Thebans

Body

Nomenclature

Greek Name: Θηβαῖοι

Latin Name:

Toponyms:

Cultural Notes

People of Upper Egyptian city of Thebes. Consider rams sacred and will not sacrifice them, except once a year, because they believe Zeus wore the flayed skin and head of a Ram in order to hide from Heracles. After the sacrifice, the sheep is mourned and buried in a sacred coffin. Instead they sacrifice goats.

Geographical Notes

 

Citations in Herodotos

1.61 contributions to Pisistratus; 2.42 practice of sacrificing sheep and goats; 3.10 rain at Thebes; 5.67 Melanippus handed over to Cleisthenes; 5.79-5.89 waging war on Athens; 6.87 Aeginetans;  6.108 waging war with Plataeans; 6.118 carried gilded image of Apollo  to Delium; 7.132 among those who paid tribute to Xerxes; 7.202 sent four-hundred Thebans to await Persians; 7.208 marched with three hundred Spartans led by Leonidas; 7.222 kept hostage by Leonidas; 7.224 battle with Persians; 7.233 surrender to barbarians; 8.50 reveal to Xerxes that Thespia and Plataea did not medize, leading to them being burnt; 8.135 hear prophecy from Mys, spoken in the Carian langauge; 9.2 attempt to stay Mardonius; 9.15 land laid waste by Mardonius; 9.16 fifty Thebans share dinner with Mardonius in Thebes; 9.31 inform Mardonius' strategy; 9.40-9.41 wage war on Greeks; 9.67 battle against Athenians; 9.86 lands laid waste by Greeks; 9.87 surrender men to the Greeks;9.88 surrendered men put to death in Corinth

Key Passages in English Translation

[2.42] All that have a temple of Zeus of Thebes or are of the Theban district sacrifice goats, but will not touch sheep. [2] For no gods are worshipped by all Egyptians in common except Isis and Osiris, who they say is Dionysus; these are worshipped by all alike. Those who have a temple of Mendes1 or are of the Mendesian district sacrifice sheep, but will not touch goats. [3] The Thebans, and those who by the Theban example will not touch sheep, give the following reason for their ordinance:2 they say that Heracles wanted very much to see Zeus and that Zeus did not want to be seen by him, but that finally, when Heracles prayed, Zeus contrived [4] to show himself displaying the head and wearing the fleece of a ram which he had flayed and beheaded. It is from this that the Egyptian images of Zeus have a ram's head; and in this, the Egyptians are imitated by the Ammonians, who are colonists from Egypt and Ethiopia and speak a language compounded of the tongues of both countries. [5] It was from this, I think, that the Ammonians got their name, too; for the Egyptians call Zeus “Amon”. The Thebans, then, consider rams sacred for this reason, and do not sacrifice them. [6] But one day a year, at the festival of Zeus, they cut in pieces and flay a single ram and put the fleece on the image of Zeus, as in the story; then they bring an image of Heracles near it. Having done this, all that are at the temple mourn for the ram, and then bury it in a sacred coffin.

English translation by A. D. Godley. Cambridge. Harvard University Press. 1920. Retreived from <http://www.perseus.tufts.edu>

Key Passages in Greek

[2.42] ὅσοι μὲν δὴ Διὸς Θηβαιέος ἵδρυνται ἱρὸν ἤ νομοῦ τοῦ Θηβαίου εἰσί, οὗτοι μέν νυν πάντες ὀίων ἀπεχόμενοι αἶγας θύουσι. [2] θεοὺς γὰρ δὴ οὐ τοὺς αὐτοὺς ἅπαντες ὁμοίως Αἰγύπτιοι σέβονται, πλὴν Ἴσιός τε καὶ Ὀσίριος, τὸν δὴ Διόνυσον εἶναι λέγουσι: τούτους δὲ ὁμοίως ἅπαντες σέβονται. ὅσοι δὲ τοῦ Μένδητος ἔκτηνται ἱρὸν ἢ νομοῦ τοῦ Μενδησίου εἰσί, οὗτοι δὲ αἰγῶν ἀπεχόμενοι ὄις θύουσι. [3] Θηβαῖοι μέν νυν καὶ ὅσοι διὰ τούτους ὀίων ἀπέχονται, διὰ τάδε λέγουσι τὸν νόμον τόνδε σφίσι τεθῆναι. Ἡρακλέα θελῆσαι πάντως ἰδέσθαι τὸν Δία, καὶ τὸν οὐκ ἐθέλειν ὀφθῆναι ὑπ᾽ αὐτοῦ: τέλος δέ, ἐπείτε λιπαρέειν τὸν Ἡρακλέα, τάδε τὸν Δία μηχανήσασθαι: [4] κριὸν ἐκδείραντα προσχέσθαι τε τὴν κεφαλὴν ἀποταμόντα τοῦ κριοῦ καὶ ἐνδύντα τὸ νάκος οὕτω οἱ ἑωυτὸν ἐπιδέξαι. ἀπὸ τούτου κριοπρόσωπον τοῦ Διὸς τὤγαλμα ποιεῦσι Αἰγύπτιοι, ἀπὸ δὲ Αἰγυπτίων Ἀμμώνιοι, ἐόντες Αἰγυπτίων τε καὶ Αἰθιόπων ἄποικοι καὶ φωνὴν μεταξὺ ἀμφοτέρων νομίζοντες. [5] δοκέειν δέ μοι, καὶ τὸ οὔνομα Ἀμμώνιοι ἀπὸ τοῦδε σφίσι τὴν ἐπωνυμίην ἐποιήσαντο: Ἀμοῦν γὰρ Αἰγύπτιοι καλέουσι τὸν Δία. τοὺς δὲ κριοὺς οὐ θύουσι Θηβαῖοι, ἀλλ᾽ εἰσί σφι ἱροὶ διὰ τοῦτο. [6] μιῇ δὲ ἡμέρῃ τοῦ ἐνιαυτοῦ, ἐν ὁρτῇ τοῦ Διός, κριὸν ἕνα κατακόψαντες καὶ ἀποδείραντες κατὰ τὠυτὸ ἐνδύουσι τὤγαλμα τοῦ Διός, καὶ ἔπειτα ἄλλο ἄγαλμα Ἡρακλέος προσάγουσι πρὸς αὐτό. ταῦτα δὲ ποιήσαντες τύπτονται οἱ περὶ τὸ ἱρὸν ἅπαντες τὸν κριὸν καὶ ἔπειτα ἐν ἱρῇ θήκῃ θάπτουσι αὐτόν.

Other Testimonia

 

Other Commentary


Perseus Encyclopedia:

Thebes, city of Boeotia

W. W. How, J. Wells, A Commentary on Herodotos:

Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities (1898):

 

Disambiguation

No information available at this time.