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Having succeeded to the kingdom of Thebes, Creon cast out the Argive dead unburied, issued a proclamation that none should bury them, and set watchmen. But Antigone, one of the daughters of Oedipus, stole the body of Polynices, and secretly buried it, and having been detected by Creon himself, she was interred alive in the grave.1 Adrastus fled to Athens2 and took refuge at the altar of Mercy,3 and laying on it the suppliant's bough4 he prayed that they would bury the dead. And the Athenians marched with Theseus, captured Thebes, and gave the dead to their kinsfolk to bury. And when the pyre of Capaneus was burning, his wife Evadne, the daughter of Iphis, thew herself on the pyre, and was burned with him.5 [2]

Ten years afterwards the sons of the fallen, called the Epigoni, purposed to march against Thebes to avenge the death of their fathers;6 and when they consulted the oracle, the god predicted victory under the leadership of Alcmaeon. So Alcmaeon joined the expedition, though he was loath to lead the army till he had punished his mother; for Eriphyle had received the robe from Thersander, son of Polynices, and had persuaded her sons also7 to go to the war. Having chosen Alcmaeon as their leader, they made war on Thebes. The men who took part in the expedition were these: Alcmaeon and Amphilochus, sons of Amphiaraus; Aegialeus, son of Adrastus; Diomedes, son of Tydeus; Promachus, son of Parthenopaeus; Sthenelus, son of Capaneus; Thersander, son of Polynices; and Euryalus, son of Mecisteus. [3] They first laid waste the surrounding villages; then, when the Thebans advanced against them, led by Laodamas, son of Eteocles, they fought bravely,8 and though Laodamas killed Aegialeus, he was himself killed by Alcmaeon,9 and after his death the Thebans fled in a body within the walls. But as Tiresias told them to send a herald to treat with the Argives, and themselves to take to flight, they did send a herald to the enemy, and, mounting their children and women on the wagons, themselves fled from the city. When they had come by night to the spring called Tilphussa, Tiresias drank of it and expired.10 After travelling far the Thebans built the city of Hestiaea and took up their abode there. [4] But the Argives, on learning afterwards the flight of the Thebans, entered the city and collected the booty, and pulled down the walls. But they sent a portion of the booty to Apollo at Delphi and with it Manto, daughter of Tiresias; for they had vowed that, if they took Thebes, they would dedicate to him the fairest of the spoils.11 [5]

After the capture of Thebes, when Alcmaeon learned that his mother Eriphyle had been bribed to his undoing also,12 he was more incensed than ever, and in accordance with an oracle given to him by Apollo he killed his mother.13 Some say that he killed her in conjunction with his brother Amphilochus, others that he did it alone. But Alcmaeon was visited by the Fury of his mother's murder, and going mad he first repaired to Oicles14 in Arcadia, and thence to Phegeus at Psophis. And having been purified by him he married Arsinoe, daughter of Phegeus,15 and gave her the necklace and the robe. But afterwards the ground became barren on his account,16 and the god bade him in an oracle to depart to Achelous and to stand another trial on the river bank.17 At first he repaired to Oeneus at Calydon and was entertained by him; then he went to the Thesprotians, but was driven away from the country; and finally he went to the springs of Achelous, and was purified by him,18 and received Callirrhoe, his daughter, to wife. Moreover he colonized the land which the Achelous had formed by its silt, and he took up his abode there.19 But afterwards Callirrhoe coveted the necklace and robe, and said she would not live with him if she did not get them. So away Alcmaeon hied to Psophis and told Phegeus how it had been predicted that he should be rid of his madness when he had brought the necklace and the robe to Delphi and dedicated them.20 Phegeus believed him and gave them to him. But a servant having let out that he was taking the things to Callirrhoe, Phegeus commanded his sons, and they lay in wait and killed him.21 When Arsinoe upbraided them, the sons of Phegeus clapped her into a chest and carried her to Tegea and gave her as a slave to Agapenor, falsely accusing her of Alcmaeon's murder. [6] Being apprized of Alcmaeon's untimely end and courted by Zeus, Callirrhoe requested that the sons she had by Alcmaeon might be full grown in order to avenge their father's murder. And being suddenly full-grown, the sons went forth to right their father's wrong.22 Now Pronous and Agenor, the sons of Phegeus,23 carrying the necklace and robe to Delphi to dedicate them, turned in at the house of Agapenor at the same time as Amphoterus and Acarnan, the sons of Alcmaeon; and the sons of Alcmaeon killed their father's murderers, and going to Psophis and entering the palace they slew both Phegeus and his wife. They were pursued as far as Tegea, but saved by the intervention of the Tegeans and some Argives, and the Psophidians took to flight. [7] Having acquainted their mother with these things, they went to Delphi and dedicated the necklace and robe24 according to the injunction of Achelous. Then they journeyed to Epirus, collected settlers, and colonized Acarnania.25

