1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Thebes, Romance of

THEBES, ROMANCE OF. The French Roman de Thèbes is a poem of some 10,000 lines which appears to be based, not on the Thebaid of Statius, but on an abridgment of that work. This view is supported by the omission of incidents and details which, in spite of the altered conditions under which the poem was composed, would naturally have been preserved in any imitation of the Thebaid, while again certain modifications of the Statian version can hardly be due to the author's invention but point to an ancient origin. As in other poems of the same kind, the marvellous disappears; the Greeks adopt the French methods of warfare and the French code of chivalric love. The Roman dates from the 12th century (c. 1150–55), and is written, not in the tiradcs of the chansons de geste, but in octosyllabic rhymed couplets. It was once attributed to Benoit de Sainte-More; but all that can be said is that the Thebes is prior to the Roman de Troie, of which Benoit was undoubtedly the author. The Thebes is preserved also in several French prose red actions, the first of which, printed in the 16th century under the name of Edipus, belongs to the early years of the 13th century, and originally formed part of a compilation of ancient history, Histoire ancienne jusqu'à César. The first volume of Les histoires de Paul Crose traduites en français contains a free and amplified version of the Thèbes. The Romance of Thebes, written about 1420 by John Lydgate as a supplementary Canterbury Tale, was printed by Wynkyn de Worde about 1500. From the Roman de Thèbes also were possibly derived the Ipomedon and its sequel Prothesilaus, two romans d'aventures written about the end of the 12th century by Hue de Rotelande, an Anglo-Norman trouvère who lived in Credenhill, near Hereford. The author asserts that he translated from a Latin book lent him by Gilbert Fitz-Baderon, 4th lord of Monmouth, but in reality he has written romances of chivalry on the usual lines, the names of the characters alone being derived from antiquity.

See L. Constans, La Légende d'Oedipe étudiée dans l'antiquité an moyen âge et dans les temps modernes (Paris, 1881), and in the section “ L'Épopée antique ” in De Julleville's Hist. de la langue et de la litt. français; Le Roman de Thèbes, ed. L. Constans (Soc. des anciens textes français (Paris, 1890); G. Ellis, Specimens of Early English Metrical Romances, iii. (1805).