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.

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  • Edith Hall 19 episodes
    Professor of Classics at King's College London
  • Samuel Gartland No other episodes
    Lecturer in Ancient History at Corpus Christi College, University of Oxford
  • Paul Cartledge 21 episodes
    Emeritus Professor of Greek Culture and AG Leventis Senior Research Fellow at Clare College, University of Cambridge

Reading list

  • The Archaeological Museum of Thebes
    Vassilios Aravantinos (OLKOS, 2010) Google Books →
  • Myth, Literature, and the Creation of the Topography of Thebes
    Daniel W. Berman (Cambridge University Press, 2015) Google Books →
  • A History of Boeotia
    R. J. Buck (University of Alberta Press, 1987) Google Books →
  • Boeotia and the Boeotian League 432-371 BC
    R. J. Buck (University of Alberta Press, 1994) Google Books →
  • The Theban Hegemony 371-362 BC
    John Buckler (Harvard University Press, 1980) Google Books →
  • Oedipus
    Lowell Edmunds (Routledge, 2006) Google Books →
  • Greek Drama and Political Theory
    J. Peter Euben (Ed.) (University of California Press, 1988)
  • An Inventory of Archaic and Classical Poleis
    Mogens Herman Hansen and Thomas Heine Nielsen (eds.) (Oxford University Press, 2004) Google Books →
  • The Odes
    Pindar (trans. Cecil Bowra) (Penguin, 1982) Google Books →
  • Pindar
    Anne Pippin Burnett (Bristol Classical Press, 2008) Google Books →
  • Thebes: A History
    Nicholas Rockwell (Routledge, 2017) Google Books →
  • The Theban Plays: Antigone, King Oidipous and Oidipous at Colonus
    Sophocles (trans. Ruby Blondell) (Focus Classical Library, 2001) Google Books →
  • Pindar
    Richard Stoneman (I.B. Tauris, 2013) Google Books →

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Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. The myths of the ancient Greek city of Thebes were among the most famous and notorious in the Greek world, as was its history.