David Bruce: Dante’s INFERNO: A Discussion Guide — “Canto 26: Evil Advisers; Ulysses/Diomed”

“Canto 26: Evil Advisers; Ulysses/Diomed”

  • We are still in the 8thCircle — the Circle devoted to simple fraud as opposed to complex fraud. What is simple fraud? What is complex fraud?

Simple fraud is fraud, but it is not committed against those to whom one has a special obligation of trust.

Simple fraud is betrayal of strangers, and complex fraud is betrayal of those with whom we ought to have a bond.

Complex fraud is fraud committed against those to whom one has a special obligation of trust. Complex fraud is fraud directed against those who have a special claim on the sinner, those to whom the sinner owes a special trust. Sinners who commit complex fraud are traitors of various kinds: e.g., traitors to kin/family, traitors to government, traitors to guests, or traitors to God.

  • How does Dante begin Canto 26?

Here we have an apostrophe to Florence. Dante the Poet says that he is ashamed that he has seen five eminent Florentines in the part of the Inferno that is devoted to punishing the Thieves.

Dante is pessimistic and believes that his early-morning dreams are prophetic in predicting bad things for Florence in the future. People in the ancient world and the Middle Ages believed that early-morning dreams are prophetic.

  • What is the name of the sin in Cantos 26-27? Can it be Fraudulent Counseling? Can it be Evil Deceiving? Can it be Military Fraud?

Dante does not give a name to the sin being punished in this bolgia. In Canto 11, Virgil names most of the sins being punished in the bolge. He mentions “nests

of hypocrites, flatterers, dabblers in sorcery,

falsifiers, thieves, and simonists,

panders, seducers, grafters, and like filth.

(Musa 11.58-60)

The Panders and Seducers are punished in the same bolgia, so that leaves two bolge unaccounted for. We will see that the Sowers of Discord are punished in another bolgia, so that leaves the sin that we read about in Cantos 26-27 without a name.

The answer to this question can be controversial. In the next canto, a Black Cherub says that Guido has given False Counsel, and so some commentators think that the sin here is Fraudulent Counseling.

We might say that the sin being punished here is that of Evil Deceiving. I do think that we can regard Ulysses as having given Fraudulent Counsel to his men when he advised them to sail with him on his final journey. He is manipulating them into doing what he wants.

About Diomed (aka “Diomedes” in ancient literature) I am not so sure. Diomed was in the Trojan Horse along with Ulysses, so we may consider that to be an example of Evil Deceiving. Certainly both Virgil and Dante are on the side of the Trojans, not on the side of the Greeks. As far as Fraudulent Counsel is concerned, I am not sure that Diomed is guilty of that. In the Aeneid, Diomed is asked by the enemies of Aeneas to join their side and drive Aeneas out of Italy. Diomed declines to do that and advises them to make friends with Aeneas. That seems to be Good, not Fraudulent, Advice.

We might say that the sin being punished here is Evil Deceiving. On the other hand, isn’t all fraud Evil Deceiving?

Of course, when we think about the Trojan Horse, we should remember that Dante, as an Italian, would be on the side of Aeneas, his supposed ancestor. What would have been a glorious victory for the Greeks was a complete disaster for the Trojans. The Greeks would think that the Trojan Horse was a masterpiece of strategy, while the Trojans would think that it was a dirty trick.

We will look at another possibility for the name of this sin later, but yet another candidate is military fraud. This is something that Ulysses, Diomed, and Guido da Montefeltro (in Canto 27) have in common.

  • What is the name of the sin in Cantos 26-27? Can it be Great But Misdirected Intellect? Can it beGreat But Misdirected Abilities?

Dante scholars William R. Cookand Ronald B. Herzmanagree with Mark Musa that the sin is a sin of Great But Misdirected Intellect. Both Ulysses and the protagonist of the next canto, Guido da Montefeltro, are very intelligent people, but we can say that they misused their intellect. Ulysses wanted to do everything, but we should not do evil things. Perhaps that is the sin here: having great intellect but misusing it for evil.

Each of the three sins that Virgil mentions leads to the fall of Troy, and each of these sins involves great daring and intelligence. Since the sin of Guido da Montefeltro (who is punished for the same sin as Ulysses and Diomed, and whom we will read about in Canto 27) also involves warfare, perhaps the sin being punished here is Military Fraud.

