Teiresias in Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology

Teire'sias (Τειρησίας), or TIRE'SIAS, a son of Everes (or Phorbas, Ptolem. Hephaest. 1) and Chariclo, whence he is sometimes called Εὐηρείδης. (Callim. Lav. Pall. 81 ; Theocrit. Id. 24.70.) He belonged to the ancient family of Udaeus at Thebes, and was one of the most renowned soothsayers in all antiquity. He was blind from his seventh year, but lived to a very old age. The cause of his blindness was believed to have been the fact that he had revealed to men things which, according to the will of the gods, they ought not to know, or that he had seen Athena while she was bathing, on which occasion the goddess is said to have blinded him, by sprinkling water into his face. Chariclo prayed to Athena to restore his sight to him, but as the goddess was unable to do this, she conferred upon him the power to understand the voices of the birds, and gave him a staff, with the help of which he could walk as safely as if he had his eyesight (Apollod. 3.6.7; Callim. Lav. Pall. 7.5, &c., with Spanbeim's note.) Another tradition accounts for his blindness in the following manner. Once, when on Mount Cythaeron (others say Cyllene), he saw a male and a female serpent together; he struck at them with his staff, and as he happened to kill the female, he himself was metamorphosed into a woman. Seven years later he again saw two serpents. and now killing the male, he again became a man. It was for this reason that Zeus and Hera. when they were disputing as to whether a man or a woman had more enjoyments, referred the matter to Teiresias, who could judge of both, and declared in favour of the assertion of Zeus that women had more enjoyments. Hera, indignant at the answer, blinded him, but Zeus gave him the power of prophecy, and granted him a life which was to last for seven or nine generations. (Apollod. l.c. ; Hygin. Fab. 75 ; Ov. Met. 3.320, &c.; Tzetz. ad Lycoph. 682 ; Pind. N. 1.91.) In the war of the Seven against Thebes. he declared that Thebes should be victorious, it Menoeceus would sacrifice himself (Apollod. l.c. ; Hygin. Fab. 68); and during the war of the Epigoni, when the Thebans laid been defeated, he advised them to commmence negotiations of peace, and to avail themselves of the opportunity that would thus be afforded them, to take to flight. He himself fled with them (or, according to others, he was carried to Delphi as a captive), but on his way he drank from the well of Tilphossa and died. (Apollod. 3.7.3; Paus. 9.33.1; Diod. 4.66.) His daughter Manto (or Daphne) was sent by the victorious Argives to Delphi, as a present to Apollo. (Diod. l.c. ; Apollod. 3.7.4.) Another daughter of his is called Historis. (Paus. 9.11.2.) Even in the lower world Teiresias was believed to retain the powers of perception, while the souls of other mortals were mere shades, and there also he continued to use his golden staff. (Hom. Od. 10.492, 11.190, &c.; Ly-coph. Cuss. 682 ; Cic. de Div. 1.40; Paus. 9.33.1.) His tomb was shown in the neighbourhood of the Tilphusian well near Thebes (Paus. 9.18.3, 33.1, 7.3. § I), but also in Macedonia (Plin. Nat. 37.10); and the place near Thebes where lie had observed the birds (οἰωνοσκόπιον) was pointed out as a remarkable spot even in later times. (Paus. 9.16. § I; Soph. Oed. Tyr. 493.) The oracle connected with his tomb lost its power and became silent at the time of the Orchomenian plague. (Plut. De Orac. Defect.) He was represented by Polygnotus in the Lesche at Delphi. (Paus. 10.29.2.) The blind seer Teiresias acts so prominent a part in the mythical history of Greece that there is scarcely any event with which he is not connected in some way or other, and this introduction of the seer in so many occurrences separated by long intervals of time, was facilitated by the belief in his long life. - A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology, William Smith, Ed.

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