Don’t Go to the Seventh Gate! Reading Aeschylus “Seven Against Thebes” Online

Aeschylus, Seven Against Thebes 968

“The mind goes mad with mourning.”

μαίνεται γόοισι φρήν.

Aeschylus, Seven Against Thebes 704

“Don’t take those paths to the Seventh Gate”

μη ᾿λθῃς ὁδοὺς σὺ τάσδ᾿ ἐφ᾿ Ἑβδόμαις πύλαις.

Aeschylus, Seven Against Thebes 92-95

“Which god or goddess will defend us?
Who will help us?
Should I fall before the paternal altars
Of our gods?

τίς ἄρα ῥύσεται, τίς ἄρ᾿ ἐπαρκέσει
θεῶν ἢ θεᾶν;
95πότερα δῆτ᾿ ἐγὼ <πάτρια> ποτιπέσω
βρέτη δαιμόνων;

The Center for Hellenic Studies , the Kosmos Society and Out of Chaos Theatre has been presenting scenes from Greek tragedy on the ‘small screen’ since the beginning of the US lockdown in March. As our director Paul O’Mahony has put it, since we are “unable to explore the outside world, we have no option but to explore further the inner one.

Aeschylus, Seven Against Thebes 208-210

“What’s this? Can a sailor find some clever safety
By escaping from the stern to the prow
When his ship is overcame by swelling seas?”

τί οὖν; ὁ ναύτης ἆρα μὴ ᾿ς πρῷραν φυγὼν
πρύμνηθεν ηὗρε μηχανὴν σωτηρίας
νεὼς καμούσης ποντίῳ πρὸς κύματι;

This week brings us back to Thebes, one of the central locations for Ancient Greek myth, and likely the second most famous tale of a besieged city from the ancient world. The tale of Seven Against Thebes is part of the Oedipus story, following on from his departure from the city and his cursing of his sons. We have records of a famous epic which told this tale, the lost Thebais, but Aeschylus’ version is our earliest full text dedicated to the struggle between Eteocles and Polyneices. Sophocles and Euripides will provide their own versions of this story, focusing in part on different aspects.

Aeschylus’ account takes us from the anticipation before the battle right up through the conflict over burying the brothers (more well-known from Sophocles’ Antigone). This play was produced in 467 BCE as part of a trilogy dedicated to the family of Oedipus, apparently with a play dedicated to each generation: LaiosOedipus, and the warring sons. The bulk of this play is the run up to the action, the description of where each of the famous seven fights, and the aftermath. 

Aeschylus, Seven Against Thebes 287-295

“I care about this, but my heart cannot sleep in fear.
Anxiety lives next door
To my heart, growing fear
About the enemies around my wall
Just as a dove shakes all over
Afraid of the snakes with evil plans
For the children sleeping in their beds.”

μέλει, φόβῳ δ᾿ οὐχ ὑπνώσσει κέαρ·
γείτονες δὲ καρδίας
μέριμναι ζωπυροῦσι τάρβος
τὸν ἀμφιτειχῆ λεών,
δράκοντας ὥς τις τέκνων
ὑπερδέδοικεν λεχαίων δυσευνάτορας
πάντρομος πελειάς.

Scenes (Ian Johnston’s Translation)

1-35: Eteocles 
78-287: Eteocles, Chorus 
375-791: Messenger, Eteocles, Chorus 
845-1010: Chorus, Antigone, Ismene 

Aeschylus, Seven Against Thebes 4

“If we should do well, it’s thanks to the gods.”

εἰ μὲν γὰρ εὖ πράξαιμεν, αἰτία θεοῦ·


Eteocles – Tim Delap
Chorus – Hannah Barrie and Paul O’Mahony
Messenger – Sara Valentine
Antigone – Tabatha Gayle
Ismene – Evelyn Miller

Special Guest: Naomi Weiss

Aeschylus, Seven Against Thebes 563-567

“The story hunts through my chest
Each strand of my hair stands straight up
As I leason to the boasts of these boastful
Unholy men. If the gods are gods,
I pray they destroy them in our land.”

ἱκνεῖται λόγος διὰ στηθέων,
τριχὸς δ᾿ ὀρθίας πλόκαμος ἵσταται
μεγάλα μεγαληγόρων κλυούσᾳ
ἀνοσίων ἀνδρῶν· εἰ θεοὶ θεοί,
τούσδ᾿ ὀλέσειαν ἐν γᾷ.

Artistic Director: Paul O’Mahony (Out of Chaos Theatre)
Associate Director: Liz Fisher
Director of Outreach: Amy Pistone (Gonzaga University)
Dramaturg: Emma Pauly
Executive Producer: Lanah Koelle (Center for Hellenic Studies)
Producers: Keith DeStone (Center for Hellenic Studies), Hélène Emeriaud, Janet Ozsolak, and Sarah Scott (Kosmos Society)
Poster Artist: John Koelle
Poster Designer: Allie Marbry (Center for Hellenic Studies)


Upcoming Episodes

Euripides, Suppliants September 23rd

Euripides, Phoenician Women, September 30

Performing Epic 1, Homer’s Iliad, October 7th

Euripides, Rhesus, October 14th


Aeschylus, Seven Against Thebes 1168-1171

“The adage holds that Obedience is the mother

Of Success and the wife of Salvation.”

Πειθαρχία γάρ ἐστι τῆς Εὐπραξίας

μήτηρ, γυνὴ Σωτῆρος· ὧδ᾿ ἔχει λόγος.

For earlier performances see the project home page or the full playlist on YouTube.

Aeschylus, Seven Against Thebes 783-787

“It is just as if the sea is driving on
Waves of troubles. One recedes but another rises
Three times as strong. And it crashes around
The city’s prow.
In between all we have
Is this thin breadth of a wall.”

κακῶν δ᾿ ὥσπερ θάλασσα κῦμ᾿ ἄγει
τὸ μὲν πίτνον, ἄλλο δ᾿ ἀείρει
τρίχαλον, ὃ καὶ περὶ πρύμ-
ναν πόλεως καχλάζει·
μεταξὺ δ᾿ ἄλκαρ ὅδ᾿ ὀλίγῳ
τείνει πύργος ἐν εὔρει.

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