Finally, the commander of the troops before the seventh gate is revealed to be Polynices, the brother of the king. Then Eteocles remembers and refers to the curse of their father Oedipus. Following a choral ode, a messenger enters, announcing that the attackers have been repelled but that Eteocles and Polynices have killed each other in battle. Their bodies are brought on stage, and the chorus mourns them. Due to the popularity of Sophocles ' play Antigone , the ending of Seven against Thebes was rewritten about fifty years after Aeschylus' death. The mytheme of the "outlandish" and "savage" Seven who threatened the city has traditionally seemed to be based on Bronze Age history in the generation before the Trojan War ,  when in the Iliad ' s Catalogue of Ships only the remnant Hypothebai "Lower Town" subsists on the ruins of Thebes.
Yet archaeologists have been hard put to locate seven gates in "seven-gated Thebes":  In Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff declared that the seven gates existed only for symmetry with the seven assailants, whose very names vary: some have their own identity, like Amphiaraus the seer, "who had his sanctuary and his cult afterwards Others appear as stock figures to fill out the list," Burkert remarks. The city is saved when the brothers simultaneously run each other through.
Burkert adduces a ninth-century relief from Tell Halaf which would exactly illustrate a text from II Samuel 2: "But each seized his opponent by the forelock and thrust his sword into his side so that all fell together". The mythic theme passed into Etruscan culture : a fifth-century bronze mirrorback  is inscribed with Fulnice Polynices and Evtucle Eteocles running at one another with drawn swords. A particularly gruesome detail from the battle, in which Tydeus gnawed on the living brain of Melanippos in the course of the siege, also appears, in a sculpted terracotta relief from a temple at Pyrgi , ca.
See also Epigoni , the mythic theme of the Second War of Thebes. Of the other two plays that made up the trilogy that included Seven Against Thebes , Laius and Oedipus , and of its satyr play The Sphinx , few fragments have survived. The only fragment definitively assigned to Oedipus is a line translated by Herbert Weir Smyth as "We were coming on our journey to the place from which three highways part in the branching roads, where we crossed the junction of the triple roads at Potniae.
Translators David Grene and Richmond Lattimore wrote that "the rise of German Romanticism , and the consequent resurgence of enthusiasm for Aeschylus' archaic style and more direct and simple dramaturgy ," resulted in the elevation of Seven Against Thebes as an early masterpiece of Western drama.
Translators Anthony Hecht and Helen H. Bacon wrote that the play "has been accused of being static, undramatic, ritualistic, guilty of an interpolated and debased text, archaic, and in a word, boring," though they themselves disagree with such a description. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Seven against Thebes Scene from the Seven against Thebes : Capaneus scales the city wall of Thebes , Campanian red-figure amphora , ca.
Harvard University Press. Philip Vellacott's Introduction, pp. Penguin Classics. Translated by Grene, David; Lattimore, Richmond. University of Chicago Press. Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about The Seven Against Thebes , please sign up. Be the first to ask a question about The Seven Against Thebes. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details.
More filters. Sort order. Mar 06, Ted rated it really liked it Shelves: plays , ancient-greece-works. When a curse arising from an ancient oracle Falls due, the settlement is heavy. It was written around BC. It was probably not given this name when first performed in Athens. The Athenians were sort of pissed off at Thebes at this time, since a dozen years before it was produced, Thebes had provided a force which fought on the side of the Persians at the Battle of Plataea.
In the play itself Thebes is not mentioned — rath When a curse arising from an ancient oracle Falls due, the settlement is heavy. In the play itself Thebes is not mentioned — rather its called Cadmea, after Cadmus, the founder of Thebes. The play was originally written as the third part of a trilogy, the first two being Laius and Oedipus. When he was king of Thebes the Oracle of Delphi prophesied to him that if he had a male child, the child would slay him and marry his wife. Laius and his wife Jocasta did in fact have a son, but they feared the prophesy and arranged that the babe should be left in the mountains to die.