However, the sin may be something else. In Dante’s mind, Diomed is involved in each of these sins that lead to the Fall of Troy. Because Diomed is not known for his intellect the way that Ulysses and Guido da Montefeltro (who is punished for the same sin as Ulysses and Diomed, and whom we will read about in Canto 27), perhaps the sin punished here is NOT Great But Misdirected Intellect. Diomed does have great abilities, but great intellect is not one of them. Instead, he is known for fighting prowess, for his courage, and for his daring.

In the opinion of the author of the book you are reading now, perhaps a better phrase would be Great But Misdirected Abilities. After all, the abilities here are various: great intellect, great rhetorical ability, and great daring. The sin may be having great abilities, but misusing them to defraud other people.

Mark Musa points out in his notes on the next canto (Canto 27) on page 327:

And so, instead of a clear-cut subdivision, determined by the professional goal toward which the fraud is directed, I prefer to think, in a more general way, of fraud unspecified — except in terms of the talents that characterize its practitioners. While all fraud involves in some way that abuse of the intellect, the intellect that Ulysses and Guido [da Montefeltro, who appears in Canto 27] abused was exceptionally brilliant. If all men are endowed with reason, they had received a special gift from God, but they had used it — these brilliant sinners who shine in flames — for deception and the creation of snares.

  • Why is the focus in Cantos 26 and 27 on Ulysses and Guido da Montefeltro rather than on Diomed?

Of course, the focus in Cantos 26 and 27 is on Ulysses and Guido da Montefeltro rather than on Diomed. Why is that? Dante is in the Inferno to learn. Dante has great intellect, and he must learn from Ulysses and Guido da Montefeltro not to misdirect it; he must not use his great abilities, including intellect, for evil. Diomed does have great abilities, including great courage and daring, and so he is punished here; however, what Dante needs to learn is to not use his great intellect for evil.

  • Who is Ulysses? (Ulysses’ Greek name is Odysseus.)

Ulysses’ reputation changed greatly in the ancient world. In Homer’s Iliadand Odyssey, Odyssey is a warrior and a hero. He is one of the good guys, and he is well respected as a warrior, a man, and a speaker.

Ulysses does have remarkable intellectual powers. He is the Greek who thought up the idea of the Trojan Horse, and he was inside the horse when it was taken into Troy. He also showed remarkable intellectual ability when he was in the cave of the Cyclops. Trapped inside the cave where the Cyclops has rolled a huge boulder in front of the door, Ulysses cannot kill the Cyclops because then he and his men would be trapped inside the cave and would eventually starve to death. Therefore, he blinds the Cyclops and sneaks out of the cave by hiding underneath the sheep that the Cyclops herds. Ulysses was also able to establish himself again on Ithaca after 20 years away from home, although over 100 suitors were courting his wife and plotting to kill his son — and they wanted to kill him.

  • How did the reputation of Ulysses/Odysseuschange over time?

In Homer’s IliadandOdyssey, Odysseus is a hero.

Over time, the reputation of Ulysses/Odysseus changed, and by the time of the great Athenian tragedians Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, people were against his remarkable ability as a liar — a skill that served him well when he returned home to Ithaca after 20 years away from home.

In the Aeneid, Ulysses/Odysseus is a bad guy. According to Virgil’s masterpiece, Ulysses/Odysseus left a companion on the Island of the Cyclopes — a man whom the kindhearted Trojans rescued.

We should note that Dante extends Ulysses’ story. He makes up a new death for Ulysses/Odysseus — one that is different from the easy death in old age that is foretold in the Odyssey.

Many sinners in the lower part of the Inferno do not wish to be remembered on Earth. This probably is not a problem for Ulysses. In Homer’s Odyssey, we learn that Ulysses/Odysseus is concerned about his kleos, about how he will be remembered on Earth. He does not want to be forgotten. Of course, Virgil instantly recognizes Ulysses/Odysseus, so Ulysses/Odysseus is unable to attempt to hide his identity from Dante.

  • How are Ulysses and Diomed and the other sinners here punished? Why is that punishment appropriate?

In the 8thbolgia are punished the Evil Deceivers Who Misused Their Great Talents. They are enclosed in flame for eternity, and their souls cannot be seen. Just as they kept their true motives and thoughts hidden from other people, so are their souls hidden for eternity. One Evil Deceiver is Ulysses/Odysseus, who fiercely desired fame or kleos; part of his contrapassois to have his identity hidden. (Just as the Trojan Horse enclosed the Greek warriors, so the flame enclosed Ulysses and Diomed.)

