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better than her husband. He now finding that it was more easy to foresee than avoid destiny, sought for such comfort as revenge might afford; giving in charge to his sons, that, when they came to full age, they should kill their mother, and make strong war upon the Thebans.
Now had Adrastus assembled all his forces, of which the seven chief leaders were, himself, Amphiaraus, Capaneus, and Hippomedon, (instead of whom some name Mecisteus,) all Argives; with Polyniees the Theban, Tydeus the iEtolian, and Parthenopaeus the Arcadian, son of Meleager and Atalanta. When the army came to the Nemaean wood, they met a woman, whom they desired to help them to some water; she having a child in her arms, laid it down, and led the Argives to a spring; but ere she returned, a serpent had slain the child. This woman was Hypsipyle, the daughter of Thoas the Lemnian, whom she would have saved when the women of the isle slew all the males by conspiracy, intending to lead an Amazonian life. For such her piety, the Lemnian wives did sell her to pirates, and the pirates to Lycurgus, lord of the country about Nemaea, whose young son Opheltes, or Archemorus, she did nurse, and lost, as is shewed before. When upon the child's death she hid herself for fear of her master, Amphiaraus told her sons where they should fed her; and the Argives did both kill the serpent which had slain the child, and, in memory of the chance, did institute solemn funeral games called Nemaean; wherein Adrastus won the prize with his swift horse Arion, Tydeus with whorlbatts, Amphiaraus at running and quoiting, Polynices at wrestling, Parthenopaeus at shooting, and one Laodocus in darting. This was the first institution of the Nemaean games, which continued after famous in Greece, for very many ages. There are who think, that they were ordained in honour of one Opheltus, a Lacedemonian: some say by Hercules, when he had slain the Nemaean lion ; but the common opinion agrees with that which is here set down.
From Nemaea, the Argives marching onwards, arrived at Citheron, whence Tydeus was by them sent ambassador to Thebes, to require of Eteocles the performance of covenants between him and Polynices. This message was nothing agreeable to Eteocles, who was thoroughly resolved to hold what he had, as long as he could; which Tydeus perceiving, and intending partly to get honour, partly to try what metal was in the Thebans, he made many challenges, and obtained victory in all of them, not without much envy and malice of the people, who laid fifty men in ambush, to intercept him at his return to the army ; of which fifty he slew all but one, whom he sent back to the city, as a reporter and witness of his valour. When the Argives understood how resolved Eteocles was, they presented themselves before the city, and encamped round about it. Thebes is said to have had at that time seven gates, which belike stood not far asunder, seeing that the Argives, (who afterwards when they were very far stronger, could scarce muster up more thousands than Thebes had gates,) did compass the town. Adrastus quartered before the gate Homoloides, Capaneus before the Ogygean, Tydeus before Crenis, Amphiaraus at Proetis, Hippomedon at Anchais, Parthenopaeus at Electra, and Polynices at Hypsista. In the mean season, Eteocles having armed his men, and appointed commanders unto them, took advice of Tiresias the soothsayer, who promised victory to the Thebans, if Menaecius the son of Creon, a principal man of the city, would vow himself to be slain in honour of Mars the god of war. So full of malice and pride is the devil, and so envious at his Creator's glory, that he not only challengeth honours due to God alone, as oblations and sacrifices, with all divine worship, but commandeth us to offer ourselves, and our children, unto him, when he hath. sufficiently clouded mens understandings, and bewitched their wills with ignorance and blind devotion: and such abominable sacrifice of men, maids, and children hath he exacted of the Syrians, Carthaginians, Gauls, Germans, Cyprians, Egyptians, and of many other, if not of all nations, when through ignorance or fear they were most filled with superstition. But as they grew more wise, so did he wax less impudent in cunning, though not less malicious in desiring the continuance of such barbarous inhumanity. For king Diphilus in Cyprus, without advice of any oracle, made the idol of that country rest contented with an ox instead of a man. Tiberius forbade human sacrifices in Africa, and crucified the priests in the groves where they had practised them. Hercules taught the Italians to drown men of hay instead of the living; yet among the savages in the West Indies, these cruel offerings have been practised of late ages; which as it is a sufficient argument, that Satan's malice is only covered and hidden by this subtilty among civil people; so may it serve as a probable conjecture of the barbarisms then reigning in Greece. For Mena;cius, as soon as he understood that his death might purchase victory to his people, bestowed himself, (as he thought,) upon Mars, killing himself before the gates' of the city. Then was a battle fought, wherein the Argives prevailed so far at the first, that Capaneus advancing ladders to the walls, got up upon the rampart; whence, when he fell, or was cast down, or, (as writers have it,) was stricken down by Jupiter with a thunderbolt, the Argives fled. Many on each part were slain in this battle, which caused both sides to desire that Eteocles and Polynices might try out the quarrel in single fight; where the two brethren accordingly slew each other.
