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(thēbz), city of ancient Egypt. LuxorLuxor
, city (1996 pop. 360,503), central Egypt, on the east bank of the Nile. It is 1 mi (1.6 km) SW of Karnak and occupies part of the site of Thebes. The temple of Luxor, the greatest monument of antiquity in the city, was built in the reign of Amenhotep III (1414 B.C.
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 and KarnakKarnak
, village (1986 pop. 20,842), central Egypt, on the Nile. It is 1 mi (1.6 km) NE of Luxor and occupies part of the site of Thebes. Remains of the pharaohs abound at Karnak. Most notable is the Great Temple of Amon.
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 now occupy parts of its site. The city developed at a very early date from a number of small villages, particularly one around modern Luxor (then called Epet), but remained relatively obscure until the rise of the Theban family that established the XI dynasty (c.2134 B.C.). The city rapidly became prominent as the royal residence and as a seat of the worship of the god AmonAmon
, Ammon
, or Amen
, Egyptian deity. He was originally the chief god of Thebes; he and his wife Mut and their son Khensu were the divine Theban triad of deities.
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. At Thebes, also, was the necropolis in the Valley of the Kings where the kings and nobles were entombed in great splendor in crypts cut into the cliffs on the Nile's west bank. The city's greatest period was that of the empire, when it served as a reservoir for the immense wealth that poured in from the conquered countries. As the empire began to decay and the locus of power to shift to the Nile delta, Thebes went into decline. For a time in the 11th cent. B.C., it was a separate political entity under sacerdotal rule. Thebes was sacked by the Assyrians in 661 B.C., an event referred to in the Bible (Nah. 3.8–10), where the city is called No Amon [Amon city]. The Romans sacked it in 29 B.C., and by 20 B.C. a Greek visitor to the site reported only a few scattered villages. The temples and tombs that have survived, including the tombs of TutankhamenTutankhamen
or Tutenkhamon
, fl. c.1350 B.C., king of ancient Egypt, of the XVIII dynasty. He was the son-in-law of Ikhnaton and succeeded to the throne after a brief reign by Ikhnaton's successor.
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 and of Ramses II's sons, are among the most splendid in the world, and the site has been the scene of much important archaeological work.


See H. E. Winlock, The Rise and Fall of the Middle Kingdom in Thebes (1947); C. F. Nims, Thebes of the Pharaohs (1965); L. Manniche, City of the Dead: Thebes in Egypt (1987).


chief city of Boeotia, in ancient Greece. It was originally a Mycenaean city. Thebes is rich in associations with Greek legend and religion (see OedipusOedipus
, in Greek legend, son of Laius, king of Thebes, and his wife, Jocasta. Laius had been warned by an oracle that he was fated to be killed by his own son; he therefore abandoned Oedipus on a mountainside.
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; the Seven against ThebesSeven against Thebes,
in Greek legend, seven heroes—Polynices, Adrastus, Amphiaraüs, Hippomedon, Capaneus, Tydeus, and Parthenopaeus—who made war on Eteocles, king of Thebes.
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; EpigoniEpigoni
, in Greek legend, the sons of the Seven against Thebes, who avenged the death of their fathers. Under the leadership of Adrastus and Alcmaeon, the Epigoni conquered Thebes 10 years after the Seven had fought alongside Polynices for the throne of Thebes.
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). Sometime before 1000 B.C., Thebes was settled by Boeotians and rapidly replaced Orchomenus as the region's leading city. At the end of the 6th cent. B.C. it began its struggle with Athens to maintain its position in Boeotia and in Greece. In the Persian Wars, Thebes, motivated by hostility to Athens, sided (480–479 B.C.) with the Persians. When the Persians were defeated, Thebes was punished, and only the intervention of Sparta, which saw in the city a balance to the power of Athens, saved it from destruction. Thebes supported Sparta against Athens in the Peloponnesian War but, fearing Spartan territorial ambitions, withdrew this support and joined (394 B.C.) the confederation against Sparta. Sparta was able to place (382 B.C.) a garrison in Thebes, but the city was freed by one of its great generals, Pelopidas, three years later. This freedom was insured (371 B.C.) by the Spartan defeat at Leuctra by the Theban Epaminondas. Thebes joined Athens against Philip II of Macedon and shared in the defeat at Chaeronea (338 B.C.). A revolt at Thebes caused Alexander the Great to attack and destroy (336 B.C.) the city. Cassander rebuilt Thebes c.315 B.C., but it never regained its former greatness. The modern Thívai occupies the site of the Theban acropolis, part of which still survives. There are also remains of the prehistoric city and the temple of Ismenian Apollo.



one of the largest cities and cultural centers of ancient Egypt.

Thebes is known to have existed at least as early as the mid-third millennium B.C. Under the pharaohs of the 11th Dynasty, who united Egypt and ruled from the mid-22nd to the 20th century B.C., Thebes became the country’s capital. It remained the capital during the Middle and New kingdoms, although a few pharaohs chose to reside in other cities. Under the Libyan (22nd and 23rd) Dynasties of the 10th to 8th centuries B.C., Thebes lost its status as Egypt’s political center. Nevertheless, as the seat of the semi-independent high priest of Amon, it remained a religious center. The capture of Thebes by King Piankhy of Cush circa 730 B.C. and its sack by the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal in 663 B.C. combined with the northward shift of economic and political activity to cause the city’s decline. Thebes was gradually reduced to the status of a provincial city, although it retained influence as a religious center until 88 B.C. In that year Ptolemy IX Soter destroyed the city while suppressing a popular uprising.