Well, stuff happens. The child did not die, and grew up to be a man called Oedipus. You may know the story. Oedipus, through a strange series of events, did kill Laius not knowing who he was , and eventually did marry Jocasta neither of them knowing what they were doing — giving the world the term "Oedipus complex". Four children issued from them, two sons Polyneices and Eteocles and two daughters Antigone and Ismene. Eventually more events transpire, which leads to Oedipus and Jocasta learning their blood relationship - Jocasta, that her husband is her son, that their children are her grandchildren … you get the idea.
Oedipus blinds himself as contrition for the horrible crime he has unknowingly committed; Jocasta kills herself. There are different versions of what followed. Some say Oedipus was banished, or banished himself; some say he lived on in the palace as his children grew up. One way or another, Oedipus became enraged at the sons at some point, and cursed them, to the effect that they would die at each other's hands. It's here in the legend that Oedipus invokes the Erinyes to assure that the curse will be carried out. See below for a comment on the Erinyes.
Eventually Oedipus died in foreign lands, still attended by Antigone. When the sons reached the age of majority they argued about who would rule, the younger, Eteocles, won out, and Polyneices took refuge in Argos, from where he decided to wage war on Thebes. That's the situation when the play starts. It is lines long. The armour of each attacker is described in detail, the boastfulness and blood lust of each of them is laid out, all with commentary by Polyneices, who invokes the gods to help Thebes defend against the unholy attack.
In all this there is a chorus, which has about half the lines. These are women, who are lamenting the attack, and emphasize their great fear at what will happen to them if when? Polyneices repeatedly basically tells the women to shut up and stop wailing, instead be brave, trust in the gods and their own heroes to defend the city.
This is repeated as each of the six gates are mentioned. The play get's more interesting when Polyneices is told that the seventh gate will be assaulted by his brother. So I'll let the description go at this point no spoilers. The appearance of Oedipus' daughters near the end of the play adds additional interest.
However, ancient sources tell us that Aeschylus did not write this section of the play, it was added decades later for reasons apparently associated with the popularity of Sophocles play Antigone. The translator tells us that we have no way of knowing how the last section of the play was actually composed by Aeschylus, hence there's nothing to do but simply translate what we have — even though we know it's not accurate. The translator was Philip Vellacott, who also writes a good Introduction and supplies very useful end-notes to specific words, phrases, and references in the plays.
The Greek Eumenides "the gracious ones" or "the kindly ones" was another name for the Erinyes, an example of an oft-repeated idea in ancient cultures to bestow an alternative name on fearsome deities which would allow mention of them without giving voice to the original name, in order to ward off bad fortune. Poor Polynices and Eteocles, though to be honest, Eteocles is an asshat. The whole thing was just So, yeah. Basically cursed by their grandfather, Laius for disobeying Apollo, and compounded by their father, Oedipus--Yikes!
You knew it wasn't going to end well. Antigone is still my girl, gotta reread it. Some awesome designs. Oct 02, Sarah rated it liked it Shelves: greek-drama. The Seven Against Thebes is a play centered around the prelude to the attack on Thebes by seven warlords, including one of Oedipus' sons. I like to think of it as a prequel to Antigone ; in fact, I think I could throw this play in with the Theban plays of Sophocles even though it was a different playwright who wrote it.
That being said, if this play is read before the Theban plays, it ties in very, very well. I didn't think that this was Aeschylus' best play ever- in fact, it is one of the weaker The Seven Against Thebes is a play centered around the prelude to the attack on Thebes by seven warlords, including one of Oedipus' sons.
I didn't think that this was Aeschylus' best play ever- in fact, it is one of the weaker ones that I have read by him in comparison to the brilliant Oresteia trilogy. However, it is still a very clever play that is about one of the most famous stories of Greek mythology. Having read Antigone before, I was very fascinated to actually be able to tell what kind of people the brothers of Antigone are and what the drive is for them to kill each other so brutally. By the end of this play, I was very surprised at the clean tie-in the conclusion would make to the beginning of Antigone.
I would highly recommend reading this after Oedipus at Colonus and before Antigone. View 1 comment. Aug 30, Ben rated it liked it.