A part of the punishment of Ulysses and Diomed is that they are angry at each other, apparently for all eternity to come. Virgil tells Dante, “Within [the flame], Ulysses and Diomed / are suffering in anger with each other” (Musa, Inferno26.55-56).

Just as part of the punishment of Francesca da Rimini and Paolo is to be together for eternity, so Ulysses and Diomed are together for eternity.

Not all Evil Deceivers are enclosed in a flame with another sinner; Guido da Montefeltro in the next canto is enclosed alone in a flame.

  • Why is it Virgil, not Dante, who speaks to Ulysses?

Virgil, not Dante, speaks to Ulysses for these reasons:

  • Virgil is a virtuous man, while Ulysses is an evil man, and virtue has power over evil.
  • Virgil helped spread Ulysses’ fame by writing him in his Aeneid. (However, in the AeneidUlysses is one of the bad guys.)
  • Virgil is from the classical world, as is Ulysses.
  • What are the three sins of Ulysses and Diomed that Virgil lists?

Virgil lists the three sins of Ulysses and Diomed:

“And there within their flame do they lament

The ambush of the horse, which made the door

Whence issued forth the Romans’ gentle seed;

Therein is wept the craft, for which being dead

Deidamia still deplores Achilles,

And pain for the Palladium there is borne.”

(Longfellow 26.58-63)

  • What is the story of the first thing that Ulysses and Diomed grieve: the Trojan Horse?

The fullest account of the Trojan Horse appears in Book 2 of Virgil’s Aeneid. It is referred to in Homer’s Iliadand Odyssey, but the Iliadtells the story of events that occur before the Trojan Horse, and the Odysseytells the story of events that occur after the Trojan Horse.

In the Aeneid, we learn that Ulysses (his Greek name is Odysseus) came up with the idea of the Trojan Horse. The Trojan War had been going for 10 years, and the forces of Agamemnon and the other Greeks had not been able to conquer Troy by might, and so Ulysses had the idea of using trickery to conquer Troy. The Greeks built a huge wooden horse and left it outside Troy, and then they seemed to sail away in their ships and return home. However, the Trojan Horse was hollow and filled with Greek soldiers, including Ulysses and Diomed, and the ships merely sailed behind an island so that the Trojans could not see them. A lying Greek named Sinon stayed behind and pretended that he had escaped from Ulysses, who had wanted to kill him. Sinon told the Trojans that if the Trojans were to take the Trojan Horse inside the walls of Troy, then Troy would never fall. Amid great rejoicing, the Trojans took the Trojan Horse inside the walls of Troy. That night, the Greek warriors came out of the Trojan Horse, went to the gates of Troy, killed the Trojan guards, and opened the gates of Troy. Agamemnon and his troops were outside the gates, as they had returned from hiding behind the island. The Greeks then conquered Troy, killing many, many Trojans.

For Dante and Virgil, of course, the fall of Troy is a great tragedy, although it did lead to the founding of the Roman people. To Dante, to Virgil, to the Romans, and to the Italians, the bad guys won the Trojan War.

In the Inferno, both Ulysses and Diomed grieve over the Trojan Horse.

  • Are the consequences of the Trojan War bad?

We may say that the consequences of the Trojan War are good because the Roman people was founded. However, we have to ask who gets the credit for that. Ulysses and Diomed get a lot of the credit for destroying Troy, but Aeneas gets the credit for founding the Roman people. Ulysses and Diomed do evil, in Dante’s view, but Aeneas does good, in Dante’s view.

Consider rape and its consequences. Some men may point out that some women who have been raped go on to become rape counselors for other women, and/or become experts in self-defense and teach self-defense to other women, and/or volunteer at a 24-hour crisis hotline, etc. These things are good, and they probably would not have happened if the woman were not raped, so aren’t at least some of the effects of rape in this case good? Of course, that is a faulty way of looking at the situation. There are two sets of consequences here, resulting from two different actions. The first action is the rape itself, and the consequences of rape are bad. The rapist commits the rape, the consequences of the rape are bad, and the rapist is responsible for doing the bad action. The second action is the woman’s response to rape. Some women do become experts in self-defense and teach self-defense to other women, and/or volunteer at a 24-hour crisis hotline, etc. They do the action, the consequences of the action are good, and they deserve the credit for doing the good action.

