Throughout the Iliad, the Greeks at Troy often refer to the wars at Thebes in their speeches, and several important warriors fighting on the Greek side at Troy also fought at Thebes and are related to Theban heroes who besieged the Boeotian city a generation earlier. The Theban wars thus stand in the shadow of the story of war at Troy, another city surrounded by walls supposed to be impregnable. In the Odyssey, the Theban connections are less central, but nevertheless significant as one of our few sources concerning the building of the Theban walls. In this essay, I analyze Theban traces in Homeric epic as they relate to city walls. Since nothing explicitly concerning walls remains in the extant fragments of the Theban Cycle, we must look to Homeric poetry for formulaic and thematic elements that can be connected with Theban epic. While the Iliad and the Odyssey tend to downplay other traditions to foreground their own heroes and narratives, both poems not only exhibit an awareness of poetic traditions dealing with the Theban conflicts, but they also selfconsciously appropriate Theban themes as a way of competing with Theban epic.
Document Object Identifier (DOI)
Pache, C. (2014). Theban walls in Homeric epic. Trends in Classics, 6, 278-296. doi: 10.1515/tc-2014-0015
Trends in Classics