But Euripides says26 that in the time of his madness Alcmaeon begat two children, Amphilochus and a daughter Tisiphone, by Manto, daughter of Tiresias, and that he brought the babes to Corinth and gave them to Creon, king of Corinth, to bring up; and that on account of her extraordinary comeliness Tisiphone was sold as a slave by Creon's spouse, who feared that Creon might make her his wedded wife. But Alcmaeon bought her and kept her as a handmaid, not knowing that she was his daughter, and coming to Corinth to get back his children he recovered his son also. And Amphilochus colonized Amphilochian Argos in obedience to oracles of Apollo.27

1 Apollodorus here follows the account of Antigone's heroism and doom as they are described by Sophocles in his noble tragedy, the Antigone. Compare Aesch. Seven 1005ff. A different version of the story is told by Hyginus, Fab. 72. According to him, when Antigone was caught in the act of performing funeral rites for her brother Polynices, Creon handed her over for execution to his son Haemon, to whom she had been betrothed. But Haemon, while he pretended to put her to death, smuggled her out of the way, married her, and had a son by her. In time the son grew up and came to Thebes, where Creon detected him by the bodily mark which all descendants of the Sparti or Dragon-men bore on their bodies. In vain Herakles interceded for Haemon with his angry father. Creon was inexorable; so Haemon killed himself and his wife Antigone. Some have thought that in this narrative Hyginus followed Euripides, who wrote a tragedy Antigone, of which a few fragments survive. See TGF (Nauck 2nd ed.), pp. 404ff.

2 As to the flight of Adrastus to Athens, and the intervention of the Athenians on his behalf see Isoc. 4.54-58; Isoc. 12.168-174; Paus. 1.39.2; Plut. Thes. 29; Statius, Theb. xii.464ff., (who substitutes Argive matrons as suppliants instead of Adrastus). The story is treated by Euripides in his extant play The Suppliants, which, on the whole, Apollodorus follows. But whereas Apollodorus, like Statius, lays the scene of the supplication at the altar of Mercy in Athens, Euripides lays it at the altar of Demeter in EleusisEur. Supp. 1ff.). In favour of the latter version it may be said that the graves of the fallen leaders were shown at Eleusis, near the Flowery Well (Paus. 1.39.1ff.; Plut. Thes. 29); while the graves of the common soldiers were at Eleutherae, which is on the borders of Attica and Boeotia, on the direct road from Eleusis to ThebesEur. Supp. 756ff.; Plut. Thes. 29). Tradition varied also on the question how the Athenians obtained the permission of the Thebans to bury the Argive dead. Some said that Theseus led an army to Thebes, defeated the Thebans, and compelled them to give up the dead Argives for burial. This was the version adopted by Euripides, Statius, and Apollodorus. Others said that Theseus sent an embassy and by negotiations obtained the voluntary consent of the Thebans to his carrying off the dead. This version, as the less discreditable to the Thebans, was very naturally adopted by them (Paus. 1.39.2) and by the patriotic Boeotian Plutarch, who expressly rejects Euripides's account of the Theban defeat. Isocrates, with almost incredible fatuity, adopts both versions in different passages of his writings and defends himself for so doing (Isoc. 12.168-174). Lysias, without expressly mentioning the flight of Adrastus to Athens, says that the Athenians first sent heralds to the Thebans with a request for leave to bury the Argive dead, and that when the request was refused, they marched against the Thebans, defeated them in battle, and carrying off the Argive dead buried them at Eleusis. See Lys. 2.7-10.