The plan of the Trojan Horse came from the mind of Ulysses. We may consider the Trojan Horse to be an example of Evil Deceiving. We may consider Ulysses’ advice to the Greeks to build the Trojan Horse an example of Evil Counsel and of Great But Misdirected Intellect. Certainly, Ulysses, Diomed, and the other Greeks inside the Trojan Horse showed great daring and great courage. We may consider this to be an example of Great But Misdirected Abilities.

  • What is the story of the second thing that Ulysses and Diomed grieve: the weeping of Deïdamia?

Ulysses and Diomed also lament other things, as Virgil points out. Both Ulysses and Diomed were instrumental in making Deïdamia grieve. One story of the Trojan War, in which Achilles was the major warrior for the Greeks, is that his mother, the immortal goddess Thetis, knew that he would die at Troy; therefore, she disguised him as a girl and took him to the court of King Lycomedes, where he pretended to be one of the King’s daughters. There, he seduced Deïdamia, who bore him a son. (Achilles’ son, known as Neoptolemus or Pyrrhus, came to Troy after Achilles died; the son was one of the Greek warriors inside the Trojan Horse.) Ulysses and Diomed had come looking for Achilles, and Ulysses was able to uncover his identity through — surprise, surprise — a trick. Ulysses, bringing gifts for the King’s daughters, brought a lance and shield with him — Achilles, dressed as a girl, was very interested in those weapons, thus revealing his sex.

Here Ulysses uses his great intellect, but its use has bad consequences: 1) Achilles kills many, many Trojans (Virgil and Dante are against this), 2) Achilles dies, and 3) Deïdamia mourns him. This is an example of Great But Misdirected Intellect, which is of course a subset of Great But Misdirected Abilities.

In addition, Ulysses is the Greek who learned (from the prophet Calchas) that the Greeks would be unable to conquer Troy without the aid of Achilles, so apparently he advised the Greeks to let him and Diomed look for Achilles. This is an example of Evil Counseling. Also, of course, Ulysses and Diomed did not let King Lycomedes know what they were really looking for at his court, so this is an example of Evil Deceiving.

  • What is the story of the third thing that Ulysses and Diomed grieve: the theft of the Palladium?

The Palladium was a statue of the goddess Pallas Athena. As long as it remained in Troy, Troy would never fall. Ulysses and Diomed snuck into Troy one night and carried off the Palladium.

Here Ulysses and Diomed use great daring and probably great intellect, and here once again bad consequences follow. As long as the Palladium stays in Troy, Troy will not fall. By stealing the Palladium, Ulysses and Diomed help cause Troy to fall. This is an example of Great But Misdirected Abilities.

Of course, Ulysses advised the Greeks to let him and Diomed attempt to steal the Palladium. This is an example of Evil Counsel.

Ulysses and Diomed got into Troy through the use of disguises. This is an example of Evil Deceiving.

  • What did Ulysses do after returning home?

Ulysses has been away from home for 20 years: 10 years at Troy during the Trojan War, and 10 years wandering the Mediterranean and being held captive by the goddess Calypso.

However, he quickly decides to leave Ithaca and go wandering again. Ulysses is a restless man who wanders in search of adventures.

  • What is Homer’s account of Ulysses/Odysseus’ homecoming and death, as told in the Odyssey?

In Homer’s account of Odysseus’ homecoming, Odysseus has to face a mob of suitors who are trying to marry his wife and who would like for Odysseus and his son to be dead. Dante does not mention the suitors.

In Homer’s account of Odysseus’ homecoming, after Odysseus kills the suitors, he wants to stay at home for a while, but he will end up going on another journey. The sea-god Neptune (in Greek mythology, the sea-god’s name is Poseidon) is still angry at him, so to make peace with Neptune, Odysseus will undertake a journey in which he carries an oar over his shoulder. He will journey until someone asks why he is carrying a winnowing fan (used in harvesting grain) over his shoulder. Odysseus will then plant the oar in the ground, make a sacrifice to Neptune, and go home. The purpose of the journey is to spread knowledge of Neptune to people who have never seen the sea. When Odysseus returns home, he will live a long time, and his death will be easy.

  • What is Dante’s account of Ulysses’ homecoming and death, as told in the Inferno, Canto 26?

In Dante’s account of Ulysses’ homecoming and death, Ulysses returns home and then undertakes a journey in which he and all his men die. He sails into the ocean, sails to the southern hemisphere, and sees the Mountain of Purgatory. As pagans, Ulysses and his men cannot reach the Mountain of Purgatory or climb it. A storm arises, and his ship sinks and he and all his men drown.

What Dante does here is remarkable. He is rewriting the story of Ulysses, going against what the great Greek epic poet Homer wrote.

  • How are Dante’s Ulysses and Virgil’s Aeneas different?

We find out from lines 94-96 in Canto 26 of the Inferno(Musa’s translation) that Ulysses lacks the Roman virtue of pietas, something that Aeneas had in abundance. Pietasis giving respect where respect is owed: to one’s country, to one’s father, to one’s wife, and to one’s son. Ulysses has been away from Ithaca for 20 years, but quickly he grows bored and wants to set out for adventures, leaving behind his father (Laertes), his wife (Penelope), and his son (Telemachus). These are people who suffered while Ulysses was away from his kingdom of Ithaca, and Ulysses ought to stay on Ithaca to take care of his family and his people. Instead, he places his thirst for adventure and forbidden knowledge ahead of his family and his kingdom. Pietasis a virtue that Aeneas, the hero of Virgil’s Aeneid, had in abundance.

Here is Mark Musa’s translation of some important lines stated by Ulysses:

“not sweetness of a son, not reverence

for an aging father, not the debt of love

I owed Penelope to make her happy,

could quench deep in myself the burning wish

to know the world and have experience

of all man’s vices, of all human worth.”

(Musa 26.94-99)

Dante’s Ulysses undervalues family. He is home for a while, and then he is ready to set off on another journey. In Homer, Odysseus’ journey is necessary to make peace with Neptune/Poseidon. In Dante, Ulysses’ journey is undertaken to acquire forbidden knowledge.

Aeneas, on the other hand, values family. He refuses to leave Troy without his father, and he ends up carrying his father out of Troy on his back while holding his son’s hand as his son runs by his side. Aeneas even goes back inside Troy to try to rescue his wife, Creusa, after she becomes separated from him.

Ulysses undervalues his kingdom. He is King of Ithaca, and he ought to stay on Ithaca and rule his kingdom. Instead, he gives in to his thirst for adventure and sets off on a sea voyage to have adventures.

Aeneas, on the other hand, values his fatherland. He fights valiantly to defend Troy, and he leaves Troy only after it has fallen. Aeneas works hard to get to Italy and become the founder of the Roman people, even though he would much prefer to stay in Carthage with Queen Dido. He puts family and country first, and himself second.

  • What is Ulysses’ ambition? What does he want to do with his life?

Ulysses says:

“Nor fondness for my son, nor reverence

For my old father, nor the due affection

Which joyous should have made Penelope,

Could overcome within me the desire

I had to be experienced of the world,

And of the vice and virtue of mankind;”

(Longfellow 26.94-99)

What Ulysses wants to do is to have knowledge, including forbidden knowledge. He says that he wishes to have knowledge “of all human worth” (Musa, Inferno26.99), which is good, but he also says that he wants to have knowledge “of all men’s vices” (Musa, Inferno26.99), which is not good.

In general, knowledge is a good thing, but it is not always good.

Ulysses, however, thinks that no knowledge is forbidden to him. Ulysses seems to trust experience more than anything else. He wants to experience everything.

  • What are some examples of forbidden knowledge and forbidden experience?

Some things are forbidden for us to know. I don’t think God wants for us to know what it is like to be a rapist or to have the knowledge of what it is like to commit other great sins.

I think the knowledge of addiction to harmful illegal drugs is forbidden to us. We aren’t supposed to know what a heroin high is. In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus (the Greek name of Ulysses) did not want his men to eat the Lotus.

We are not supposed to experience hating someone without reason.

Criminals tend to be stupid, which is a good thing. If criminals were intelligent, they would be harder to catch, and they would misuse their intelligence by trying to figure out new ways of ripping off people and to escape being caught.

  • What are the Pillars of Hercules?

We know the Pillars of Hercules as the Strait of Gibraltar. The myth is that Hercules split a mountain in two to form the Pillars of Hercules. This was a warning to pagan sailors not to go any further. Of course, what lies outside the Pillars of Hercules is the Atlantic Ocean, an ocean that was very dangerous for ancient ships to sail on. Any ancient ship that sailed west into the Atlantic Ocean would probably run out of food long before reaching land, and everyone on board would perish.

