Thebes is the forgotten city of ancient Greece. It lies 32 miles north-west of Athens, at the heart of sleepy Boeotia, but it has now been rescued from obscurity by Paul Cartledge, former Professor of Greek Culture at the University of Cambridge. It was a city rich in Greek myth. Thebes was where Oedipus, having solved the riddle of the Sphinx (see the cover of the book, above, with Oedipus seated and the Sphinx on the pillar), went on to become king, in the course of which he killed his father and married his mother, thus providing the ideal basis for the greatest of all Greek plays, Sophocles’ Oedipus the King.
It may be the royal tombs that spring to mind when we think of the Valley of the Kings, but you did not have to be pharaoh to secure space in the cemetery. More modest tombs exist in greater numbers, although the identity of many of their occupants remains a mystery. Donald P Ryan has been investigating.