Since the first half of the 19th century, scholars from many different countries have taken part in the excavation of the city and the restoration of its temples. Particularly important contributions have been made by K. R. Lepsius (1810–84) of Germany, W. Flinders Petrie and H. Carter of Great Britain, and H. Winlock of the USA.

Magnificent Theban temple ensembles survive on the east bank of the Nile at Karnak and Luxor. Remains on the west bank include cemeteries and the ruins of mortuary temples. The most important cemetery is Biban al-Moluk (the Valley of the Kings). One of the most notable of the pharaonic mortuary temples is that of Amenhotep III. It was built in the 15th century B.C. by the architect Amenhotep, son of Hapu. Two gigantic statues of Amenhotep, named the Colossi of Memnon by the Greeks, have also been preserved. From Amenhotep’s temple to the Nile there once stretched an avenue lined with sphinxes, two of which are now in Leningrad on the University Embankment. The west bank is also the site of the Rameseum, the mortuary temple of Rameses II. Other famous architectural complexes are located near Thebes at Deir el Bahri. Because the residential areas of ancient Thebes lie beneath the modern city of Luxor, they have not been studied.


Michatowski, K. Teby. Warsaw, 1973.
Blackman, A. M. Das hundert-torige Theben hinter den Pylonen der Pharaonen. Leipzig, 1926.
Otto, E. Topographic des Thebanischen Gaues. Berlin, 1952.
Capart, J. Thèbes: La Gloire d’un grand passé. Brussels, 1925.



an ancient Greek city in Boeotia.

According to legend, Thebes was founded by Cadmus; the Thebans’ ancestors were said to have sprung from dragon’s teeth sown by him. Remains of the Cretan-Mycenaean culture attest to Thebes’ antiquity.

By the sixth century B.C., Thebes had assumed leadership of the Boeotian League. The league, which had arisen from an ancient tribal and religious alliance, united nearly all the cities of Boeotia. The clan aristocracy that ruled Thebes supported the Persians during the Greco-Persian Wars (500–449 B.C.) and sided with Sparta against Athens in the Peloponnesian War (431–404 B.C.). After the Peloponnesian War, anti-Spartan groups came to power in Thebes and other Boeotian cities and established friendly relations with Athens. Under Theban leadership the Boeotians supported Athens in the Corinthian War (395–387 B.C.).

The Boeotian League was dissolved in 387 in accordance with the conditions of the Peace of Antalcidas. Sparta helped establish extremely reactionary oligarchic governments in Thebes and the other cities of Boeotia. In 379, after the overthrow of the oligarchs, the democratic strata of society came to power in Thebes under the leadership of Pelopidas and Epaminondas. With the revival of the Boeotian League, Thebes became one of the greatest powers in Greece. The Theban army, led by Epaminondas, inflicted defeats on the Spartans at Leuctra in 371 and at Mantinea in 362.

The bloody wars with Sparta, however, so weakened Thebes and the other cities of the league that after 362 they ceased to be of consequence. Thebes was conquered by Macedonia in 338, and in 335, after the suppression of an anti-Macedonian rebellion, the city was virtually razed. Thebes was partially rebuilt in 315 B.C., but no longer played a significant political role. The small modern city of Thivai is located on the site of ancient Thebes.


Cloché, P. Thébes de Béotie: Des Origines á la conquête romaine. Namur, 1953.
Glotz, G. La Grèce au IV siècle: La Lutte pour I’hégémonie. Paris, 1941.


1. (in ancient Greece) the chief city of Boeotia, destroyed by Alexander the Great (336 bc)
2. (in ancient Egypt) a city on the Nile: at various times capital of Upper Egypt or of the entire country
References in periodicals archive ?
Routing the Thebans on the day of battle is less than a Spartan general might desire: totally destroying their force, their will to fight, their allies' support, the economic base of their future resistance, etc.
First, he reports the opinions of the Theban population, gathered by eavesdropping from the shadows ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], 692).
Tisiphone will ensure that the Thebans gain the body of Tydeus as punishment for his cannibalism in Book 8.
Indeed, the personal names commented on in the play belong to members of the royal oikos and so more evidently stress their tight bond, and by extension the family's inherent and chronic pollution, rather than distinguish Thebans and Argives (either physically or morally).
The author recounts the rise of the Theban Inyotefs and ultimately the reunification of Egypt under Mentuhotep.
The Hyksos ruled concurrently with a line of native Theban rulers of the 17th dynasty, which continued to retain control over most of southern Egypt despite having to pay taxes to the Hyksos.
Agesilaus was very angry at the Thebans for this bad omen and became convinced that his expedition would not complete its mission (Plut.
On their second march to Athens, the Persian armies were invited by the Thebans to set up camp in their territory.
One is that it strongly contrasts Theseus's enmity toward the Thebans to a legendary example of his love for Perotheus (Frost 294).
There were also as many as seven hundred soldiers from Thespiae and also some Thebans.
Edinburgh club Caledonian Thebans reckon they look scrummy in their racy photos.