Θήβαις τραφεὶς (Ancient Greek)

RadekPSK

New Member
Portuguese - Brazil
Hello, everyone,
I am very sorry if this forum is not usually used to ask questions about Ancient Greek. If it is not, I'd be grateful if you could suggest a place where I could ask this question.

My question is about a specific line in the Oidipous Tyrannos. After he has blinded himself, Oedipus laments that he had the most misfortune, despite having been the noblest citizen.

[...] τῶν ὁ παντλήμων ἐγὼ
κάλλιστ᾽ ἀνὴρ εἷς ἔν γε ταῖς Θήβαις τραφεὶς


These are from lines 1379 and 1380.

The translations I have don't seem to agree on the meaning of this line. I understand "τραφεὶς" as referring to being brough up or reared, but Oedipus was brought up in Corinth by an adoptive father, which he now knows, so the reference to Thebes sounds odd. (The very first line of the play does seem to refer to any citizen of Thebes as someone who is a "ward" of the city itself, using the same verb - ὦ τέκνα, Κάδμου τοῦ πάλαι νέα τροφή, - but here it uses the name of the founder of Thebes, Cadmus, which might offer different verb choices)

The exact same word, τραφεὶς, occurs a little before, when the herdsman states that he is a slave who was never bought, but was brought up in the House of Laius: ἦ δοῦλος οὐκ ὠνητός, ἀλλ᾽ οἴκοι τραφείς. Does this mean that he was brought up IN the house?

And does Oedipus' line about Thebes also mean being brought up IN Thebes? Or does it simply mean being the most nobly raised of those who are currently in Thebes, since he was raised as a royal prince in Corinth?

Can it simply be a reference to his Theban royal blood, since he was all along the son of the King of Thebes? But would that meaning use the verb "τρέφω", rather than a verb related to progeny, like "γίγνομαι"?

Thank you for your help and again do excuse me if this is not a forum for Ancient Greek.
 
  • Scholiast

    Senior Member
    Χαῖρε ὦ Radek

    First, I think you will find in this Forum plenty of wit and wisdom about classical Greek as well as modern, so no call for doubts or fear of absence of friendliness whatever. My credentials: teacher of Latin and (classical) Greek for many years, though far from expert in modern spoken Greek.

    I believe τραφείς is indeed the aorist passive participle of τρέφω, so means 'brought up', 'born', 'nurtured', 'reared', and it is one of the superbly Sophoclean ironies that he, Oedipus, has to announce these words.

    To me Sophocles is one of the supreme masters of dramatic irony (along with Shakespeare), and as you declare, this is a great line.

    In the context, it refers to the truly Theban origins of Oedipus, son of Laius and Jocasta, even though as an infant he had been exposed and then, ignorant of his true parentage, raised in Corinth.

    I hope this is helpful. How wonderful to find someone from the New World reading classical Greek literature, a treasure for all humanity.

    Σ
     
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    Perseas

    Senior Member
    Greek
    Χαίρετε Radek and Scholiast!
    I like Scholiast's answer, also the assumption that this is a reference to his Theban royal blood. Another interpretation might be that, when Oedipus speakes publicly telling these words, he has already lived and reigned in Thebes for many years and has got four grown-up children. Therefore he might not refer literally to the years until he came to Thebes but to the years after he came to Thebes and ruled as king.
     

    Scholiast

    Senior Member
    @Perseas
    Yes, that too. That would again be Sophocles' irony. Thank you for your friendly contribution and remarks.
    Σ

    Edit: as regards δοῦλος οὐκ ὠνητός, ἀλλ᾽ οἴκοι τραφείς, this means a servant or maid not bought in from outside, but raised within the household, so 'one of the family', so to speak, even if he/she was of slave status.
     
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    RadekPSK

    New Member
    Portuguese - Brazil
    Thank you so much for your kind answers. Unfortunately, I still don't know for sure I will analyse this line (I'm writing an article).

    As I said, it seems odd that Oedipus would refer to his biological connection with Thebes by means of the verb "τραφεὶς", simply based on the use of this verb throughout the play. You can see all instances of τρέφω and ἐκτρέφω in the following links:

    Perseus Search Results
    Perseus Search Results

    The many references to offspring, begetting, generating, giving brith, having blood ties etc are usually made with verbs such as τίκτω, φύω, ἐκφύω, γίγνομαι, φυτεύω, etc.

    So does it also sound odd to you in this context to use τρέφω to refer to blood ties?

    Also, what is the grammar of the word Θήβαις in the quote? Does it mean "in Thebes", "by Thebes" etc?
     

    Perseas

    Senior Member
    Greek
    ὦ τέκνα, Κάδμου τοῦ πάλαι νέα τροφή
    You can translate "νέα τροφή" as "new generation".

    Also, what is the grammar of the word Θήβαις in the quote? Does it mean "in Thebes", "by Thebes" etc?
    ἔν γε ταῖς Θήβαις = in Thebes. "γε" is enclitic and thus the previous "ἐν" is accented.
     
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    Scholiast

    Senior Member
    ἔν γε ταῖς Θήβαις = in Thebes
    Quite so—and I hope it is not patronising RadekPSK to add that the preposition ἐν always takes a dative noun.

    Σ

    Edited afterthought, which perhaps should have been in a fresh post: in # 5 Radek asked 'does it also sound odd to you in this context to use τρέφω to refer to blood ties?'. To me not—but I don't believe this was a point Sophocles had in mind. He was making Oedipus reflect, however ruefully, on the horrid fact that Thebes had been his home from birth, as well as the place of his desolation and destruction. This is not, or not exclusively, a reference to blood-ties or familial kinship, though it embraces that: Thebes was his parental home, of course, but he is generalising—ancient Greek households and political communities represented for those who belonged to them more than just kinship: 'Thebes was my mother [as well as Jocasta] and I have come "home" to my insufferable fate'. The poignant double entendre of a verb like τρέφω, emphasizing 'upbringing', 'origins', as well as 'ancestry', cuts to the heart.

    Σ
     
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    Perseas

    Senior Member
    Greek
    In addition to Scholiast's excellent comment:
    In an old school book there is a comment on the meaning of "κάλλιστα τραφείς" --> "αν και πέρασα τη ζωή μου άριστα" ("although I spent my life excellently/grandly/perfectly"); "τραφείς" is a concessive participle (εναντιωματική μετοχή).
     
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    sotos

    Senior Member
    Greek
    I think he refers to an "imaginative" Thebes, to use a modern concept. Compare to "τέκνα Σιών", which doesn't mean that they are born in Zion.
     
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