"Theebs" or "Thebbs": which is the correct way to say "Thebes"?

As in Antigone of Thebes? I have it heard teachers pronounce it both ways. TIA.

In English it’s pronounced “theebz.” I think that “theh-bess” might be closer to the Greek way.


No, kidding.

I always heard it pronounced “theebz”. I believe it call also be pronounced “thee-beez”, though that’s uncommon.

Both M-W.com and Dictionary.com say that only “theebz” is acceptable. My copy of the OED also sort of agrees with me; it doesn’t actually have “Thebes” as an entry, but both of the adjectives derived from it (Theban and Thebaic) have the long “e” sound.

In Greek, it’s spelled theta-eta-beta-epsilon-sigma (sorry, can’t get a proper greek font to work). Eta is generally pronounced as a long ‘e’ (such as, according to my text, in the French ‘tete’)*, and epsilon is a shorter ‘e’ (such as in ‘bet’). Therefore: “Thee-bes”.

However, dictionary.com says it’s “thebz” with the first ‘e’ long, and no second ‘e’ pronounced. There’s no such thing, as far as I know, as a silent last vowel in ancient Attic Greek.

Professor Peter Schickele (USNDaH) pronounces it as “thee-bees” when he talks about Thebes Gulch, Texas, the setting of P.D.Q. Bach’s “Oedipus Tex.”

No help, I know, but I’ve always wanted to cite Professor Schickele.


Gluh? I don’t know Greek, but I do know French, and I can’t think of a single instance in which the letter ‘e’ is pronounced like the vowel in, say, “beet”. That role is usually reserved for the letter ‘i’ in French; for example, “fini” (“finished”) is pronounced “fee-nee”.

“Ththththbbbbbbbbbbb!” --Bill the Cat


I’ve always liked Prof. Schickele’s work myself. It’s a damned shame his Schickele Mix isn’t broadcast on my current NPR affiliate, and a worse one that no new episodes are being made.

Finding out that Bill the Cat had an Oedipus complex is something one can only do on SDMB! :smiley:

First decide if you are speaking English, Classical or modern Greek.

An English speaker would pronounce it as Theebs.

An ancient (Classical) Greek speaker would pronounce it as NinjaChick explained

A modern Greek (Demotic Greek) speaker would pronounce it something like Theybees - alhtough I might be off on that, I can’t find my modern Greek dictionary. Modern Greeks have simplified things by giving a lot of vowels and dipthongs the “eee” pronunciation.

For an English speaker to pronounce it as anything other than Theebs would be like referring to Greece not as Greece, but as Hellas. To do so once is a little pretentious, to do so repeatedly is simply worse.

Now hold on - is it a long e, or is it an e as in tête? The latter is a short e, to rhyme with “bet”.

Thebes Egypt, Thebes , Greece…how did the two towns have the same name…coincidene?

Well, otherwise you’d only have one Theeb, wouldn’t you?

The Egyptian Thebes was prominent from the 22nd to 18th century BC

It ruins were sacked in the 7th century BC by the Assyrians, whose empire extended as far north as Armenia at that time. The 7th century BC is also when I recall Thebes first being mentioned (due to its rivalry with Athens, and siding with the Persians). It didn’t reallypeak until the 4th century BC.

I am not an ancient historian, but it seems plausible that Thebes, Greece stole its name from Thebes, Egypt.

There is, after all, no honor among Thebes.

More likely that the Greeks gave a Greek name to a city that the Egyptians called by a completely different name. Like they did with Heliopolis.

:smiley: :stuck_out_tongue: :smack:

Bill is a complicated guy. He often seems to be nearly comatose, but if there’s a hot babe involved, he’s right on her.

Like others have said, I do not think that word is pronounced the way you think it is pronounced. The French “tete” is indeed, as Colophon has said, is pronounced to rhyme with the English “bet.” There’s no long e there at all. Color me confused.

Wikipedia on the derivation of (Egyptian) Thebes, and what the Egyptians called it. And the article on the Greek city.