphodicus killed Parthenopaeus the son of Talaüs in the battle against the Argives, as the Thebans say; though that part of the Thebais which tells of the death of Parthenopaeus, says that it was Periclymenus who killed him.

8. Scholiast on Apollonius, Argonautica, 1.308:
The authors of the Thebaïs say that Manto the daughter of Teiresias was sent to Delphi by the Epigoni as a first fruit of their spoil, and that in accordance with an oracle of Apollo she went out and met Rhaecius, the son of Lebes, a Mycenaean by race. This man she married - for the oracle also contained the command that she should marry whomsoever she might meet - and coming to Colophon, was there much cast down and wept over the destruction of her country.


The translation of the fragments was made by Hugh G. Evelyn-White, and was copied from LacusCurtius.