He was a son of Talaus and Lysimache. Pausanias calls his mother Lysianassa, and Hyginus calls her Eurynome. He was one of the three kings at Argos, along with Iphis and Amphiaraus, the husband of Adrastus's sister Eriphyle. He was married either to Amphithea, daughter of Pronax, or to Demonassa. His daughters Argea and Deipyle married Polynices and Tydeus, respectively. His other children include Aegiale, Aegialeus, and Cyanippus.
During a feud between the most powerful houses in Argos, Talaus was slain by Amphiaraus, and Adrastus being expelled from his dominions fled to Polybus, then king of Sicyon. When Polybus died without heirs, Adrastus succeeded him on the throne of Sicyon, and during his reign he is said to have instituted the Nemean Games.
According to Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Greece by Edward E. Barthell, Adrastus is the son of Talaus and Lysimache (daughter of Abas). He married Amphitheia, daughter of his brother Pronax, and became the father of a son, Aegialeus, and four daughters: Aegialeia, who became the wife of Diomedes (son of Tydeus); Argeia, who became the wife of Polyneices (son of Oedipus); Deipyle, who became the wife of Tydeus (son of Oeneus); and Eurydice, who became the wife of the Trojan king, Ilus (son of Tros).
Seven against Thebes
Afterwards, however, Adrastus became reconciled to Amphiaraus, gave him his sister Eriphyle in marriage, and returned to his kingdom of Argos upon the swift immortal horse Arion, a gift of Heracles. During the time he reigned there it happened that Tydeus of Calydon and Polynices of Thebes, both fugitives from their native countries, met at Argos near the palace of Adrastus, and came to words and from words to blows. On hearing the noise, Adrastus hastened to them and separated the combatants, in whom he immediately recognised the two men that had been promised to him by an oracle as the future husbands of two of his daughters, for one bore on his shield the figure of a boar, and the other that of a lion, and the oracle was that one of his daughters was to marry a boar and the other a lion. Adrastus, therefore, gave his daughter Deipyle to Tydeus, and Argeia to Polynices, and at the same time promised to lead each of these princes back to his own country. Adrastus now prepared for war against Thebes, although Amphiaraus foretold that all who should engage in it should perish, with the exception of Adrastus.
Thus arose the celebrated war of the Seven against Thebes, in which Adrastus was joined by six other heroes, Polynices, Tydeus, Amphiaraus, Capaneus, Hippomedon, and Parthenopaeus. Instead of Tydeus and Polynices other legends mention Eteoclos and Mecisteus. This war ended as unfortunately as Amphiaraus had predicted, and Adrastus alone was saved by the swiftness of his horse Arion.
After the battle, Creon, king of Thebes, ordered that none of the fallen enemies were to be given funeral rites. Against his order, Antigone buried Polynices and was put to death, but Adrastus escaped to Athens to petition Theseus, the city's king, to attack Thebes and force the return of the bodies of the remaining five. Theseus initially refused but was convinced by his mother, Aethra, who had been beseeched by the mothers of the fallen, to put the matter to a vote of the citizens. The Athenians marched on Thebes and conquered the city but inflicted no additional damage, taking only what they came for, the five bodies. They were laid upon a funeral pyre and Adrastus eulogized each.
Second war against Thebes
Ten years after this, Adrastus persuaded the seven sons of the heroes who had fallen in the war against Thebes to make a new attack upon that city, and Amphiaraus now declared that the gods approved of the undertaking, and promised success. This war is celebrated in ancient story as the War of the Epigoni. Thebes was taken and razed to the ground, after the greater part of its inhabitants had left the city on the advice of Tiresias. The only Argive hero that fell in this war was Aegialeus, the son of Adrastus. After having built a temple of Nemesis in the neighborhood of Thebes, he set out on his return home. But, weighed down by old age and grief at the death of his son, he died at Megara and was buried there. After his death he was worshipped in several parts of Greece, as at Megara, at Sicyon where his memory was celebrated in tragic choruses, and in Attica.
The legends about Adrastus and the two wars against Thebes have furnished ample materials for the epic as well as tragic poets of Greece, and some works of art relating to the stories about Adrastus are mentioned in Pausanias.
- "Ἄδραστος". An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Bibliotheca i. 9. § 13
- Pausanias, ii. 6. § 3
- Hyginus, Fabulae 69
- Comp. Schol. ad Eurip. Phoen. 423
- Homer, Iliad ii. 572
- Pindar, Nemean Odes ix. 30, &c.
- Herodotus, v. 67
- Barthell, Edward E. Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Greece. University of Miami Press, 1971 (Original from the University of Virginia), ISBN 0-87024-165-6, pp. 105–106.
- Schmitz, Leonhard (1867). "Adrastus (1)". In Smith, William. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. 1. Boston. p. 21.
- Bibliotheca iii. 6. § 1, &c.
- Hyginus, Fabulae 69, 70
- Homer, Iliad xxiii. 346, &c.
- Pausanias, viii. 25. § 8
- Bibliotheca iii. 6
- Bibliotheca iii. 7. § 1
- Pausanias, ix. 9. § 1
- Pausanias, ix. 9. § 2
- Bibliotheca iii. 7. § 2
- Bibliotheca iii. 7. § 24
- Herodotus, v. 61
- Strabo, vii. p. 325
- Pausanias, i. 43. § 1
- Pausanias, l.c.
- Pausanias, i. 30. § 4
- Pausanias, ix. 9. § 3
- Pausanias, iii. 18. § 7, x. 10. § 2
- Homer, Iliad v. 412
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Smith, William, ed. (1870). "article name needed". Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.