Online Encyclopedia

TEIRESIAS

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V26, Page 508 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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TEIRESIAS, in Greek legend, a famous Theban seer, son of Eueres and Chariclo. He was a descendant of Udaeus, one of the men who had sprung up from the serpent's teeth sown by Cadmus. He was blind from his seventh year, for whichvarious causes were alleged. Some said that the gods had blinded him because he had revealed to men what they ought not to know. Others said that Athena (or Artemis) blinded him because he had seen her naked in the bath; when his mother prayed Athena to restore his sight, the goddess, being unable to do so, purged his ears so that he could understand the speech of birds, and gave him a staff wherewith to guide his steps (Apollodorus iii. 6). According to Sostratus, author of an elegiac poem called Teiresias, he was originally a girl, but had been changed into a boy by Apollo at the age of seven; after undergoing several more transformations from one sex to the other, she (for the final sex was feminine) was turned into a mouse and her lover Arachnus into a weasel (Eustathius on Odyssey, p. 1665). Teiresias' grave was at the Tilphusian spring; but there was a cenotaph of him at Thebes, and also in later times his " observatory," or place for watching for omens from birds, was pointed out (Pausanias ix 16; Sophocles, Antigone, 999)• He had an oracle at Orchomenus, but during a plague it became silent and remained so in Plutarch's time (De Defectu Oraculorum, 44). According to Homer (Od. x. 492, xi. 90), Teiresias was the only person in the world of the dead whom Proserpine allowed to retain his memory and intellect unimpaired, and Circe sends Odysseus to consult him concerning his return home. He figured in the great paintings by Polygnotus in the Lesche at Delphi.
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