3 As to the altar of Mercy at Athens see above Apollod. 2.8.1; Paus. 1.17.1, with my note (vol. ii. pp. 143ff.); Diod. 13.22.7; Statius, Theb. xii.481-505. It is mentioned in a late Greek inscription found at AthensCorpus Inscriptionum Atticarum, iii.170; G. Kaibel, Epigrammata Graeca ex lapidibus conlecta 792). The altar, though not mentioned by early writers, was in later times one of the most famous spots in Athens. Philostratus says that the Athenians built an altar of Mercy as the thirteenth of the gods, and that they poured libations on it, not of wine, but of tears (Philostratus, Epist. 39). In this fancy he perhaps copied Statius, Theb. xii.488, “lacrymis altaria sudant”.

4 The branch of olive which a suppliant laid on the altar of a god in token that he sought the divine protection. See Andoc. 1.110ff.; Jebb on Sophocles, OT 3.

5 For the death of Evadne on the pyre of her husband Capaneus, see Eur. Supp. 1034ff.; Zenobius, Cent. i.30; Prop. i.15.21ff.; Ovid, Tristia v.14.38; Ovid, Pont. iii.1.111ff.; Hyginus, Fab. 243; Statius, Theb. xii.800ff., with the note of Lactantius Placidus on Statius, Theb. v. 801; Martial iv.75.5. Capaneus had been killed by a thunderbolt as he was mounting a ladder at the siege of Thebes. See Apollod. 3.6.7. Hence his body was deemed sacred and should have been buried, not burned, and the grave fenced off; whereas the other bodies were all consumed on a single pyre. See Eur. Supp. 934-938, where συμπήξας τάφον refers to the fencing in of the grave. So the tomb of Semele, who was also killed by lightning, seems to have stood within a sacred enclosure. See Eur. Ba. 6-11. Yet, inconsistently with the foregoing passage, Euripides appears afterwards to assume that the body of Capaneus was burnt on a pyre (Eur. Supp. 1000ff.). The rule that a person killed by a thunderbolt should be buried, not burnt, is stated by Pliny, Nat. Hist. ii.145 and alluded to by Tertullian, Apologeticus 48. An ancient Roman law, attributed to Numa, forbade the celebration of the usual obsequies for a man who had been killed by lightning. See Festus, s.v. “Occisum,” p. 178, ed. C. O. Müller. It is true that these passages refer to the Roman usage, but the words of Eur. Supp. 934-938 seem to imply that the Greek practice was similar, and this is confirmed by Artemidorus, who says that the bodies of persons killed by lightning were not removed but buried on the spot (Artemidorus, Onirocrit. ii.9). The same writer tells us that a man struck by lightning was not deemed to be disgraced, nay, he was honoured as a god; even slaves killed by lightning were approached with respect, as honoured by Zeus, and their dead bodies were wrapt in fine garments. Such customs are to some extent explained by the belief that Zeus himself descended in the flash of lightning; hence whatever the lightning struck was naturally regarded as holy. Places struck by lightning were sacred to Zeus the Descender (Ζεὺς καταιβάτης ) and were enclosed by a fence. Inscriptions marking such spots have been found in various parts of Greece. See Pollux ix.41; Paus. 5.14.10, with (Frazer, Paus. vol. iii. p. 565, vol. v. p. 614). Compare E. Rohde, Psyche(3), i.320ff.; H. Useher, “Keraunos,” Kleine Schriften, iv.477ff., (who quotes from Clemens Romanus and Cyrillus more evidence of the worship of persons killed by lightning); Chr. Blinkenberg, The Thunder-weapon in Religion and Folklore (Cambridge, 1911), pp. 110ff. Among the Ossetes of the Caucasus a man who has been killed by lightning