  • Ulysses doesn’t travel out past the Pillars of Hercules and into the Atlantic Ocean alone. How does he convince other men to sail with him?

The other men, like Ulysses, are “old and tired” (Musa, Inferno26.106), yet Ulysses makes a speech in which he convinces them to undertake another journey. In both Dante and Homer, Ulysses is a master of rhetoric, of persuasive speech.

Ulysses says when his ship reaches the Pillars of Hercules:

‘O brothers, who amid a hundred thousand

Perils,’ I said, ‘have come unto the West,

To this so inconsiderable vigil

Which is remaining of your senses still

Be ye unwilling to deny the knowledge,

Following the sun, of the unpeopled world.’

(Longfellow 26.112-117)

Clearly Ulysses values experience.

This is an effective speech. Ulysses says that “we made our oars our wings for that mad flight” (Musa, Inferno26.125)

Note that by sailing into the Atlantic Ocean Ulysses is seeking forbidden knowledge and sailing into forbidden territory. Hercules set up his Pillars as a warning to men not to sail any further.

  • Is Ulysses guilty of fraud?

Fraud is willful misrepresentation to deprive other people of their rights.

In my opinion, Ulysses is manipulating other people to get them to do what he wants. He is a master of rhetoric, and rhetoricians study how to get other people to do what they want them to do. Of course, persuasion can be ethical in some situations as well as unethical in other situations.

In my opinion, Ulysses is giving these men bad advice. They are old and tired, and they ought to stay home on Ithaca; instead, they undertake a journey that only younger men, if any, should undertake if it were made for ethical purposes.

However, we should note that the men, old as they are, are easily persuaded, at least according to Ulysses. Of course, in the Middle Ages, Ulysses had a reputation as a liar, but here he says:

“So eager did I render my companions,

With this brief exhortation, for the voyage,

That then I hardly could have held them back.”

(Longfellow 26.121-123)

In my opinion, the journey is made for unethical reasons. Ulysses wishes to acquire knowledge, including forbidden knowledge, and experience, including forbidden experience. One way to really know vice is to participate in it.

Ulysses does not trust anything other than his own knowledge or his own experience. No one can tell him not to experience something. I would imagine that his wife and his son would want him to stay at home, but Ulysses is very eager to begin another adventure. Ulysses is saying to the old men, “Trust me,” but Ulysses trusts nothing except for his own knowledge and experience.

  • How do Ulysses and his men die?

He and his men sail past the Straits of Gibraltar and into the ocean. They reach the other hemisphere, see the Mountain of Purgatory, and then drown when the ship sinks in a storm.

“Joyful were we, and soon it turned to weeping;

For out of the new land a whirlwind rose,

And smote upon the fore part of the ship.

Three times it made her whirl with all the waters,

At the fourth time it made the stern uplift,

And the prow downward go, as pleased Another,

Until the sea above us closed again.” 

(Longfellow 26.136-142)

Let me emphasize that educated people of Dante’s day knew that the Earth is round. They didn’t know how big the Earth is — they thought it was smaller than it really is. When Christopher Columbus sailed West to reach the Indies and ran into the Americas, he thought that he had reached the Indies.

The educated people of Dante’s day, however, believed that water covered the Southern Hemisphere.

  • By the way, why is the flame of Ulysses/Diomed divided at the top (Musa, Inferno26.52)?

Dante asks Virgil:

“Who is within that fire, which comes so cleft

At top, it seems uprising from the pyre

Where was Eteocles with his brother placed.”

(Longfellow 26.52-54)

Part of the punishment of Ulysses and Diomed are to be together forever, although — or because — they are angry at each other (Musa, Inferno25.56). This anger is shown in how the flame splits in two just like the flame over the funeral pyre of Eteocles and Polynices.

  • In mythology, who were Eteocles and Polynices ?

According to mythology, Eteocles and Polynices were two brothers who agreed to take turns ruling the city of Thebes. One brother was supposed to rule for a year, and then the other brother would rule for a year, and so on. Eteocles ruled for the first year, but then he refused to give up the throne so that his brother could rule for a year. Angry, Polynices gathered an army together and marched against Thebes, creating the myth of the Seven Against Thebes. The two brothers killed each other in combat, and when their corpses were cremated, the flame split in two over their corpses because even in death they were still angry at each other.

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