THE EPIGONI

TEN years later, the sons of the heroes who had fallen in the war against Thebes resolved on a fresh campaign to avenge the death of their fathers. There were eight descendants, and they were called Epigoni: 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. The aged king, Adrastus, sole survivor of that first host which had fought against Thebes, joined the expedition but would not assume command, for he wanted one who was young and strong to hold so important a post. So the sons of the heroes asked the oracle of Apollo whom to choose for their leader. The answer was that it should be Alcmaeon, son of Amphiaraus. But when they offered him the command, he was uncertain whether to accept this honor before avenging his father. He too asked the oracle what his course should be, and the god answered that he was to do both.

Up to this time his mother Eriphyle had not only kept the necklace destined to bring calamity upon its owner but had also managed to lay hold of the veil, the second gift of Aphrodite. Thersander, son of Polynices, who fell heir to this veil, had given it to her for the same reason his father had once bestowed the necklace: as a bribe, for he wanted her to persuade her son Alcmaeon to take part in the campaign against Thebes. In obedience to the oracle, Alcmaeon assumed command and postponed his act of vengeance until his return. He headed a considerable host, for not only had he assembled the men of Argos; many warriors who craved a chance to show their daring joined him, and so it was a great army which advanced to the gates of Thebes. And here the sons renewed the stubborn siege their fathers had fought ten years before. But the new generation were more favored by fortune, and Alcmaeon won a decisive victory. Only one of the Epigoni fell in battle: Aegialeus, son of King Adrastus, for Laodamas, son of Eteocles, slew him with his own hand, but was killed by Alcmaeon, commander of the Epigoni. When the Thebans had thus lost their leader and many of their men besides, they left the battlefield and took refuge behind their walls. There they consulted Tiresias, the blind seer, who was still alive, although he was over a hundred years old. He advised them to take the only way still open to them: to leave the city, while they sent a herald bearing offers of peace to the Argives. They acted on his words, dispatched a herald to their enemies, and while he was negotiating with them, loaded their women and children on wagons and fled from Thebes. In the darkness of night they came to Tilphusium, a city in Boeotia. Blind Tiresias, who had shared their flight, took a deep draught from a cold spring flowing outside the city and died. But even in the underworld the wise soothsayer kept aloof from the rest for not like the other shades did he rove about aimlessly with blank and idle mind. He retained the power of thinking great thoughts and of seeing beyond what is given mortals to know. His daughter Manto had not gone with him. She stayed behind and fell into the hands of the conquerors who occupied the abandoned city of Thebes. But these had made a vow to dedicate to Apollo the best of what they found in the city, and they now decided that no spoils could be more welcome to the god than Manto, who had inherited the divine gift of her father. And so the Epigoni took her to Delphi and consecrated her as a priestess of the sun-god. Here she grew more and more perfect in the art of soothsaying, her wisdom deepened, and she became the most noted seeress of her time. People often saw an old man come and go in the temple where she presided. She taught him verses full of vigor and sweetness and glory, which soon resounded through all the land of Greece. He was a singer from Maeonia—Homer.

If you find an error please notify us in the comments. Thank you!