Whereas Shakespeare often shows us the action in the process of unfolding, Aeschylus' characters simply recount the great events that occur in the pages of this play much like a historian. But I think the merits of the work over all pale in comparison with Prometheus Bound, which I am now considering the centerpiece of Aeschylus' great tragedies. View all 3 comments. Mar 10, David Sarkies rated it liked it Recommends it for: People who love a good war. Shelves: tragedy. The jealous rivalry of two brothers 12 March When we come to Aeschylus we must remember that this is drama at its most primitive.
This is because the works of Aeschylus are the oldest form of drama that remains extant. It appears that Aeschylus wrote most of his plays as trilogies, and unfortunately we only have one play of this trilogy available. It is difficult to know what exactly was the reason why only seven plays of Aeschylus were chosen to be preserved, and why these particular plays The jealous rivalry of two brothers 12 March When we come to Aeschylus we must remember that this is drama at its most primitive.
It is difficult to know what exactly was the reason why only seven plays of Aeschylus were chosen to be preserved, and why these particular plays were chosen.
Seven Against Thebes – Aeschylus – Ancient Greece – Classical Literature
The only complete trilogy we have is the Orestea , however it is clear, of the other four plays that we have, at least three of them are parts of a trilogy. It is suggested that this one is the final part of a trilogy most likely dealing with the story of Oedipus. I am not quite convinced that this is the final play because it appears that the end of this play will then follow on to the despite between Antigone and Creon as the king is named in the Sophoclean play over whether it is lawful or unlawful for Antigone to bury her brother. I suspect that the first play dealt with Oedipus returning to Thebes and discovering that he has inadvertently fulfilled the prophecy by killing his father and marrying his mother, and then gouging his eyes out and sending himself into exile.
This would be the second: it begins rather abruptly and ends rather abruptly. Unlike other plays, there is not much detail of what happened before, and there is a flagging reference at the end that things have not necessarily been solved. The play begins with the city of Thebes under siege. Oedipus had two sons: one of them is Etocles, who remained in the city and became king; the other is Polyneices, who after having a dispute with Etocles, went into exile, and returned with six heroes to attempt to depose his brother.
A bulk of the play deals with Etocles conversing with either the chorus or soldiers, though the end has Antigone come in with Ismene. However, while there are at times three actors on the stage, only two of them ever converse. It does not appear that proper dialogue between multiple characters had at this stage been developed. Some have criticised this play for having nothing happen, and then refer to Shakespeare and say 'look at how much better he is'. This, in my opinion, is a very bad method of comparing plays.
First of all, this is not Shakespeare, this is Aeschylus, and secondly, the two playwrights live at least years apart. By the time we arrive at Shakespeare a lot had changed and drama had developed significantly. Back here in the days of Aeschylus, drama was very much still an advanced form of storytelling, and we can see that in this play. Basically there is no action occurring on stage, it is all dialogue, but the dialogue is painting a picture of what is occurring off stage.
There is no battle on stage: this is not what Greek drama was about. There was dancing, and that was the role of the chorus, and I also believe that most of the story was sung, not spoken. We do see a form of character interaction a couple of times in the play. Etocles is attempting to calm the chorus of Theban woman down so as not to cause a panic, and later Antigone is debating with the chorus about giving proper rights for Polyneices.
The play also ends with a city divided. The chorus splits in two, and half go off to join the side that agrees that Polyneices should be exposed and left for the birds, while the other half agree with Antigone that Polyneices should be buried. However this dispute is not resolved at the end of the play, which is why I suspect that this is not the end but the middle.
Still I found it more difficult to get into this play than I do with Euripides , but this is most likely because Euripides is the next generation of dramatist, where there are well developed character interactions and more debate among characters of ideas of woman's rights, human suffering, forgiveness, and repentance. While the three unities remain important, and the chorus is still present, we see that drama has made a step forward.