Another battle was fought after their deaths, wherein the sons of Astacus behaved themselves very valiantly: lsmarus, one of the sons, slew Hippome
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don, who was one of the seven princes; Parthenopaeus being another of the seven, (who was said to have been so fair, that none would hurt him when his face was bare,) was slain by Amphidicus, or, as some say, by Periclymenus the son of Neptune; and the valiant Tydeus by Menalippus; yet ere Tydeus died, the head of Menalipus was brought unto him by Amphiaraus, which he cruelly tore open, and swallowed up the brains. Upon which fact, it is said that Pallas, who had brought from Jupiter such remedy for his wounds as should have made him immortal, refused to bestow it upon him; whereby, perhaps, was meant, that his honour, which might have continued immortal, did perish, through the beastly rage that he shewed at his death.
The host of the Argives beingwholly discomfited, Adrastus and Amphiaraus fled; of whom Amphiaraus is said to have been swallowed quick into the earth, near to the river Ismenus, together with his chariot, and so lost out of mens sights; being peradventure overwhelmed with dead carcases, or drowned in the riveJ, and his body never found, nor greatly sought for. Adrastus escaped on his good horse Arion, and came to Athens; where sitting at an altar, called the altar of mercy, he made supplication for their aid to recover their bodies. For Creon having obtained the government of Thebes, after the death of Eteocles, would not suffer the bodies of the Argives to be buried; but caused Antigone, the only daughter then living of Oedipus, to be buried quick, because she had sought out and buried the body of her brother Polynices, contrary to Creon's edict. The Athenians, condescending to the request of Adrastus, did send forth an army under the conduct of Theseus, which took Thebes, and restored the bodies of the Argives to sepulchre; at which time Evadne, the wife of Capaneus, threw herself into the funeral fire, and was burnt willingly with her husband. But it little contented the sons of those captains which were slain at Thebes, that any less revenge should be taken of their father's death, than the ruin of the city; wherefore, ten years after, having levied forces, M
fialeus, the son of Adrastus, Diomedes of Tydeus, tomachus of Parthenopaeus, Sthenelus of Capaneus, Thersander of Polynices, and Euripylus of Mecisteus, marched thither under the conduct of Alcmaeon, the son of Amphiaraus; with whom also went his brother Amphiloctus. Apollo promised victory if Alcmaeon were their captain, whom afterwards, by another oracle, he commanded to kill his own mother.
When they came to the city, they were encountered by Laodamas, the son of Eteocles, then king of the Thebans, (for Creon was only tutor to Laodamas,) who, though he did valiantly in the battle, and slew iEgialeus, yet was he put to the worst, and driven to fly, or, (according to Apollodorus,) slain by Alcmaeon. After this disaster, the citizens began to desire composition; but, in the mean time, they conveyed themselves, with their wives and children, away from thence by night, and so began to wander up and down, till at length they built the town called Estiaca. The Argives, when they perceived that their enemies had quitted the town, entering into it, sacked it, threw down the walls, and laid it waste: howbeit it is reported by some, that the town was saved by Thersander, the son of Polynices, who causing the citizens to return, did there reign over them. That he saved the city from utter destruction, it is very likely; for he reigned there, and led the Thebans to the war of Troy, which very shortly after ensued*