Tiresias, a blind prophet, appears in many Greek myths. Several tales account for his blindness. One tells that he was struck blind as a boy when he saw Athena* bathing. Later Athena felt sorry for Tiresias but could not restore his sight. Instead, she gave him the gift of prophecy and the ability to understand the language of the birds.
In another myth, Tiresias came across two snakes mating. He killed the female snake and was transformed into a woman. Seven years later, he again saw two mating snakes; this time he killed the male snake and became a man. Because he had been both man and woman, Zeus* and Hera* asked him to settle an argument: Which of the sexes enjoys love more? When Tiresias replied that man gives more pleasure than he receives, Hera struck him blind. To make up for this deed, Zeus gave Tiresias the ability to foresee the future and allowed him to live an extraordinarily long life.
prophet one who claims to have received divine messages or insights
prophecy foretelling of what is to come; also something that is predicted
underworld land of the dead
One of Tiresias 's gifts was that his spirit could still utter prophecies in the underworld. In the Odyssey * , the hero Odysseus goes to the underworld to seek advice from Tiresias. In the story of Oedipus*, Tiresias revealed that Oedipus had killed his father and married his own mother. In Antigone by Sophocles, Tiresias warns Creon against punishing Antigone for burying her brother. In yet another tale, Tiresias warned Pentheus, the king of Thebes, to pay tribute to the god Dionysus*. Pentheus, however, refused to listen to Tiresias and was torn to pieces by a group of Dionysus's followers called the Maenads. See also SEERS.