is deemed very lucky, for they believe that he has been taken by St. Elias to himself. So the survivors raise cries of joy and sing and dance about him. His relations think it their duty to join in these dances and rejoicings, for any appearance of sorrow would be regarded as a sin against St. Elias and therefore punishable. The festival lasts eight days. The deceased is dressed in new clothes and laid on a pillow in the exact attitude in which he was struck and in the same place where he died. At the end of the celebrations he is buried with much festivity and feasting, a high cairn is erected on his grave, and beside it they set up a tall pole with the skin of a black he-goat attached to it, and another pole, on which hang the best clothes of the deceased. The grave becomes a place of pilgrimage. See Julius von Klaproth, Reise in den Kaukasus und nach Georgien (Halle and Berlin, 1814), ii.606; A. von Haxthausen, Transkaukasia (Leipsig, 1856), ii.21ff. Similarly the Kafirs of South Africa “have strange notions respecting the lightning. They consider that it is governed by the umshologu, or ghost, of the greatest and most renowned of their departed chiefs, and who is emphatically styled the inkosi; but they are not at all clear as to which of their ancestors is intended by this designation. Hence they allow of no lamentation being made for a person killed by lightning, as they say that it would be a sign of disloyalty to lament for one whom the inkosi had sent for, and whose services he consequently needed; and it would cause him to punish them, by making the lightning again to descend and do them another injury.” Further, rites of purification have to be performed by a priest at the kraal where the accident took place; and till these have been performed, none of the inhabitants may leave the kraal or have intercourse with other people. Meantime their heads are shaved and they must abstain from drinking milk. The rites include a sacrifice and the inoculation of the people with powdered charcoal. See “Mr. Warner's Notes,” in Col. Maclean's Compendium of Kafir Laws and Customs (Cape Town, 1866), pp. 82-84. Sometimes, however, the ghosts of persons who have been killed by lightning are deemed to be dangerous. Hence the Omahas used to slit the soles of the feet of such corpses to prevent their ghosts from walking about. See J. Owen Dorsey, “A Study of Siouan Cults,” Eleventh Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology (Washington, 1894), p. 420. For more evidence of special treatment accorded to the bodies of persons struck dead by lightning, see A. B. Ellis, The Ewe-speaking Peoples of the Slave Coast (London, 1890), p. 39ff.; A. B. Ellis, The Yoruba-speaking Peoples of the Slave Coast (London, 1894), p. 49; Rev. J. H. Weeks, “Notes on some customs of the Lower Congo people,” Folk-Lore, xx. (1909), p. 475; Rendel Harris, Boanerges (Cambridge, 1913), p. 97; A. L. Kitching, On the backwaters of the Nile (London, 1912), pp. 264ff. Among the Barundi of Central Africa, a man or woman who has been struck, but not killed, by lightning becomes thereby a priest or priestess of the god Kiranga, whose name he or she henceforth bears and of whom he or she is deemed a bodily representative. And any place that has been struck by lightning is enclosed, and the trunk of a banana-tree or a young fig-tree is set up in it to serve as the temporary abode of the deity who manifested himself in the lightning. See H. Meyer, Die Barundi (Leipsig, 1916), pp. 123, 135.

