Thebes (called No or No-Ammon by the Hebrews, and Diospolis the Great by the later Greeks and the Romans), anciently the capital of Upper Egypt, and for a long time, known as the period of the middle empire, of the whole country. Its Egyptian name was Ap, or Ap6, and with the feminine article Tape, the head, which, being pronounced Thaba in the Mein-'phitic dialect, was easily converted by the Greeks into θήβαι (Thebae). Pliny and Juvenal, desiring to render its real name more closely, call it Thebe. From the fact that the names of the oldest kings appear only about Memphis, it is generally inferred that Thebes was not founded as early as the capital of Lower Egypt, though in antiquity it was reputed to be the oldest city in the world. It stood near the centre of the Thebaid, extending on both sides of the Nile to the mountain chains which enclose the valley. Strabo speaks of the vestiges of the city as extending 80 stadia (10 m.) in length. Diodorus estimated its circuit at 140 stadia or about 17 m., and Sir Gardner AYilkin-son infers from its ruins that its length was 5¼ m. and its breadth 3 m.
Its most flourishing period was that of the 18th dynasty; it began to decline about 800 B. C. (See Egypt, vol. vi., p. 460.) Asshur-bani-pal pillaged it in the 7th century, and Cambyses in the 6th. After its destruction by Ptolemy Lathyrus (86 B. C), it lost all its political and commercial importance, though it remained the sacerdotal capital of the worshippers of Ammon. The trade which had contributed to its prosperity had found new channels after the foundation of Alexandria; and as the capital of a Macedonian and Roman prefecture it took little part in the affairs of Egypt, It was desolated successively by Christians of the Thebaid, in their zeal against idolatrous monuments, by barbarians from Arabia and Nubia, and by the Saracens; after whose invasion its name scarcely occurs for many centuries.-The ruins of Thebes, which are among the most magnificent in the world, are found at the modern villages of Luxor and Karnak on the E. bank of the Nile, and Gurna and Medinet-Abu on the western. The eastern quarter of the ancient city contained the mass of the population, while the western side was covered with temples and palaces and their avenues of sphinxes, and with the rock-hewn tombs of the kings.
The principal structures at Gurna are the palace temples Mernephtheum and Ramesseum. The former, approached by an avenue 128 ft. long, has pillars in the oldest style of Egyptian architecture and remarkable bass-reliefs. The latter, which for symmetry of architecture and elegance of sculpture may vie with any other Egyptian monument, occupies a series of terraces communicating with each other by flights of steps. It is supposed to bo the Memnonium of Strabo, and that he corrupted Miamun, the title of Rameses II., into Memnon. Its entrance is flanked by two pyramidal towers; its first court has a double avenue of columns on either side, and in the area a pedestal on which was a syenite sitting colossus of Rameses; its second court has walls covered with sculptures representing the wars of Rameses III., and Osiride pillars which are doubtless the monolithal figures 16 cubits high described by Diodorus; the third stairway, from the foot of which Belzoni took the head of a royal statue of red granite, now in the British museum and known as the young Memnon, conducts to a hall for public assemblies, with columns and walls covered with civil and religious sculptures; and beyond the hall extended nine smaller apartments, two of which remain, supported by columns, one of them being the sacred library or "dispensary of the mind" mentioned by Diodorus. Among the other monuments in this vicinity are two colossal statues, with the pedestals about 00 ft. high, the wonder of the ancients, one of them known as the vocal Memnon. (See Memnon.) The village of Medinet-Abu stands upon a lofty mound formed by the ruins of the most splendid temple palace in western Thebes, the Thoth-mesium, connected with the palace of Rameses by a dromos 265 ft. long.
The sculptures in the latter are of singular interest, being the only examples that have been found of the decoration of the private apartments of an Egyptian palace. The whole sweep of the Libyan hills, for the space of 5 m. and to the height of 300 ft. from Gurna to Medinet-Abu, is full of sepulchres, excavated in the native calcareous rock. This was the necropolis of the whole city, no tombs existing on the eastern side. The mummies are laid in rows by the side of or in tiers above each other, but never stand erect. The tombs of the lower classes are unsculptured, hut abound in mummies of sacred animals. The royal sepulchres are in the valley of Bab el-Muluk, or Biban el-Muluk (the gate or gates of kings), the most spacious and highly adorned belonging to those mon-archs who enjoyed a long reign. The tombs near the entrance of the gorge belong entirely to the 19th and 20th dynasties, and those in a branch path are of the 18th dynasty. The monuments, as also those in the separate burial place allotted to the queens, are chiefly interesting from their inscriptions. - Still more remarkable are the ruins on the E. bank of the river, in the villages of Luxor and Karnak. At Luxor the most striking monuments were two beautiful obelisks of red granite, covered with inscriptions, one of which has been removed to the Place de la Concorde in Paris. In the rear are two sitting statues of Rameses, one 39 ft. high, but now covered to the breast with accumulations of earth and sand.
