The War of the 'Seven Against Thebes was the result of a succession dispute to the throne of Thebes. The late king Oedipus had left the throne to his two sons; Eteocles and Polynices, who alternated their rule every year. However, Eteocles exiled his brother from Thebes and claimed the throne for himself. This led Polynices to assemble an army to take back the city.

Persuading the Chiefs

Polynices went to Argos, which had been split into three kingdoms, to raise an army. He approached King Iphis of the Aegyptiad branch and secured the cooperation of Prince Eteoclus and his brother-in-law Capaneus.
The Oath Of The Seven Chiefs - Project Gutenberg eText 14994

The Seven take oaths to Poseidon

He then went to King Talaus of the Biaid branch and gained the friendship of Princes Parthenopeus, Adrastus and Hippomedon and his brother-in-law Amphiarus, from the Melampid branch (whose allegiance he gained through bribing Eriphyle, Amhpiarus' wife and Talaus' daughter, with the cursed necklace of Harmonia.
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Polynices and Eteocles

He also gained the help of Tydeus, son of King Oeneus of Arcadia, both brother-in-law of Polynices (through their wives) and son-in-law of Adrastus.

Thus the Seven Against Thebes were

  • Polynices
  • Tydeus
  • Capaneus
  • Hippomedon
  • Amphiarus
  • Eteoclus and
  • Parthenopeus

with the help of Adrastus.

Defending Thebes

Eteocles gained the support of six men of valour, who he sent to defend one of the seven gates of the city each. These men were Melannipus, Megareus, Polyphontes, Hyperbius, Actor, Lasthenes and Eteocles.


Each of the defenders killed and were killed by one of the Seven, with Polynices and Eteocles felling each other in single combat. The throne of Thebes went to their uncle, Creon, who gave Eteocles a state burial and forbade the burial of Polynices.

The direct disobedience of Antigone and Ismene, their sisters, led to the burning of Antigone and the suicide of Creon's son Haemon, recently betrothed to her. After Creon's death and the expulsion of a usurper, Laodamas, son of Eteocles, became king. Adrastus escaped the battle and successfully convinced Theseus, King of Athens to force Creon to send the five bodies for burial.

The dissatisfaction of the result of the conflict resulted in the War of the Epigoni, children of the Seven who successfully captured Thebes, installing Thersander, son of Polynices, on the throne.