The Plot of Seven Against Thebes
Unfortunately we have very little else to assist us analysing how drama developed. Along with the three great tragedians, we also have the old comedy of Aristophanes , however after that we jump to a collection of fragments by Menander , and then to the farce of Terrence and Plautus. As for drama, there is a substantial gap of at least five-hundred years until we come to the writings of Seneca. After Seneca, we pretty much have nothing until the appearance of the mystery plays of the Middle Ages.
However we know from the ruins that drama was incredibly popular: pretty much every ancient city in Roman times had a theatre. It is a shame that we have very little indication of what was actually performed in them. View 2 comments. Still all the action happens off stage. This was the third in a trilogy on Oedipus, but the first two plays are lost. The first, Laius , would have covered the story of Laius, King of Thebes, receiving the curse that this son would kill him.
He ord He ordered Oedipus killed, but Oedipus was saved and raised not knowing who his parents were. He would later kill Laius and marry his mother. The second play, Oedipus , would have covered Oedipus's discovery of his accidental crime after having four children. In the legend, the brother's agree to trade the kingship. First Eteocles, and then Polyneices. But Eteocles refuses to step down, so Polyneices gathers an army of heroes an attacks Thebes. And that gets us here.
What was most interesting to me is that Aeschylus uses a lot of humor in an otherwise formulaic tragedy. As the attacks mount, the woman inside Thebes panic and start bewailing to their gods, dreading their treatment once conquered. Eteocles tries to be respectful, while pleading for sanity. But there are lots of curiosities here. The seven heroic attackers are all described, with great attention given to their shields. One, Amphiaraus, was a seer and foresaw his own death in the battle, and carries an blank shield.
The ending of the play is not original. It was reworked so that Antigone, a daughter of Oedipus, would remain consistent her character in a later play by Sophocles. In Shakespeare's Richard the Second , the entire first act is spent preparing for a duel between two characters.
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Then, just as the blade to blade action is ready to begin, the duel is called off by the king, denying the audience of any momentary climax. Imagine that Act as an entire play and you've got Seven Against Thebes. It's like a boxing match in which all we hear is the opening ring announcer and then the post fight commentary. Seriously, the majority of the play is spent proclaiming who wi In Shakespeare's Richard the Second , the entire first act is spent preparing for a duel between two characters. Seriously, the majority of the play is spent proclaiming who will fight who.
This comes without any satisfying outcome for all the build up. The only satisfaction can come from an audience eagerly anticipating the answer to the question "I wonder who's at the next gate? However, the best Greek Tragedies focus on some fiercely debated dilemma that often prove captivating or a character with a fascinating downfall. This play has neither of these two things. As a result, this tragedy is difficult to perform and therefore rarely performed. I was part of a production of this play that did, at least I felt, prove moderately entertaining.
Two things helped. First, having a very good chorus that, through their intensity, added some urgency to the upcoming battle.
SEVEN AGAINST THEBES - Greek Mythology Link
Second, paring it with Sophocles Antigone , which helped give a satisfying conclusion to the story. I played the Herald, by the way. I recommend reading Seven Against Thebes only to those really interested in Greek theatre. Dec 09, Bakunin rated it liked it Shelves: classic. It is an interesting exploration of the human condition: a king is forced to fight his own brother in order to protect his own city and is doomed in the process.
As is usual the case with Greek tragedies the element of hubris lies at the center of this play; instead of listening to the advice of the choir, Eteokles continues on the path to his own doom. Comments on the form: being a director I am interested in new ways of performing theater. This Greek tragedy mixes elements of poetry with traditional dialogue which makes for an interested contrast to the more modern dialogue driven pieces one is used to.
I would recommend this play to anyone interested in the origin of theater as well as those who want to delve into a culture different from our own. View all 4 comments. May 18, Samir Rawas Sarayji rated it liked it Shelves: play , other-lit , greek-mythology. I liked Heaney's adaptation of Sophocles 'Antigone' more the this Aeschylus original.
I mention Heaney's because the play revolves around the same storyline, but obviously different angles and authors. My challenge with this play is that the action is narrated second-hand, rather than directly between Eteocles and Polynices. The result is a distance between the reader and the action, and a lack of emotional connection to any of the characters. Dec 07, Silvio Curtis rated it it was amazing.
