The Library of History

Page 162

Page 162 Afterwards Perithous had a desire to court Proserpina, and for this purpose requir'd Theseus to go along with him: At first Theseus endeavour'd to dissuade him, and to take him off from such a wicked and impious Design. But Perithous urging him the more vehemently (and by vertue of his Oath being bound thereunto) he at length agreed to joyn with him in the Attempt. To this end both of them descended into the Shades below, and for their Impudence and Impiety, were clapt up, and bound fast in Chains; but Theseus was afterwards releas'd for the sake of Hercules. But Perithous suffers Eternal Pains with the Infernal Spirits for his Wickedness; though some Writers report, that neither of 'em ever return'd. About the same time they say, Castor and Pollux (the Brother of Helen) assaulted Aphidna, and taking it by Storm, raz'd it to the Ground, and carry'd away Helen (still a Virgin) to Lacedemon, and with her among the Captives, A •thra the Mother of Theseus.

Having spoke sufficiently of these things, we shall now proceed to give an Account of the Seven Captains that made War against Thebes, and shew the first Causes of that War. Laius the King of Thebes having marry'd Jocasta the Daughter of Creon, and for a long time being without Children; at length consulted the Oracle whether he ever should have any Issue. Pithia the Priestess gave answer from the Oracle, that it would be unfortunate to him to have any Issue; for the Son that he should afterwards beget, should kill him, and involve his whole Family in most dreadful Calamities. But somewhat forgetful of what the Oracle had declar'd, he afterwards begat a Son, but bor'd his Feet through with an Iron, and order'd him to be expos'd in the open Fields; and for that reason he was afterwards call'd Oedipus. The Servants that took him into their Custody for that purpose, were unwilling to leave him so to the wide World, but gave him to Polybus his Wife, who was barren.

Being attain'd at length to Man's Estate, Laius resolv'd to inquire of the Oracle, to know what was become of the expos'd Infant; and Oedipus at the same time being by some one inform'd of the Design against him when he was so very Young, took a Journey to Delphos, to inquire of the Oracle who were his true Parents: It so fell out, that both of them meeting one another upon the Road in Phocis, Laius in a proud and haughty manner commanded Oedipus to get out of the way; who thereupon was so inrag'd, that he fell upon Laius and kill'd him, not knowing him to be his Father.

About that time they report that Sphinx, a double shap'd Monster, came to Thebes, and put forth a Riddle to be resolv'd by any that could: Which none being able to do (by reason of the difficulty of the thing) she destroy'd many: At length she became more moderate, and offer'd a Reward to such as should unfold it, that he should marry Jocasta, and with her injoy the Kingdom of Thebes. When none else could expound the Riddle, Oedipus was the only Man that did it. The Riddle propounded by Sphinx was this; What Creature is that that is Two-Footed, Three-Footed, and Four-Footed? When all others were puzled, Oedipus interpreted it to be a Man; who when he is an Infant, creeps upon all Four; when he grows elder, goes upright upon his Two Feet; but when he is old, he's Three-Footed, using a Staff to support him by reason of his weakness. Whereupon Sphinx (as it is reported) threw herself down Headlong from the top of the Rock: And Oedipus marry'd his Mother unknown to him, and begat of her Two Sons, Eteocles and Polynices, and Two Daughters, Antigone and Ismene. The Sons being grown up to Mans Estate, came to the knowledge of the Wickedness committed in their Family, and therefore for the foulness of the Fact, confin'd Oedipus so as that he should not stir Abroad; and his Sons took upon them the Government, first agreeing together to rule Yearly one after another by turns. Eocles the Elder Brother reign'd first, but when his Year was out, he refus'd to give way to his Brother: Polynices demanded the Government according to the Covenant between them, but his Brother turn'd to him the Deaf Ear; upon which he repair'd to Ardrastus King of Argos.

Bibliotheca Historica

The first five books