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Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the myths of the ancient Greek city of Thebes, as told by Athenian dramatists, and the times when Thebes dominated Greek history.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the myths and history of the ancient Greek city of Thebes and its depiction in Athenian drama. In myths it was said to be home to Heracles, Dionysus, Oedipus and Cadmus among others and, in history, was infamous for supporting Xerxes in the Persian War. Its prominence led to a struggle with the rising force of Macedon in which the Thebans were defeated at Chaironea in 338 BC, one of the most important battles in ancient history. The position of Thebes in Greek culture was enormously powerful. The strength of its myths and its proximity to Athens made it a source of stories for the Athenian theatre, and is the setting for more of the surviving plays than any other location.

The image, above, is of Oedipus answering questions of the sphinx in Thebes (cup 5th century BC).


Edith Hall
Professor of Classics at King's College London

Samuel Gartland
Lecturer in Ancient History at Corpus Christi College, University of Oxford


Paul Cartledge
Emeritus Professor of Greek Culture and AG Leventis Senior Research Fellow at Clare College, University of Cambridge

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Available now

47 minutes

Last on

Thu 23 Nov 2017 21:30


Edith Hall at King's College London

Samuel Gartland at the University of Oxford

Paul Cartledge at the University of Cambridge

Thebes –

Thebai/Thebae - Pleiades

Archaeological Museum of Thebes – Hellenic Ministry of Culture

Statius’s Thebaid – Poetry in Translation

Thebes – Wikipedia

Sacred Band of Thebes - Wikipedia



Vassilios Aravantinos, Τhe Archaeological Museum of Thebes (OLKOS, 2010)

Daniel W. Berman, Myth, Literature, and the Creation of the Topography of Thebes (Cambridge University Press, 2015)

R. J. Buck, A History of Boeotia (University of Alberta Press, 1987)

R. J. Buck, Boeotia and the Boeotian League 432-371 BC (University of Alberta Press, 1994)

John Buckler, The Theban Hegemony 371-362 BC (Harvard University Press, 1980)

Lowell Edmunds, Oedipus (Routledge, 2006)

J. Peter Euben (Ed.), Greek Drama and Political Theory (University of California Press, 1988), especially ‘Thebes: Theatre of self and society' by Froma Zeitlin

Mogens Herman Hansen and Thomas Heine Nielsen (eds.), An Inventory of Archaic and Classical Poleis (Oxford University Press, 2004), especially 'Boiotia' by M. H. Hansen

Pindar (trans. Cecil Bowra) The Odes (Penguin, 1982)

Anne Pippin Burnett, Pindar (Bristol Classical Press, 2008)

Nicholas Rockwell, Thebes: A History (Routledge, 2017)

Sophocles (trans. Ruby Blondell, The Theban Plays: Antigone, King Oidipous and Oidipous at Colonus (Focus Classical Library, 2001)

Richard Stoneman, Pindar (I.B. Tauris, 2013)


Role Contributor
Presenter Melvyn Bragg
Interviewed Guest Edith Hall
Interviewed Guest Samuel Gartland
Interviewed Guest Paul Cartledge
Producer Simon Tillotson


  • Thu 23 Nov 2017 09:00
  • Thu 23 Nov 2017 21:30

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