Overview[ edit ] Eighteen allusions to mythic Tiresias, noted by Luc Brisson,  fall into three groups: How Tiresias obtained his information varied: Pliny the Elder credits Tiresias with the invention of augury. Hera was displeased, and she punished Tiresias by transforming him into a woman.
As a woman, Tiresias became a priestess of Hera, married and had children, including Manto , who also possessed the gift of prophecy. After seven years as a woman, Tiresias again found mating snakes; depending on the myth, either she made sure to leave the snakes alone this time, or, according to Hyginus , trampled on them. This ancient story is recorded in lost lines of Hesiod.
An alternative story told by the poet Pherecydes was followed in Callimachus ' poem "The Bathing of Pallas"; in it, Tiresias was blinded by Athena after he stumbled onto her bathing naked.
In a separate episode,  Tiresias was drawn into an argument between Hera and her husband Zeus , on the theme of who has more pleasure in sex: Tiresias replied, "Of ten parts a man enjoys one only. Zeus could do nothing to stop her or reverse her curse, but in recompense he did give Tiresias the gift of foresight  and a lifespan of seven lives.
He is said to have understood the language of birds and could divine the future from indications in fire, or smoke. However it was the communications of the dead he relied the most on, menacing them when they were late to attend him.
In Greek literature , Tiresias' pronouncements are always given in short maxims which are often cryptic gnomic , but never wrong.
Often when his name is attached to a mythic prophecy, it is introduced simply to supply a personality to the generic example of a seer, not by any inherent connection of Tiresias with the myth: This is his emblematic role in tragedy see below. Like most oracles , he is generally extremely reluctant to offer the whole of what he sees in his visions. Tiresias appears as the name of a recurring character in several stories and Greek tragedies concerning the legendary history of Thebes.
In The Bacchae , by Euripides , Tiresias appears with Cadmus , the founder and first king of Thebes, to warn the current king Pentheus against denouncing Dionysus as a god. Along with Cadmus, he dresses as a worshiper of Dionysus to go up the mountain to honor the new god with the Theban women in their Bacchic revels.
In Sophocles ' Oedipus Rex , Oedipus, the king of Thebes, calls upon Tiresias to aid in the investigation of the killing of the previous king Laius. At first, Tiresias refuses to give a direct answer and instead hints that the killer is someone Oedipus really does not wish to find.
However, after being provoked to anger by Oedipus' accusation first that he has no foresight and then that Tiresias had a hand in the murder, he reveals that in fact it was Oedipus himself who had unwittingly committed the crime.
Outraged, Oedipus throws him out of the palace, but then afterwards realizes the truth. Oedipus has handed over the rule of Thebes to his sons Eteocles and Polynices  but Eteocles refused to share the throne with his brother.
Aeschylus ' Seven Against Thebes recounts the story of the war which followed. In it, Eteocles and Polynices kill each other. Tiresias also appears in Sophocles' Antigone. Creon , now king of Thebes, refuses to allow Polynices to be buried. His niece, Antigone , defies the order and is caught; Creon decrees that she is to be buried alive. The gods express their disapproval of Creon's decision through Tiresias, who tells Creon 'the city is sick through your fault.
When Creon arrives at the tomb where she is to be interred, his son, Haemon who was betrothed to Antigone, attacks Creon and then kills himself. When Creon's wife, Eurydice , is informed of her son and Antigone's deaths, she too takes her own life.
Tiresias and his prophecy are also involved in the story of the Epigoni. Death[ edit ] Tiresias died after drinking water from the tainted spring Tilphussa , where he was struck by an arrow of Apollo.
His shade descended to the Asphodel Meadows , the first level of Hades. After his death, he was visited in the underworld by Odysseus to whom he gave valuable advice concerning the rest of his odyssey, such as how to get past Scylla and Charybdis.
He even gave him advice where he should not eat the cattle of Helios on Thrinacia advice which Odysseus' men did not follow which led to Odysseus' men getting killed by Zeus' thunderbolts during a storm.