The recently published book Theban Epics, by Malcolm Davies, is a remarkable piece of scholarly detective work, as Malcolm extracts an extraordinary amount of material and meaning from the few fragments that remain of the poems about the Theban wars. Paradoxically, these fragments suggest very un-Homeric content and style (in particular its detail of the hero Tydeus forfeiting immortality by gnawing on the head of a dying enemy).

On the site of the Center for Hellenic Studies one can listen to Malcolm talking about the significance of his book’s cover, which depicts Tydeus himself in this fateful act of bloodthirsty savagery.

The Theban epics recount the story of the other great siege of ancient Greek legend, the attack known as the Seven Against Thebes, which occurred a generation before the Trojan War. Though told with an intriguingly different sensibility than that of Homeric tradition, the epic is linked thematically to the Iliad. Its story also has a narrative connection to the Trojan War, as one of its fiercest combatants, Tydeus, is the father of a great warrior of the Iliad, Diomedes.