The Ancient Library

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On this page: Set – Seven Against Thebes



oz. It long continued to be used as the ordinary monetary unit. During the Re­public and the first 300 years of the Em­pire, amounts were reckoned in sesterces. Owing to the common use of milia sester-iium (for milia sestertiorum), it became customary to treat sestertium as a neuter singular, and to omit milia. Sestertium thus denotes a sum of 1,000 sesterces = (at 2'ld. per sesterce) £8 15s. A million sesterces (£3,750) was called originally denes centena (lit. ten times one hundred thousand) sestertium, which was shortened to decies sestertium. 100,000 sesterces had thus become a customary unit for reckoning large sums of money. (Cp. coinage.)

Set. An Egyptian god. (5te osiris and typhon.)

Seven against Thebes, The. (Edipus, king of Thebes, had pronounced a curse upon his sons EtSOcles and Polynlces, that they should die at one another's hand. In order to make the fulfilment of the curse impos­sible, by separating himself from his brother, Polynices left Thebes while his father was still alive, and at Argos married Argeia, the daughter of Adrastus (q.v.). On the death of his father he was recalled, and offered by Eteocles, who was the elder of the two,1 the choice between the kingdom and the treasures of (Edipus; but, on account of a quarrel that arose over the division, he departed a second time, and induced his father-in-law to undertake a war against his native city. According to another legend, the brothers deprived their father of the kingdom, and agreed to rule alter­nately, and to quit the city for a year at a time. Polynices, as the younger, first went into voluntary banishment; but when, after the expiration of a year, Eteocles denied him his right, and drove him out by violence, he fled to Argos, where Adras­tus made him his son-in-law, and under­took to restore him with an armed force. Adrastus was the leader of the army; besides Polynices and Tydeiis of Calydon, the other son-in-law of the king, there also took part in the expedition the king's brothers HippQm&don and Parthenopceus (<?.^.), Capaneus, a descendant of Prcetus, and Amphtdrdus (q.v.), the latter against his will, and foreseeing his own death. The Atridse were invited to join in the

1 This is the common tradition, followed by Euripides (Ph&n. 71). Sophocles, however, ex­ceptionally makes Polynices the elder brother (W. Col. 875, 1294, 1422).

expedition, but were withheld by evil omens from Zeus. When the Seven reached Nemea on their march, a fresh warning befell them. Hypslpyle, the nurse of Opheltes, the son of king Lycurgus, laid her charge down on the grass in order to lead the thirsty warriors to a spring, during her absence the child was killed by a snake. They gave him solemn burial, and instituted the Nemean games in his honour; but Amphiaraiis interpreted the occurrence as an omen of his own fate, and accordingly gave the boy the name o/ Archemoros (i.e. leader to death). When they arrived at the river Asopus in Boeotia, they sent Tydeus (q.v.) to Thebes, in the hope of coming to terms. He was refused a hearing, and the Thebans laid an ambush for him on his return. The Seven now advanced to the walls of the city, and posted themselves with their troops one at each of its seven gates. Against them were posted seven chosen Thebans (among them Melanippus and Periclyine.nus). Menoaceus (q.v.) devoted himself to death to insure the victory for the Thebans. In the battle at the sanctuary of the Ismenian Apollo they were driven right back to their gates ; the giant Capaneushad already climbed the wall by a scaling ladder, and was presumptuously boasting that even the lightning of Zeus should not drive him back, when the naming bolt of the god smote him down, and dashed him to atoms. The beautiful Parthenopseus also fell, with his skull shattered by a rock that was hurled at him. Adrastus desisted from the assault, and the armies, which had suffered severely, agreed that the originators of the quarrel, Eteocles and Polynices, should fight out their difference in single combat. Both brothers fell, and a fresh battle arose over their bodies. In this, all of the as­sailants met their death, except Adrastus, who was saved by the speed of his black-maued charger. According to the older legends, his eloquence persuaded the The­bans to give the fallen due burial. When the bodies of the hostile brothers were placed on the pyre, the flames, which were meant to destroy them together, parted into two portions. According to the version of the story invented by the Attic tragedians, the Thebaus refused to bury their foes, but at the prayer of Adrastus were compelled to do so by Theseus; according to another version, he conquered the Thebans and buried the dead bodies at Eleusis in Attica (jEschylus, Septem contra Thebas). For

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