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Seven Against Thebes by Aeschylus

Translated by Ian Johnston


Seven Against Thebes written by Aeschylus (525-456 BC), the oldest of the three famous ancient Greek writers of tragedy whose work has survived, is the third play in a trilogy which tells the story of the battle between the sons of Oedipus for control of Thebes (the other two plays are lost). The first production (in 467 BC) won first prize in the annual competition for tragic drama.

In the play, Eteocles, king of Thebes, is defending the city against the forces fighting on behalf of his brother Polyneices, and he is called upon to choose seven of his best warriors to defend the city gates. Much of the play celebrates the traditional warrior ethic from the Trojan War and earlier, but it also contrasts this with a more civic-minded concern for the safety of the entire polis, rather than for the glory that comes with heroic individuality in the
face of danger.

Central to the play is the character of Eteocles, who, as king of Thebes, is responsible for the well being of the city but who, as a son of Oedipus, is obsessed by the nature of the curse upon his family and the need to assert his own heroic qualities, even though that will bring about his death and continue the series of disasters which have afflicted Thebes since the days of Laius and Jocasta, the parents of Oedipus.

The play is remarkable for the formal patterning of the speeches, the moving quality of its lyrics, and the sense it conveys of human life lived out under the watchful and ominous scrutiny of the divine forces which rule the world.

Ian Johnston's new translation is accurate, fluent, and vivid. It conveys beautifully the tragic eloquence of this ancient play and is especially recommended for public reading or performance.


Classics/ Greek Drama ISBN: 978-1-935238-54-6
USD $8.95

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