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An Argive king whose legend is closely linked to that of the Expedition of the Seven against Thebes. Ever since Proetus had shared the kingdom of Argos between himself and the two sons of Amythaon, Bias and Melampus (see the legend of Proetus and the Proetids, under MELAMPUS and Table 1), three families jointly ruled the country, but soon disagreements broke out between the three. During a riot Amphiaraus, the descendant of Melampus, killed Talaus, the father of Adrastus, who was one of the descendants of Bias (or, in some versions, the victim is Pronax, one of the sons of Talaus). Adrastus thereupon fled to Sicyon, near his maternal grandfather, the king Polybus (Table 22), who died without male children and left him the kingdom.

Once he was king of Sicyon, Adrastus' first move was to make peace with Amphiaraus and he then returned to the throne of Argos, but at heart Adrastus had never forgiven his cousin for the murder of his father. He gave Amphiaraus the hand of his sister Eriphyle and it was agreed that any further dispute between them would be left to her decision. Adrastus felt confident that in this way he would one day have the means of exacting his revenge, but it so happened that Polynices, Oedipus' son, was forced to leave Thebes by his brother Eteocles and at the same time Tydeus, son of Oeneus, King of Calydon, was exiled by his father because of a murder. One stormy night the two heroes appeared together to seek asylum in Adrastus' palace and they began to quarrel in the palace forecourt. Adrastus, who was woken up by the noise, made them both come inside and started by cleansing Tydeus of the dirt with which he was covered. Afterwards, realizing that the two heroes had fought like lion and wild boar (or perhaps seeing the two animals depicted on thier armour) he remembered an ancient oracle to the effect that he would give his daughters in marriage to a lion and a wild boar. He gave the elder, Argia, to Polynices, and the younger, Deipyla, to Tydeus, and promised to take them both back to their countries and restore their rights.

That was the start of the Expedition of the Seven against Thebes, in which the descendants of Bias and Melampus, as well as those of Proetus, that is, the three ruling houses of the Argolid, took part. According to later additions to this original legend, allies also come from Arcadia and Messenia, that is, from the rest of the Peloponnese with the exception of the Myceneans, whose princes, Agamemnon and Menelaus, the descendants of Atreus, foresaw that the war was bound to end in disaster. Under the leadership of Adrastus the seven chiefs were Amphiaraus, Capaneus, Hippomedon, Adrastus' nephew Parthenopaeus (sometimes said to be Adrastus' brother), Tydeus and Polynices. On their way the chiefs halted at Nemea, where they offered funeral games in honour of the young Archemorus who had been killed by a snake before their eyes (see AMPHIARAUS). This was the origin of the Nemean Games. On the river Ismenos the seven gained their first victory against the Thebans and drove them inside their walls, but when they attacked the city, their whole army was exterminated. Adrastus alone escaped with his horse Areion, conspicuous for his black mane.

After this the story takes different forms. In one, Adrastus, a skilful orator, managed to persuade the Thebans to hand over the bodies of their victims; in the other - and this is the Athenian version - Adrastus fled to Athens, without resting on the way, to place himself under the protection of Theseus. The latter was said to have taken the field against Thebes, regained the bodies by force and buried them at Eleusis.

Wholly undeterred by the outcome of the first expedition, Adrastus is said to have undertaken a fresh war against Thebes ten years later with the sons of those who had died in the earlier venture. His army was not so large but the omens were favourable. The Epigoni (the name given to the sons of those who had died earlier) took Thebes and established Polynices' son Thersandrus on the throne. But Adrastus lost his own son, Aegialeus, who was killed by Laodamas, the son of Eteocles. The aged Adrastus died of grief at Megara. There is also a story that, in obedience to an oracle of Apollo, he cast himself into the fire. Adrastus had six children by his wife Amphithea, the daughter of Pronax. His four daughters, Argia, Hippodamia, Deipyle and Aegiale married respectively Polynices, Pirithous, Tydeus and Diomedes.


Table of Sources:
- Hom. Il. 2, 572
- Pind. Nem. 9, 9ff. (20ff.)
- Hdt. 5, 67
- Apollod. Bibl. 3, 6, 1ff.
- schol. on Od. 11, 326; Il. 14, 119ff.; 4, 376ff.
- Paus. 1, 43; 9, 9, 1
- Pind. Ol. 6, 13ff. (19ff.)
- Plutarch Thes. 29
- Hyg. Fab. 242
- Stat. Theb. passim
- Aeschylus, Eleusinii (lost tragedy, Nauck TGF, edn 2, p. 18f)

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