Or Teiresias, a son of Everes (or Phorbas1) and Chariclo, whence he is sometimes called Εὐηρείδης (Euereides).2 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.3
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 Tiresias, who could judge of both, and declared in favor 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.4
In the war of the Seven against Thebes. he declared that Thebes should be victorious, if Menoeceus would sacrifice himself;5 and during the war of the Epigoni, when the Thebans had 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.6 His daughter Manto (or Daphne) was sent by the victorious Argives to Delphi, as a present to Apollo.7 Another daughter of his is called Historis.8 Even in the lower world Tiresias 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.9
His tomb was shown in the neighborhood of the Tilphusian well near Thebes,10 but also in Macedonia;11 and the place near Thebes where he had observed the birds (οἰωνοσκόπιον) was pointed out as a remarkable spot even in later times.12 The oracle connected with his tomb lost its power and became silent at the time of the Orchomenian plague.13 Tiresias was represented by Polygnotus in the Lesche at Delphi.14
- Ptolemaeus Hephaestus, 1.
- Callimachus. Hymn to Artemis, 81; Theocritus. Idylls xxiv, 70.
- Pseudo-Apollodorus. The Library iii, 6.7; Callimachus. Hymn to Artemis, 7.5 ff., with Spanheim's note.
- Pseudo-Apollodorus, l.c.; Hyginus. Fabulae, 75; Ovid. Metamorphoses iii, 320 ff.; Tzetzes on Lycophron, 682; Pindar. Nemean Odes i, 91.
- Pseudo-Apollodorus, l.c.; Hyginus. Fabulae, 68.
- Pseudo-Apollodorus. The Library iii, 7.3; Pausanias. Description of Greece ix, 33.1; Diodorus Siculus, iv, 66.
- Diodorus Siculus, l.c.; Pseudo-Apollodorus. The Library iii, 7.4.
- Pausanias. Description of Greece ix, 11.2.
- Homer. Odyssey x, 492, xii, 190 ff.; Lycoph. Cuss. 682; Cicero. De Divinatione i, 40; Pausanias. Description of Greece ix, 33.1.
- Pausanias. Description of Greece ix, 18.3, 33.1, vii, 3.1.
- Pliny the Elder. Naturalis Historia xxxvii, 10.
- Pausanias. Description of Greece ix, 16.I; Sophocles. Oedipus Tyrannus, 493.
- Plutarch. De Defectu Oraculorum.
- Pausanias. Description of Greece x, 29.2.
- Smith, William. (1870). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. London: Taylor, Walton, and Maberly.
This article incorporates text from Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (1870) by William Smith, which is in the public domain.