Tiresias

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In Greek mythology, Tiresias (Greek: Τειρεσίας, also transliterated as Teiresias) was a blind prophet of Thebes, famous for clairvoyance and for being transformed into a woman for seven years. He was the son of the shepherd Everes and the nymph Chariclo;[1] Tiresias participated fully in seven generations at Thebes, beginning as advisor to Cadmus himself.

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Overview

Eighteen allusions to mythic Tiresias, noted by Luc Brisson,[2] fall into three groups: one, in two episodes, recounts Tiresias' sex-change and his encounter with Zeus and Hera; a second group recounts his blinding by Athena; a third, all but lost, seems to have recounted the misadventures of Tiresias.

Tiresias was a prophet of Apollo. According to the mythographic compendium Bibliotheke,[3] different stories were told of the cause of his blindness, the most direct being that he was simply blinded by the gods for revealing their secrets. An alternate 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.[4] His mother, Chariclo, a nymph of Athena, begged Athena to undo her curse, but the goddess could not; instead, she cleaned his ears,[3] giving him the ability to understand birdsong, thus the gift of augury.

On Mount Cyllene in the Peloponnese,[5] as Tiresias came upon a pair of copulating snakes, he hit the pair a smart blow with his stick. Hera was not pleased, 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. According to some versions of the tale, Lady Tiresias was a prostitute of great renown. 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. As a result, Tiresias was released from his sentence and permitted to regain his masculinity. This ancient story is recorded in lost lines of Hesiod.[6]

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