Sunday, February 11, 2018


Seven Against Thebes

M.L. West (1937-2015), The East Face of Helicon: West Asiatic Elements in Greek Poetry and Myth (1997; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2003), pp. 455-456:
Seven champions simultaneously assault the seven gates of the city, where each is faced by a matching champion and laid low. This is obviously an artificial scheme. It is unlikely that any Mycenaean citadel ever had seven gates. The principles of fortification were based on the restriction of access points to the minimum. The hill on which Thebes lies has only three natural approaches. The late Bronze Age city, in the view of archaeological experts, can have had only three or four gates. Even if there had been seven, what general, supposing he happened to have precisely seven heroes at his disposal, would divide his forces equally between the gates instead of concentrating them at the weakest point of the defences?

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