Two courts and a series of apartments, connected and surrounded by colonnades and porticoes, extend beyond. The road from Luxor to Kar-nak lies through fields of halfa grass, though they were once united by an avenue of andro-sphinxes. The great palace temple of Karnak stands within a circuit wall of brick, the enclosure being 1,800 ft. long and somewhat less broad. It was approached by an avenue of crio-sphinxes, of which only fragments remain. Between the end of the dromos and the main body of the building, five lofty pylones and four spacious courts intervene. In the first court were two obelisks of Thothmes L, one of which still remains; in the second court is another obelisk, the loftiest known except that of St. John Lateran at Rome; and in one of the chambers are the sculptures which compose the Karnak tablet, called the "hall of the ancestors" or the "tablet of Tuthmosis" (Thothmes III.), now in the Louvre. The king is represented on it as making offerings before the images of 61 of his predecessors.
In the British museum is now a tablet of the same kind, known as the "tablet of Abydos." The great hall is 80 ft. high, 329 ft. long, and 179 ft. wide; the roof is supported by a central avenue of 12 massive columns, 66 ft. high and 12 ft. in diameter, together with 122 columns of less gigantic dimensions. These vast courts, halls, and esplanades were reared by kings of the 18th and succeeding dynasties for purposes partly religious and partly secular. The sacred calendar abounded in days for periodical meetings; the troops were reviewed and the spoils of victory apportioned in the courts of royal palaces, which also served for the administration of justice and occasionally for the encampment of the army.
Gateway of the Temple of Luxor.
Gateway of Karnak.
Thebes (Gr. θήβαι; Lat. Theboe; modern Gr. Thiva), in Greek antiquity, the chief city of Boeotia, built on and around a hill between the streams of Ismenus on the east and Dirce on the west. The citadel occupied the height, and the greater part of the town stood in the valleys. Of its ancient buildings, monuments, and walls, only a few scattered fragments remain, and its topography is entirely uncertain. It is impossible to harmonize the ancient writers as to the position or even the names of its seven gates. Thebes was equally illustrious in the mythical and the historical ages of Greece. Its two sieges and the fortunes of its royal houses were favorite subjects of tragedy; and it was for a time the ruling city of Greece. Tradition ascribed to Cadmus the foundation of the city, which was hence called Cadmea, a name afterward restricted to the citadel. From the five Sparti, the survivors of the progeny of the dragon's teeth, the noblest Theban families claimed descent. The expulsion of Oedipus, and the successive sieges by the " Seven against Thebes " and by the Epigoni, were the principal recorded events before the Cadmeans were driven out by the Boeotians, a tribe from Thes-saly. This occurred about 00 years after the Trojan war, according to Thucydides. The legislation of Philolaus, in the 8th century B. 0., gave it an oligarchical instead of monarchical form of government, and made it the head of the confederacy of Boeotian towns.
The first entirely certain event in its history is the revolt of one of these towns, Plata3a (about 519), which applied to Athens for protection. A war ensued between the Thebans and Athenians, in which the latter were successful, and which initiated lasting enmity between the two states. Thebes lost credit by abandoning the cause of Greece in the Persian war, and fighting against the Athenians at Plataea (479;. The victorious Greeks appeared before its walls, and compelled the inhabitants to surrender their "Medizing" leaders, who were immediately put to death. An Athenian invasion supplanted its oligarchy by a democratic government in 456, but in 447 the exiled aristocratic leaders returned, defeated the Athenians, and reestablished the former government. During the Peloponnesian war the Thebans were more anti-Athenian than even the Spartans, but they joined the coalition against the latter in 395, and were the only portion of the allied army which was not routed by them at Coro-nea. The peace of Antalcidas (387) deprived them of their supremacy over the other Boeotian towns.
The Spartans, who treacherously seized the citadel in 382, were expelled by Pelopidas about the close of 379, and were defeated by Epaminondas at Leuctra in 371. Epaminondas invaded the Peloponnesus, and established there the Arcadian confederation and the state of Messenia as political powers antagonistic to Sparta. But the Thebans sought in vain to establish their supremacy by a general treaty, and lost it after the death of Epaminondas at Mantinea (362). In 358 Athens wrested Eubcea from Thebes. In the sacred war (357-346) the Thebans were opposed to Athens and Sparta, and received support from Philip of Macedon; but when the design of the latter to conquer the whole of Greece became apparent, they joined the Athenians against him. Philip, however, was victorious at Cherona?a (338). Thebes received a Macedonian garrison, and its leading citizens were put to death or banished. Alexander the Great razed it to the ground in 335, sparing only the house of Pindar, after which it never again formed an independent state. Cassan-der restored the city in 315, and it was taken by Demetrius Poliorcetes in 292 and 290. In the time of Strabo it had dwindled down to the condition of a village, but it was a flourishing town during the 10th and 11th centuries.
It was plundered by the Normans of Sicily in 1146. The present town is small and poor.