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Set in Thebes at the climax of the mythical Theban War with the Argives attacking the city gates. The chorus is terrified. The messenger speeches are terrifying, particularly the full descriptions of the seven champions the seven gates and the pictures on their armor. Apr 20, Heather rated it really liked it Shelves: classics , blooms-theocratic-canon. I haven't read much Greek theater since college, so this was a pleasure. The text is brilliant. That said, there is barely a plot to be seen. The majority of the play consists of speeches about war.
Dec 19, Itsuka rated it it was amazing. Breath-taking and lyrical. This reads like a fine libretto that calls for its own score. Sep 06, Maan Kawas rated it it was amazing. A beautiful tragedy by the great Ancient Greek dramatist Aeschylus! Although the action is so little in this play, but the beautiful language and dialogue attracts you from the very beginning. The tragic event in itself is immense as we see the twin brothers kill each other by sword at the end of the play, in fulfillment to the c A beautiful tragedy by the great Ancient Greek dramatist Aeschylus!
The tragic event in itself is immense as we see the twin brothers kill each other by sword at the end of the play, in fulfillment to the curse of their father Oedipus, as well as the fate dictated by the gods. The description in the play of the seven captains on the seven gates of Thebes is fascinating, as it gives detail information about each one of them.
Apr 12, Stuart rated it it was ok. It feels strange to give a classic only two stars, but I'm going to rank and review this book as drama- not poetry- and that's where its failings show. Though Aeschylus be the father of drama, this play is still far too entrenched in its prayer ceremony origins for the casual reader or the poor director saddled with it. The action, which is almost non-existant- moves at a snail's pace and the descriptions of each warrior, though florid with detail and beauty, is on par with the Book of Ships f It feels strange to give a classic only two stars, but I'm going to rank and review this book as drama- not poetry- and that's where its failings show.
The action, which is almost non-existant- moves at a snail's pace and the descriptions of each warrior, though florid with detail and beauty, is on par with the Book of Ships for its sheer density. Only worth reading if you're a classics buff or a completeist like I am who wants to read everything regarding the Oedipus legend that you can Jan 12, Dorottya rated it liked it Shelves: plays. It was a nice drama. It had some really amazing dramaturgical techniques and it was structured really well, but I lacked a little bit of action or movement I also did not understand the "cliffhanger" at the end with the Antigone conflict Not as powerful of a tragedy as Prometheus Bound to which inevitably one holds as one of Aeschylus finest moments but nonetheless a powerful tale on betrayal a rather common concept in greek tragedy between two brothers and ultimately of a sister to Thebes, her very own city.
Through the whole book, however, one is challenged to place one's self in both the betrayer and betrayed - whichever one may be. Feb 08, Daniel Threlfall rated it it was amazing Shelves: The bad guys are coming to Thebes, so the city sends their seven toughest dudes out to fight them. Unfortunately, there is also a little family feud involved. One of the defenders King Polynices and attackers Eteocles.
They are brothers, sons of the deposed king Oedipus, who was pretty messed up. The two brothers end up killing each other. Lots of people cry. Oct 18, Aleksa rated it really liked it. Mar 24, Wreade rated it it was ok Shelves: league-of-extraordinary-gentlemen , plays , classical. A decent enough play about a siege with both sides being lead by the sons of Oedipus. Not really too interesting though. Jan 27, Matthew rated it it was amazing. Authors who are fascinated with writing books that form part of a series, and which do not read well as stand-alone works, would do well to consider the fate of Aeschylus.
In contrast to Prometheus Bound and The Suppliants, which were the first plays in a lost trilogy, Seven Against Thebes is the third and last dramatic wo Authors who are fascinated with writing books that form part of a series, and which do not read well as stand-alone works, would do well to consider the fate of Aeschylus. In contrast to Prometheus Bound and The Suppliants, which were the first plays in a lost trilogy, Seven Against Thebes is the third and last dramatic work of a series of plays that are no longer available to us.