6 The war of the Epigoni against Thebes is narrated very similarly by Diod. 4.66. Compare Paus. 9.5.10ff., Paus. 9.8.6, Paus. 9.9.4ff.; Hyginus, Fab. 70. There was an epic poem on the subject, called Epigoni, which some people ascribed to Homer (Hdt. 4.32; Biographi Graeci, ed. A. Westermann, pp. 42ff.), but others attributed it to Antimachus (Scholiast on Aristoph. Peace 1270). Compare Epicorum Graecorum Fragmenta, ed. G. Kinkel, pp. 13ff. Aeschylus and Sophocles both wrote tragedies on the same subject and with the same title, Epigoni. See TGF (Nauck 2nd ed.), pp. 19, 173ff.; The Fragments of Sophocles, ed. A. C. Pearson, i.129ff.

7 The sons of Eriphyle were Alcmaeon and Amphilochus, as we learn immediately. The giddy and treacherous mother persuaded them, as she had formerly persuaded her husband Amphiaraus, to go to the war, the bauble of a necklace and the gewgaw of a robe being more precious in her sight than the lives of her kinsfolk. See above, Apollod. 3.6.2; and as to the necklace and robe, see Apollod. 3.4.2; Apollod. 3.6.1-2; Diod. 4.66.3.

8 The battle was fought at a place called Glisas, where the graves of the Argive lords were shown down to the time of Pausanias. See Paus. 9.5.13; Paus. 9.8.6; Paus. 9.9.4; Paus. 9.19.2; Scholiast on Pind. P. 8.48(68), who refers to Hellanicus as his authority.

9 According to a different account, King Laodamas did not fall in the battle, but after his defeat led a portion of the Thebans away to the Illyrian tribe of the Encheleans, the same people among whom his ancestors Cadmus and Harmonia had found their last home. See Hdt. 5.61; Paus. 9.5.13; Paus. 9.8.6. As to Cadmus and Harmonia in Illyria, see above, Apollod. 3.5.4.

10 See Paus. 9.33.1, who says that the grave of Tiresias was at the spring. But there was also a cenotaph of the seer on the road from Thebes to ChalcisPaus. 9.18.4). Diod. 4.67.1 agrees with Pausanias and Apollodorus in placing the death of Tiresias at Mount Tilphusium, which was beside the spring Tilphussa, in the territory of Haliartus.

11 Compare Diod. 4.66.6 (who gives the name of Tiresias's daughter as Daphne, not Manto); Paus. 7.3.3; Paus. 9.33.2; Scholiast on Ap. Rhod., Argon. i.308.

12 That is, as well as to the undoing of his father Amphiaraus. See above, Apollod. 3.6.2.

13 Compare Thuc. 2.102.7ff.; Diod. 4.65.7; Paus. 8.24.7ff.; Ov. Met. 9.407ff.; Hyginus, Fab. 73. Sophocles and Euripides both wrote tragedies called Alcmaeon, or rather Alcmeon, for that appears to be the more correct spelling of the name. See TGF (Nauck 2nd ed.), pp. 153ff., 379ff.; The Fragments of Sophocles, ed. A. C. Pearson, vol. i. pp. 68ff.

14 Oicles was the father of Amphiaraus, and therefore the grandfather of Alcmaeon. See Apollod. 1.8.2.

15 Paus. 8.24.8 and Prop. i.15.19 call her Alphesiboea.

16 So Greece is said to have been afflicted with a dearth on account of a treacherous murder committed by Pelops. See below, Apollod. 3.12.6. Similarly the land of Thebes was supposed to be visited with barrenness of the soil, of cattle, and of women because of the presence of Oedipus, who had slain his father and married his mother. See Soph. OT 22ff.; Soph. OT 96ff.; Hyginus, Fab. 67. The notion that the shedding of blood, especially the blood of a kinsman, is an offence to the earth, which consequently refuses to bear crops, seems to have been held by the ancient Hebrews, as it is still apparently held by some African peoples. See Folk-Lore in the Old Testament, i.82ff.

