Eteocles and Polynices

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Eteocles and Polynices

Eteokles und Polyneikes by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696–1770)
Eteokles und Polyneikes by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696–1770). PD Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The self-blinded Oedipus left the city of Thebes after he realized he was a patricide who had been fathering children on his own mother, and he cursed his own two sons/brothers, Eteocles and Polynices. This painting shows the fulfillment of the curse, their deaths at each other's hand.

In Aeschylus' surviving final play of his award-winning trilogy on the topic, Ἑπτὰ ἐπὶ Θήβας 'Seven Against Thebes,' the pair of brothers fight each other for possession of the throne of Thebes. They had agreed to rule jointly, by alternating years in power, but after his first year, Eteocles refused to step down. To gain the throne, Polynices needs armed forces, but those within the city will fight for his brother, so he gathers a group of men from Argos. These men are led by seven captains. Eteocles selects the Theban best qualified to challenge the specific Argive adversary, so there are seven Theban counterparts to the Argive attackers. There are also seven gates into the city that the Argives attempt, but ultimately fail to enter. The seven are:

Tydeus            Melanippus
Capaneus        Polyphontes
Eteoclus          Megareus
Hippomedon    Hyperbius
Parthenopeus   Actor
Amphiaraus     Lasthenes
(Polynices)       Eteocles

The two brothers kill each other with swords, in the battle.

In the sequel to the battle between Eteocles and Polynices, the successors of the fallen Argives, known as the Epigoni, win.

Read more about Aeschylus' Ἑπτὰ ἐπὶ Θήβας 'Seven Against Thebes':

Seven Against Thebes Study Guide | Characters | Terms to Know | Study Questions | Summary

Take a self-grading Seven Against Thebes Quiz

This page was first created for the January 25, 2012 Guess Who