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They in the dark should look, in time to come,
$ 161. Edipus at Colonus. — After these sad events, Edipus would have left Thebes, but the oracle forbade the people to let him go. Jocasta's brother, Creon, was made regent of the realm for the two sons of (Edipus. But, after (Edipus had grown content to stay, these sons of his, with Creon, thrust him into exile. Accompanied by his daughter Antigone, he went begging through the land. His other daughter, Ismene, at first, stayed at home. Cursing the sons who had abandoned him, but bowing his own will in submission to the ways of God, Edipus approached the hour of his death in Colonus, a village near Athens. His friend Theseus, king of Athens, comforted and sustained him to the last. Both his daughters were, also, with him :
And then he called his girls, and bade them fetch
1 Sophocles: Edipus, the King. Translation by E. H. Plumptre.
Caring for me. Hard was it, that I know,
There was sobbing, then silence. Then a voice called him,and he followed. God took him from his troubles. Antigone returned to Thebes ; — where, as we shall see, her sisterly fidelity showed itself as true as, aforetime, her filial affection.
Her brothers, Eteocles and Polynices, had meanwhile agreed to share the kingdom between them, and to reign alternately year by year. The first year fell to the lot of Eteocles, who, when his time expired, refused to surrender the kingdom to his brother. Polynices, accordingly, fled to Adrastus, king of Argos, who gave him his daughter in marriage, and aided him with an army to enforce his claim to the kingdom. These causes led to the celebrated expedition of the “Seven against Thebes," which furnished ample materials for the epic and tragic poets of Greece. And here the younger heroes of Greece make their appearance.
1 Edipus at Colonus, II. 1600, etc. Translation by E. H. Plumptre.
THE YOUNGER HEROES.
$ 162. Their Exploits. — The exploits of the sons and grandsons of the chieftains engaged in the Calydonian Hunt and the Quest of the Golden Fleece are narrated in four stories, — the Seven against Thebes, the Siege of Troy, the Wanderings of Ulysses, and the Adventures of Æneas.
$ 163. The Seven against Thebes. — The allies of Adrastus and Polynices in the enterprise against Thebes were Tydeus of Calydon, half-brother of Meleager, Parthenopæus of Arcadia, son of Atalanta and Mars, Capaneus of Argos, Hippomedon of Argos, and Amphiaraus, the brother-in-law of Adrastus. Amphiaraus opposed the expedition, for being a soothsayer, he knew that none of the leaders except Adrastus would live to return from Thebes; but on his marriage to Eriphyle, the king's sister, he had agreed that whenever he and Adrastus should differ in opinion, the decision should be left to Eriphyle. Polynices, knowing this, gave Eriphyle the necklace of Harmonia, and thereby gained her to his interest. This was the self-same necklace that Vulcan had given to Harmonia on her marriage with Cadmus ; Polynices had taken it with him on his flight from Thebes. It seems to have been still fraught with the curse of the house of Cadmus. But Eriphyle could not resist so tempting a bribe. By her decision the war was resolved on, and Amphiaraus went to his fate. He bore his part bravely in the contest, but still could not avert his destiny. While, pursued by the enemy he was fleeing along the river, a thunderbolt launched by Jupiter opened the ground, and he, his chariot, and his charioteer were swallowed up.
1 Æschyl. Seven against Thebes; Eurip. Phænissæ; Apollod. 3:6 and 7: Hygin. Fab. 69, 70; Pausan. 8 and 9; Statius, Thebaid.
It is unnecessary here to detail all the acts of heroism or atrocity which marked this contest. The fidelity, however, of Evadne stands out as an offset to the weakness of Eriphyle. Her husband, Capaneus, having in the ardor of the fight declared that he would force his way into the city in spite of Jove himself, placed a ladder against the wall and mounted; but Jupiter, offended at his impious language, struck him with a thunderbolt. When his obsequies were celebrated, Evadne cast herself on his funeral pile and perished.
It seems that early in the contest Eteocles consulted the soothsayer Tiresias as to the issue. Now, this Tiresias in his youth had by chance seen Minerva bathing; and had been deprived by her of his sight, but afterwards had obtained of her the knowledge of future events. When consulted by Eteocles, he declared that victory should fall to Thebes if Menaceus, the son of Creon, gave himself a voluntary victim. The heroic youth, learning the response, threw away his life in the first encounter.
The siege continued long, with various success. At length both hosts agreed that the brothers should decide their quarrel by single combat. They fought, and fell each by the hand of the other. The armies then renewed the fight; and at last the invaders were forced to yield, and fled, leaving their dead unburied. Creon, the uncle of the fallen princes, now become king, caused Eteocles to be buried with distinguished honor, but suffered the body of Polynices to lie where it fell, forbidding every one, on pain of death, to give it burial.
§ 164. Antigone,' the sister of Polynices, heard with indignation the revolting edict which, consigning her brother's body to the dogs and vultures, deprived it of the rites that were considered essential to the repose of the dead. Unmoved by the dissuading counsel of her affectionate but timid sister, and unable to procure assistance, she determined to brave the hazard and to bury the body with her own hands. She was detected in the act. When
1 Sophocles, Antigone; Eurip. Suppliants.
Creon asked the fearless woman whether she dared disobey the laws, she answered :
Yes, for it was not Zeus who gave them forth,
Creon, unyielding and unable to conceive of a law higher than that he knew, gave orders that she should be buried alive, as having deliberately set at nought the solemn edict of the city. Her lover, Hæmon, the son of Creon, unable to avert her fate, would not survive her, and fell by his own hand. It is only after his son's death, and as he gazes upon the corpses of the lovers, that the aged Creon recognizes the insolence of his narrow judgment. And those that stand beside him say: -
Man's highest blessedness
In wisdom chiefly stands;
"Tis best in word or deed,
* Sophocles, Antigone, II. 450-470. Translation by E. H. Plumptre.