Oedipus

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Oedipus

(ĕd`ĭpəs, ē`dĭ–), in Greek legend, son of Laius, king of Thebes, and his wife, Jocasta. Laius had been warned by an oracle that he was fated to be killed by his own son; he therefore abandoned Oedipus on a mountainside. The baby was rescued, however, by a shepherd and brought to the king of Corinth, who adopted him. When Oedipus was grown, he learned from the Delphic oracle that he would kill his father and marry his mother. He fled Corinth to escape this fate, believing his foster parents to be his real parents. At a crossroad he encountered Laius, quarreled with him, and killed him. He continued on to Thebes, where the sphinxsphinx
, mythical beast of ancient Egypt, frequently symbolizing the pharaoh as an incarnation of the sun god Ra. The sphinx was represented in sculpture usually in a recumbent position with the head of a man and the body of a lion, although some were constructed with rams'
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 was killing all who could not solve her riddle. Oedipus answered it correctly and so won the widowed queen's hand. The prophecy was thus fulfilled. Two sons, Polynices and Eteocles, and two daughters, Antigone and Ismene, were born to the unwittingly incestuous pair. When a plague descended on Thebes, an oracle declared that the only way to rid the land of its pollution was to expel the murderer of Laius. Through a series of painful revelations, brilliantly dramatized by Sophocles in Oedipus Rex, the king learned the truth and in an agony of horror blinded himself. According to Homer, Oedipus continued to reign over Thebes until he was killed in battle; but the more common version is that he was exiled by Creon, Jocasta's brother, and his sons battled for the throne (see Seven against ThebesSeven against Thebes,
in Greek legend, seven heroes—Polynices, Adrastus, Amphiaraüs, Hippomedon, Capaneus, Tydeus, and Parthenopaeus—who made war on Eteocles, king of Thebes.
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). In Sophocles' Oedipus at Colonus, Oedipus is guided in his later wanderings by his faithful daughter, Antigone.

Oedipus

 

in ancient Greek mythology, a king of Thebes.

In Sophocles’ tragedy Oedipus Tyrannus (c. 425 B.C.), Oedipus’ father, Laius, having received an oracle that he would be slain by his son, orders his wife Jocasta to abandon their new-born baby on Mount Cithaeron. The infant is saved by shepherds and is brought to Polybus, king of Corinth, who raises him as his own son. Upon reaching manhood, Oedipus is told by the Delphic oracle that he will slay his father and wed his mother. Afraid to return to Corinth, which he considers his homeland, Oedipus sets out on the road. While on the road he quarrels with and kills an unknown nobleman, who in fact is Laius. Subsequently, Oedipus solves the riddle of the Sphinx and frees Thebes; in return he is proclaimed king of Thebes and marries the widowed Jocasta. For 20 years he lives in happiness, unsuspecting that the prophecy of the Delphic oracle has come true. When a plague breaks out in Thebes and the Delphic oracle prophesizes that only the banishment of Laius’ murderer will save the city, Oedipus learns of his crimes. In despair, he puts his eyes out with a clasp from the dress of Jocasta, who has hanged herself, and goes into exile, accompanied by his loyal daughter Antigone. Oedipus dies in Colonus, a suburb of Athens.

Versions of the myth appeared in the works of classical authors, including Euripides and Seneca, and in literature and music beginning with the Renaissance, for instance, in the works of P. Corneille, J. Cocteau, T. S. Eliot, and I. F. Stravinsky.

Oedipus

exiles himself for killing father and marrying mother. [Gk. Lit.: Oedipus Rex]

Oedipus

blinded self on learning he had married his mother. [Gk. Lit.: Oedipus Rex]

Oedipus

unknowingly marries mother and fathers four sons. [Gk. Lit.: Oedipus Rex]
See: Incest

Oedipus

lamed by Laius with a spike through his feet in infancy. [Gk. Myth.: Benét, 730]

Oedipus

kills father in argument not knowing his identity. [Gk. Lit.: Oedipus Rex]

Oedipus

blinds self upon learning of his crimes. [Gk. Lit.: Oedipus Rex]
See: Remorse