Mapping It Out…

And so – as I approach this story – it matters to me to try to understand the characters and how they live. There is some evidence in scholarly text that Teiresias had an observatory.

“Fantastic!” I thought. “I love astronomy.”

But it’s not that kind of observatory. More reading showed that it was an oinoskopeion or a site for ornithomancy: divination by means the flight and songs of birds.

Some of the sources hinted that a map existed showing the tower. I’ll admit to becoming a bit distracted by this. I had to find the map. Sometimes items for sale on ebay can be valuable for research – whether they are purchased on not. One seller had offered a page from the atlas produced in 1660 by Joannis Laurenberg. A rough map of Ancient Thebes was featured and one of the dozen or so buildings included, all ringed by seven temples and seven gates, was the Tiresiæ Auguraculum. (With apologies to the seller, the Buy It Now price was/is $120. There was no chance I’d buy a copy.)

In the image below, the site of the Bird Observatory of Teiresias is shown near the center and toward the lower left. It would have been to the east of the Citadel of Thebes and the main market forum. The tower, if it existed, would likely have been taller than most of the Citadel. By comparing it with another (hypothetical) map* of Ancient Thebes, it might have stood on the northern lobe of the Ismenian Hill.

Map of Thebes

* a topographical map from William Smith‘s “A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography”