Seven Against Thebes
translated by Theodoridis, G., (contributor-contact-email),
Seven Against Thebes by Aeschylus, produced in 467 BC, is the third play of his Oedipus-themed trilogy. It depicts the conflict arising from the curse levelled by Oedipus, the former King of Thebes, on his sons Eteocles and Polynices. Following their father’s execration, the brothers agree to rule Thebes in alternation, but conflict arises when Eteocles refuses to relinquish power after his allotted year. Polynices, in response, assembles an Argive army, including the eponymous Seven, to attack Thebes.
The play focuses less on action and more on dialogues that reveal Eteocles’ character and the Theban citizens’ reactions to the siege. Significant attention is given to the description of the seven Argive captains, their shields, and the Theban defenders appointed by Eteocles. The climax occurs when Eteocles decides to confront Polynices personally at the seventh gate, fulfilling their father’s curse. Both brothers perish in the battle, and their deaths are mourned on stage.
Originally ending with this sombre note, the play was later modified to create a lead-in to Sophocles’ Antigone, introducing a prohibition against burying Polynices and Antigone’s defiant response to this command.
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