17 The text is here uncertain. See the Critical Note.

18 Achelous here seems to be conceived partly as a river and partly as a man, or rather a god.

19 Compare Thuc. 2.102.7ff.; Paus. 8.24.8ff. As to the formation of new land by the deposit of alluvial soil at the mouth of the Achelous, compare Hdt. 2.10.

20 According to Ephorus, or his son Demophilus, this oracle was really given to Alcmaeon at Delphi. See Athenaeus vi.22, p. 232 DF, where the words of the oracle are quoted.

21 His grave was overshadowed by tall cypresses, called the Maidens, in the bleak upland valley of Psophis. See Paus. 8.24.7. A quiet resting-place for the matricide among the solemn Arcadian mountains after the long fever of the brain and the long weary wanderings. The valley, which I have visited, somewhat resembles a Yorkshire dale, but is far wilder and more solitary.

22 Compare Ov. Met. 9.413ff.

23 Paus. 8.24.10 calls them Temenus and Axion.

24 According to Paus. 8.24.10; Paus. 9.41.2, it was the sons of Phegeus, not the sons of Alcmaeon, who dedicated the necklace at Delphi. The necklace, or what passed for it, was preserved at Delphi in the sanctuary of Forethought Athena as late as the Sacred War in the fourth century B.C., when it was carried off, with much more of the sacred treasures, by the unscrupulous Phocian leader, Phayllus. See Parthenius, Narrat. 25 (who quotes Phylarchus as his authority); Athenaeus vi.22, p. 232 DE (who quotes the thirtieth book of the history of Ephorus as his authority).

25 Compare Thuc. 2.102.9; Paus. 8.24.9, who similarly derive the name of Acarnania from Acarnan, son of Alcmaeon. Pausanias says that formerly the people were called Curetes.

26 The reference is no doubt to one of the two lost tragedies which Euripides composed under the title Alcmaeon. See TGF (Nauck 2nd ed.), pp. 479ff.

27 Amphilochian Argos was a city of Aetolia, situated on the Ambracian Gulf. See Thuc. 2.68.3, who represents the founder Amphilochus as the son of Amphiaraus, and therefore as the brother, not the son, of Alcmaeon. As to Amphilochus, son of Amphiaraus, see above, Apollod. 3.7.2.

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  • Cross-references in notes from this page (52):
    • Aeschylus, Seven Against Thebes, 1005
    • Andocides, On the Mysteries, 110
    • Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library, 2.8.1
    • Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library, 3.4.2
    • Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library, 1.8.2
    • Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library, 3.12.6
    • Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library, 3.5.4
    • Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library, 3.6.1
    • Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library, 3.6.2
    • Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library, 3.6.7
    • Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library, 3.7.2
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 13.22.7
    • Euripides, Bacchae, 6
    • Euripides, Suppliants, 1
    • Euripides, Suppliants, 1000
    • Euripides, Suppliants, 1034
    • Euripides, Suppliants, 934
    • Euripides, Suppliants, 756
    • Herodotus, Histories, 2.10
    • Herodotus, Histories, 4.32
    • Herodotus, Histories, 5.61
    • Isocrates, Panegyricus, 54
    • Isocrates, Panathenaicus, 168
    • Lysias, Funeral Oration, 7
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.17.1
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 5.14.10
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.5.13
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.39.1
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1.39.2
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 7.3.3
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 8.24.10
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 8.24.7
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 8.24.8
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 8.24.9
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.18.4
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.19.2
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.33.1
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.33.2
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.41.2
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.5.10
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.8.6
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.9.4
    • Sophocles, Oedipus Tyrannus, 22
    • Sophocles, Oedipus Tyrannus, 96
    • Thucydides, Histories, 2.102.7
    • Thucydides, Histories, 2.68.3
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 9.407
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 9.413
    • Sextus Propertius, Elegies, 1.15
    • Thucydides, Histories, 2.102.9
    • Plutarch, Theseus, 29
    • Ovid, Tristia, 5.14
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